I think Mr. Rogers would most certainly have fit in well in downtown Lee’s Summit.
Business neighbors. Friend neighbors. Customer and client neighbors. All in a geographically tiny area of a massive 65-square-mile city.
Downtown as a neighborhood was a concept I was unfamiliar with when I moved to Lee’s Summit 10 years ago. Through the last decade of working downtown, living downtown and now owning a business downtown, that notion makes complete sense to me.
Whether you’re a shopper, investor, employee or resident, downtown Lee’s Summit feels like home in so many ways to so many people.
So, it’s no surprise that our Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street earned statewide recognition recently with the 2019 Great Places in Missouri “Great Neighborhood” honor. The award is given by the Missouri Chapter of the American Planning Association. Great Places began its quest to honor the greatest neighborhoods, streets and public spaces in 2014. Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street joins Jefferson City’s High Street and Chillicothe’s Silver Moon Plaza as 2019 designees.
The APA notes that the honors recognize areas “that demonstrate exceptional character, quality and planning that enrich communities, facilitate economic growth, and inspire residents and visitors alike.”
Pretty much sums up downtown Lee’s Summit, don’t you think?
Since 2009, the growth and relevance of our downtown Lee’s Summit and our Main Street organization (of which I am a proud past-president of the board) has skyrocketed.
In the last decade, downtown Lee’s Summit has added 78 net new businesses and more than 550 new jobs. Public investment since 2009 has reached $2.3 million and private investment has exceeded $10 million. See all those buildings and storefronts bustling with activity? Downtown has become the place people want to set up shop.
Foot traffic, retail variety, food and drink, entertainment and events have all exponentially bolstered the central business district. And with that comes the need for an army of volunteers, dedicated staff, board and committee members to execute the mission of Main Street and deliver daily the focus of the four pillars — economic enhancement, promotions, organization and design.
Since 2009, volunteers have logged nearly 45,000 hours of service time to our downtown. And my guess is that number is easily higher when we figure in the countless hours that go unnoticed, yet are equally vital to our organization.
Proof positive that our downtown is thriving, too, comes in the form of raw receipts: residents and visitors spent more than $42.5 million in taxable sales in downtown Lee’s Summit in 2018, which is a whopping figure given where we were 10 years ago. That number is up from $37 million the year before. Restaurants, pubs and entertainment options have vastly changed the financial landscape of our downtown, and the Community Improvement District penny tax — as well as all of us that enjoy our downtown — is the ultimate victor here.
Add to that the countless amount of dollars spent in our service industries — accountants, insurance, attorneys, architects, public relations, interior design, web design and the like — and you likely see more commerce in these few blocks than in any other part of Lee’s Summit.
The distance between Green and Jefferson doesn’t seem so far these days as both sides of the railroad tracks can boast increased traffic, food and drink options and a heightened awareness of what is important to maintaining the history, relevance and longevity of our beloved downtown.
Downtown is home to our City Hall. Home to the Chamber, Economic Development Council, to Velocity Lee’s Summit.
Everyone has a hand in this honor. And everyone that supports downtown in countless ways deserves a hand for keeping our downtown the envy of many statewide and nationwide.
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.