I’ve been in Lee’s Summit a little over 10 years now.
When I moved here from Iowa, I came back to a downtown that, obviously, looks much different than it does today.
Downtown Lee's Summit had long been a favorite when I lived in Independence. We would come for an evening to hit Strother's or Third St. Pub, take in some live music at Jerry's Bait Shop. After some years in Iowa, I moved to Lee's Summit to find two of those three gone, but replaced (successfully, too) with The Peanut and Sharkeez.
My first walks through downtown were to get the lay of the land. I grabbed a downtown Lee's Summit walking map and made it my goal to try and get into each spot over the course of the next six months and meet the people that make downtown happen. I learned a lot in very little time after I arrived.
Beauchamp’s on the Rail was just days away from closing at Third and Douglas when I moved here. The Double Crown was a little dive across from City Hall. The streetscape project was still recent enough that the “diggin.it” signs could still be found in front of a few stores.
We weren’t brewing craft beer, lunch wasn’t easy to find and the only parking problem then was there was plenty of it. While still popular, the Farmers Market featured fewer vendors and selections than you find today.
On Friday nights at Music in the Park, we hoped the bands showed up and we had double digits in attendance.
That was 10 short years ago.
What will our downtown look like in 2029?
To see where we are going downtown, we have to remember where we’ve been. The Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street organization turns 30 this year. And to trace the growth, success and viability of our downtown, you have to start with that group of men and women who had a vision many decades ago.
And thank God they did.
The Main Street organizers laid a path that led to massive investment, a powerful cooperation with the city and a steady trail of volunteerism, events and focus on making this downtown the envy of so many across the country.
By 2029, will we have a downtown performance space and new farmers market constructed and open? It’s a fair question.
With the recent council approval of a 276-unit apartment complex at Second and Douglas, the conversation now has to quickly shift to this voter-approved outdoor space.
Where is the city on land acquisition? What bold plans are being discussed behind the scenes? What is the new price tag for this project?
While CityScape plans its design and construction of the apartments, we need to put our eyes back on the performance space ball. If there are plans in place, the community needs to know them.
In 2029, our downtown could have a significantly different look a feel. We could see streetcars or trolleys. We could have higher density and taller buildings. The old mill, lumber yard and other recognizable spots could be home to new businesses or hotels.
The vision of downtown is an ever-evolving dream.
Today, it's vibrant. It's historic. It's filled with nightlife and shopping and energy.
Planning for the future will take not only current investors, owners and supporters, but new residents and generations of thinkers and doers.
For me, I am personally excited to see where these 11-square blocks go in the future. If we can dream big enough and bold enough to continue to move and improve our beloved downtown Lee's Summit.
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.