When he mentions collision points, Donnie Rodgers isn't talking about accidents or fender benders at the corners of Third and SE Main streets. The Executive Director for Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street is merely talking about linking the many facets of this growing historic district and lining it up for future success.
"Everything we do, every plan we make, it's all about lining up those points," he said. "When people are interacting with each other. And when people are benefiting from each other, they're creating that sense of belonging we're looking for as we build this community."What Rodgers is referring to is really a community within a community as he works to bring more business, more shoppers, more visitors, and more residents to one of the City's growing economic centers. Today, downtown Lee's Summit is home to City Hall, which employs more than 600 people, as well as more than 150 businesses spanning everything from veteran, main-stay retail and service businesses, expanding companies and shops, to exciting new startups.
"I'm firmly convinced that people come downtown — they bring their business and businesses downtown — not because of the price of rent," Rodgers said. "But because of the atmosphere we've created here over the years. We've built something here. And that community is still building."
The resurgence of Lee's Summit's downtown began in the late 1990s, and has exploded into one of the metro's more vibrant areas. Rodgers joined the DLSMS staff as assistant director in February 2014 and assumed the executive director's post in November 2015. One accomplishment already under his belt is the implementation of a special Community Improvement District 1-cent sales tax. During the first eight months of this special tax, a reported $170,000 has been generated.
"I think that says something about what we have going on here," he said. "It says that people are wanting to do business in this district. They like the options we currently have and they're excited about the opportunities we have to bring more to our district."
As for future opportunities, Rodgers and his DLSMS staff, board of directors and string of volunteers are eying the possible additions of residential development, new commercial space, a downtown performance center and a new home for the popular and growing farmer's market. A study, released to the public last week by theLee's Summit Economic Development Council, depicts both the capacity and desire for additional housing development in and around downtown.
Additionally, it shows the economic impact an increase in population can have on the commercial district. In a Facebook post, releasing the document, the LSEDC said "Did you know there has been zero multi-family residential construction in Downtown Lee’s Summit in more than 10 years? Our new housing study shows now might be a good time to change that."
For Rodgers, this type of development might just be the next big thing. Rodgers is quick to point out the family friendly atmosphere around downtown and notes the many families in the surrounding neighborhoods. But, he also points out that needs for additional housing refer to different demographics and their expressed desires to live in or near Lee's Summit's downtown.
"Housing is a huge opportunity for us," he said. "We already have this great walking community in downtown. We're really just lacking the additional housing. Our district is really attractive to two different demographics — the young professionals and the empty nesters. The people who want to live downtown are the people who aren't running home immediately after work to make dinner or haul the kids off to activities. The people who want to live here are going to walk down the street for dinner or to grab coffee with friends and colleagues."
While discussions about additional housing and new business are lengthy, and sometimes even heated, Rodgers said there's room for the district to grow. And more exciting things to come. As for his next connection? "There's more coming. Some good things are happening here. I can't wait for people to see what's happening next."