That’s a question that has been looming for far too long in Lee’s Summit.
And while we can argue — on the surface, perhaps — the merits of a multi-million-dollar downtown performance space vs. other projects that need funding vs. raises for city employees, the fact remains that the voters approved a plan in April of 2013 to build a space that will continue to bring a focus on arts, culture, music and foster community in our award-winning business district.
And it is far beyond time we get back to that work.
In June of 2017, I revealed in a column that the price tag for this project could be 12-times or more what we originally had planned to spend on it ($600,000). The jump in price had to do with a myriad of factors including: inability to secure the land off Market Street from Dusty Dahmer and land cost.
As a high priority for our new mayor and city council, it’s time we revisit this project and see where we are and how this proceeds forward — particularly since several entities, including Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street and the Community Improvement District Board of Directors — all have a large hand in the future planning and funding of this project.
The CID, along with DLSMS, could be funding up to half of the costs of the performance space and farmers market pavilion. But that’s as the plan stands now. Is that plan firm? That’s one of many variables here.
According to City Hall, the project price tag — which includes land acquisition, utility relocation, public infrastructure and construction — could range from $7.5 to $10.3 million. But, again, that’s if we are keeping the current plan on Green Street and City Hall Plaza.
So far, more than two years after the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the city and downtown, only one property has been secured, and that’s at NW Green and Third Street. Additional parcels that need to be locked down at AT&T and the property north of that lot are still under negotiations.
From his place at City Council, District 1 representative Rob Binney said he believed they owe it to the voters to deliver on the approved outdoor performance space. Via e-mail, Binney said:
“I asked last week at the dais why we as a Council have waited on staff to drive this project, w/only (sic) one major step happening over the last 2 years. I believe we owe it to the voters to finish delivering on an outdoor performance space. A Market Pavilion makes so much sense in the heart of downtown. The downtown CID Board has committed to partnering with the city in developing a pavilion and have the means to do so. I believe we as a Council have also identified ways in which we can fund the project, and with improvements to the concrete patio at City Hall, I would expect we can also look to some building funds as another source of income to be used. Other cities have also been successful at acquiring grants from civic and social organizations and I am hoping that we do the same.”
Accomplishing the best possible project and executing it the right way, the responsible way, for our downtown, our community and our visitors is paramount. There is no need to rush for the sake of rushing. We all get that, I hope. What is vital is that we not keep major stakeholders waiting. Those are the voters, the taxpayers, the business community, Main Street and the CID Board, an entity that is sitting with a bank account of nearly $900,000 right now and will likely be at over $1 million in a few months. The CID Board has committed to this partnership. And while it is still considering new funding requests while this project hangs in limbo, certainly the future of this space and its financial implications are something that need to be addressed and rectified so they can move forward.
And the same can be said for DLSMS, too. If that organization is to champion a capital campaign to raise funds for this project, it needs to know that and soon. These types of campaigns for the betterment of our community can be easy sold when the project is just and the plans are not only determinedly in place, but also have the unwavering backing of our city, elected officials and business owners.
But we need to get there.
The first question is this: will the Downtown performance space be located in its current, conceptual plan off Green Street? If not, what new plans can we expect, and where in our downtown can we expect them?
The community backed this project by wide margins in 2013. Let’s renew that faith they had then and get back to the drawing board.
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.