Council to take up recommendation of development & management partners

A project for an outdoor performance and festival space in Lee’s Summit took a big step forward by getting preliminary approval from the City Council's finance and budget committee on Monday, April 12.

Now, the Council will vote on Tuesday, April 20 whether to approve the transfer of $3.53 million from the general fund to the Downtown Market Plaza redevelopment project.

The plan calls for a mixed-use development that could turn into a lot of things. Right now, there are plans for a festival space as well as a more permanent location for the Lee’s Summit Farmers Market. Parts of the project have been in the works since 2013 and have changed a lot since voters passed a ‘no-tax increase’ general obligation bond which included a targeted amount of $600,000 to fund a downtown performance and festival space.

If the council approves the ordinance as presented, the city would get to work on the project with Lane4 Property Group as the master developer and Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV) as the manager.

Assistant City Manager Mark Dunning noted the two groups will work with the City on how to further shape development of the land across from City Hall, which is the proposed site of the new construction project.

“What started as a smaller idea just to find a home for the (farmer’s) market is now a full block of development,” Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, Inc. executive director Donnie Rodgers Jr. said. “It has created so much energy and we really need that. Right now, we don’t have a lot of vacancies and people are looking for new places all the time. The opportunity is there for a mixed-use, commercial, restaurant space. It will be a very beneficial addition. There is possible housing and office space that is very much needed and in demand.”

Dunning noted that even if the Council approves it there would still be hurdles like planning & zoning and final development plans to be worked on before any actual physical work would be done on the land. There is also a portion of public input that could feature in-person or zoom meetings to help determine what the final development will look like. That process could take up to six months, if the ordinance is passed. 

“With a performing area and festival space, we know what can take place there; we will look broader at what other programs could be applied, like when the farmer’s market is not being used,” Dunning said. “All the public input helps what shape this will take.”

There is also no guarantee that the master developer or manager will play a role in any construction process. The roles for both Lane4 and BRV are only for the preliminary work, succeeding phases of development will have to be negotiated at a later date.

Lane4, though not having any current projects done with the city, is well known in the area. The most notable construction the company oversaw as project manager was Sporting KC’s Stadium and the Cerner Corporation campus in Kansas City, Kansas at Village West. The company has also helped with the Olathe (Kansas) Library, the 39 Rainbow project near the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas and the Red Bridge Shopping Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

This would complete two projects that have been talked about for years.

There has been a farmer’s market in town for decades and Rodgers noted for more than 30 years there has been talk of some sort of covered space for sellers instead of using parking lots. Talk started in 2016 for that — three years after the voters passed the bond to build the downtown performance/festival space.

The merger of the two projects took place in December 2019 but then a few months later the world came to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We still need to deliver to the voters an outdoor performance and festival space,” Dunning said. “We haven’t forgotten. It just has grown in scale and complexity.”

Rodgers calls the merger of the two projects a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ that could continue to move Lee’s Summit forward. The proposed rendering for the farmers market shows a covered building with garage doors that vendors can drive into and park and sell items indoors in case of inclement weather.

The Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street group already had more than 100 days of events — pre-COVID — on the slate from art walks to music in the park to movie nights. A new facility and some amenities could mean even more events for downtown or as Rodgers called it ‘a living room for downtown; a gathering spot for our community.’

“It has been a good process; it has definitely moved slower than we would have liked but I think we are at a point we will see some pretty quick progress,” Rodgers said. “It is the perfect time and we have a perfect group of people at the table. It has been such a long time coming. I think looking at the overall plan currently out there, it is so much more than any one person could’ve envisioned.”

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