On April 2, we’ll have an opportunity to vote on a truly unique package of bond issues that will have a long lasting impact on Lee’s Summit.
First, are the road improvements to Orchard and Pryor. These two projects represent the chance for the city to revitalize an older, classic neighborhood in the heart of our city and to then help one of our newer neighborhoods cope with the past decade’s rapid growth on the southwest side of town. Together they represent our commitment to all of our residents, no matter what their length of tenure in town or their socioeconomic status. It is an ongoing stage, not a final completion, of a promise to serve the entire community.
The second part of the package represents one of the most innovative and forward-looking proposals in the entire metropolitan area. We will be asked to vote on whether to 1) make important and significant improvements to the basic outdoor performance space that currently exists at Legacy Park, 2) create a wonderful smaller festival plaza on the west side of downtown, and 3) to renovate the old City Hall/Post Office into a potential home for our own Lee’s Summit Historical Society and other cultural displays. People all over the metro, and the entire state for that matter, are interested in our package of cultural arts proposals. Some wish to see if they might have success on similar packages of their own in neighboring communities. Others are far more interested in opportunities that our package presents for their potential future relocation to Lee’s Summit.
This package goes far beyond supporting mere entertainment. It also establishes Lee’s Summit as a place to consider when asking about the overall quality of life that a potential home might provide. Businesses and individuals alike are fascinated by the opportunities that suddenly can be realized as we take this first step toward the creation of a cultural infrastructure.
Think of the impact. The west side of the tracks in downtown Lee’s Summit has always seemed like the poor relative of the more vital east side. As we hope to do on Orchard Street, we can invest in a part of the heart of our city that truly deserves our support. Both the proposed Historical Museum and plaza become immediate magnets to draw people across the tracks and strengthen that part of town.
By building the structure at Legacy Park, we begin the process of creating an outdoor cultural facility on this side of the metropolitan area that may eventually rival the Shawnee Mission or Gladstone Theatres in the Park. People from all over the Kansas City metropolitan area flock to those facilities each summer to see shows and concerts. And, just as importantly, people from Lee’s Summit go there to watch and, very importantly, perform because we lack the facilities here.
First, we now have vibrant and active community performance groups in our Symphony and Summit Theatre Group. Summit Art provides visual arts programs both in the Got Art Gallery and community-wide festivals. Both the Arts Council and Cultural Arts Committee of Downtown Lee’s Summit are providing programming that is as enriching as it is entertaining. It is no accident that when Paul Hough, artistic director of the American Heartland Theatre at Crown Center, was asked by a couple of young theatre entrepreneurs where he thought they should relocate, he replied, "Consider Lee’s Summit. It is becoming an arts destination."
Second, The Historical Society is being revitalized as they consider the possibility of finally being able to serve us in a new and adequate facility. Finally, on a more practical note, interest rates are so low that we would be foolish not to grab the opportunity to fund these projects now, while the long term interest cost to the city can be held to a minimum.
These are exciting times for our growing city. We are attracting new and innovative people and businesses which will ensure both economic and cultural expansion. These two proposals before you are an opportunity to step forward and make a bold statement that Lee’s Summit is ready to take the lead when it comes to visionary and exciting ideas. Vote ‘Yes’ April 2.
Ben Martin is president of the Summit Theatre Group.