Community leaders are restarting a plan promote Lee’s Summit by putting gateway monuments along major highways.
That plan, outlined in a study made in 2007-08, designated a design and locations of the monuments, but no funding was available.
Now leaders will soon be asking for contributions to raise at least $50,000 to match a grant made available for the project.
The monuments have been a longtime community desire, as far back as 1997, when the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce suggested a steel cut-out of a train, over the words Lee’s Summit, at the city limit, said City Manager Steve Arbo, giving an overview of the proposal to the Parks and Recreation Board at its meeting Sept. 4.
He compared the city monuments to those of neighborhood subdivisions.
“You all know it’s very important that cities have a sense of place,” Arbo said. “It can make a real difference in the level of pride people feel.”
He noted that various groups from LS 360 to the Lee’s Summit Beautification Commission have supported the idea of monuments.
Since that first proposal by the chamber, the city has twice unsuccessfully applied for Missouri Department of Transportation grants. In 2004 a downtown master plan also noted the importance of gateways, then in 2007 the city ordered a gateway study to decide the best locations for a monument and to pick a design. In 2012, it started its branding initiative, so the monument design is updated to incorporate the brand, including the “Yours Truly” tag line.
The first site would be at Interstate 470 and View High Drive.
The plan is to use a tower and a wall with Lee’s Summit’s name on the wall, with Yours Truly attached to the tower, so the slogan can be changed out if it’s switched in the future. The tower would rise about 18 feet above a 6-foot-tall wall, both made of precast, colored concrete formed to look like stone.
It would use hardy native plants and solar lighting to keep expenses and maintenance low.
The expected cost of the first monument at View High is between $120,000 and $140,000. The $50,000 grant would come from the Lee’s Summit Industrial Development Authority, a political subdivision of the city that gets little publicity.
The IDA issues bonds for various projects, one example is the Summit Fair shopping Center, and collects fees for its services. It can use those accumulated fees for public projects. IDA board member Gene Gamber suggested creating a matching grant to provide an incentive to get contributions for a monument, and IDA agreed to put up the money.
Now its up to contributors.
“It’s a community project,” Gamber said. “We don’t really have any group that’s leading the charge on this.”
The Lee’s Summit Missouri Municipal Building Authority, a city-appointed board, would be the steward for contributed money and responsible for contracting with a vendor for fabrication and installation of the monument. The parks department would take over ongoing maintenance. The city would get permission from MoDOT to put the monument along the highway.
Arbo said he would propose to the City Council two more monuments, at the future Blackwell Road Interchange at U.S. 50 and for a reconstructed interchange for M-291 at U.S. 50 and Jefferson Street, be included as part of landscaping, which would be part of the interchanges costs.
Adding a monument along I-470 on the north side of the city will be another funding challenge because there are no highway improvements planned in that area, Arbo said.
The park board and others, like Randy Cain and Kim Fritchie, members of the Lee’s Summit Beautification Commission, liked the plan. Cain said that when one monument is in place, it could create enthusiasm to help raise money for others.
“I’m really excited about this,” Fritchie said, “I’m glad a group has taken up the cause and wants to fund this.”