Lee’s Summit may relocate site of proposed festival space

September 18, 2013 

Even as architects and arts groups are working on concepts for the downtown festival plaza, its location is now less than certain.

Proponents of the project, when campaigning in April for a bond issue to finance the festival space, said the intent is to build on a vacant lot west of the WPA Post Office at SW Main Street. They said they had a willing seller.

The land is owned by Dusty Dahmer and as of Sept. 17 the city hadn’t to negotiated a satisfactory purchase price. The result will affect how much money there is to build the space and how soon design can be completed. The city has allocated $600,000 for that project, one of several financed by bond issues approved by voters in April.

Brian Scott, deputy city manager, said the city made an offer and asked for an answer by end of business of Sept. 16.

“I think we made a pretty fair offer,” Scott said.

Dahmer on Tuesday morning confirmed he’d received communication from the city and said “we’re still negotiating.” He declined to add more.

Scott did not release details of the city‘s offer, but said if Dahmer and the city are unable to reach an agreement, the city would be looking for other locations.

The first possibility that comes to mind, Scott said, is a city parking lot it owns west of the Bank of Lee’s Summit, or other downtown sites.

“I haven’t really explored that yet,” Scott said.

He said the city is keeping in mind one goal for the festival space is to be a “catalyst to encourage activity and development” on the west side of railroad tracks which bisect downtown.

A group of people interested in the project, representatives of Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Inc. and arts groups were scheduled to meet Sept. 17 to continue work on plans for festival space with architects. The Journal will follow up on that story in the Sept. 20 issue.

Council member Allan Gray, who pushed for putting cultural arts projects on the bond issue ballot, declined to comment on the situation because the issue touches on negotiations the council discussed in a closed session.

“We’re still in negotiations,” Gray said Monday. “I’d give you more if I could.”

But council member Ed Cockrell did comment, saying, “I’m looking forward to continuing the effort to find a appropriate venue on the west side as much as we can.”

He said there needs to be cooperation by all the interests and community-minded folks and someone shouldn’t try to “heal themselves economically at the public trough.”

Christine Bushyhead, one of the bond campaign co-chairs, said that a shift in location would affect the design, but would be workable.

The vacant lot is preferable as a festival venue because of its topography, a slight bowl-shape that lends itself to seating for concerts and a stage, Bushyhead said.

Planners have also been working on the concept of using the renovated post office to support use of the festival plaza, by providing dressing rooms for performers.

Bushyhead said she hopes at the Sept. 17 meeting the group will get better feel for the budget of the historic space and what it entails.

The city has allocated $660,000 budget for the renovation of the historic post office, and $600,000 for the festival space.

The purchase price for the vacant lot will affect how much remains for building a stage, landscaping and other amenities for the festival space.

Bushyhead said it is important to the city’s credibility and those who promoted the bonds, Foundations for our Future formed to help passage of the arts and roads measures, to find a way to build a successful festival spot.

“We want to make sure we deliver what we represented,” Bushyhead said.

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