Lee’s Summit officials have decided to look at city-owned properties for a new outdoor performance/event space downtown instead of buying a lot behind the WPA Post Office.
City Manager Steve Arbo last week sent a notice to interested people, from members arts groups to promoters of the bond election that will finance that project, to explain that negotiations with Dusty Dahmer, owner of land that was the city’s first choice, had bogged down and the city is moving on.
Proponents of using the Dahmer site said its advantage is proximity to the post office at 220 SW Main St., which is being renovated for a museum, and the Amtrak station, amenities that could draw people to use the spot. When there aren’t concerts or events, it was envisioned as an informal meeting place for visitors.
Supporters also said having the performance space on the west side of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks would help bring more visitors to that side of downtown.
A concern is that Dahmer’s price would eat up too much of the $600,000 budget for the festival space, leaving not enough for construction.
“Our negotiations have been difficult to obtain the property located next to the WPA Post Office on West Main and Market Streets,” Arbo said in the notice. He said the City Council was scheduled to vote on proceeding with feasibility study for alternate sites at its meeting Oct. 10. That meeting was after The Journal deadline.
“Basically this direction means that we are seeking other locations that are currently owned by the City of Lee’s Summit for the future location of the downtown outdoor performance venue,” Arbo said. “Although it is not stated directly, one could assume that our efforts to negotiate with the property owner next to the WPA Post Office will be assigned to looking for alternate locations.”
The two locations chosen for study are a public parking lot at 204-206 SW Market or 123 Third St., Arnold Hall, for an outdoor performance/event space.
“I’m disappointed,” said Christine Bushyhead, chair of the Cultural Arts Facility Task Force which suggested the first site. “It will be disappointing if something ultimately can’t happen at the original site the Cultural Arts Task Force selected, but it’s important to continue to move forward on having another festival space downtown.”
Councilmember Bob Johnson said using land already owned by the city is a good idea.
“The city has zero history of being a successful developer, we need to have some way to move some of that property out of the way,” Johnson said.
He said a fourth spot to consider is the parking lot east of City Hall, although it’s not owned by the city.
During discussions of what projects to include in the nearly $2.9 million bond issue for cultural arts facilities, the city initially considered renovating Arnold Hall for the museum and performance space. Arnold Hall is vacant, a former manufacturing building given to the city and having served a number of uses over decades, including City Council chambers and a senior center.
Councilmember Allan Gray’s suggestion, after it was dropped from the bond issue, was to find other money for renovating the building. Efforts to find that money have been unsuccessful.
“We’re looking at all options, depending on what staff tells us is needed for the outdoor performance space, it may or may not include demolition,” Gray said.
Tim Hosmann, who owns two buildings on Third Street which back up to the Dahmer property, said he had hoped the development would go forward there. He said the prospect of the performance space had further encouraged him to improve access and appearance to his buildings, but it was work he’d already wanted to do.
“The original space was chosen because it would bring development to the west side, which is important,” Hosmann said.
But with the stalemate, he agreed it’s time for the city to look at alternatives. He said redevelopment of Arnold Hall would be helpful to downtown as a whole.
Hosmann said each of the sites offer different opportunities and challenges.
“Seeing Arnold Hall properly utilized would make me happy, but I’d like to see a more hashed out plan.” Hosmann said. “There’s nothing wrong with researching all three simultaneously.”