LS looking at Arnold Hall for festival site

rpulley@lsjournal.comOctober 16, 2013 

The Lee’s Summit City Council has told city staff to work on Arnold Hall as the site of an outdoor performance space, after negotiations for the city’s first location stalled.

Councilmember Allan Gray said the council has reached the conclusion that Arnold Hall, 123 SW Third St., might be the best alternative for the festival space.

Members of the Foundations for Our Future, a group that campaigned for passage of the near $2.9 million bond issue for cultural arts facilities, met with city officials last week and agreed on investigating that property for the festival space.

The city and landowner Dusty Dahmer couldn’t agree on a price for the site first selected at 207 SW Market St. That spot is located behind the WPA Post Office which the city is renovating for a museum as part of the bond issue.

City officials briefly considered converting a city-owned parking lot at 204-206 Market St. for the performance space. Gray said the council decided to reserve that lot for other future uses, possibly housing or a boutique hotel.

Those might be opportunities in that area, he said, especially if other adjacent properties like the current federal post office that is under-utilizing its space, become available.

The City Council on Oct. 10 unanimously voted to have City Manager Steve Arbo to work on a plan for development of the Arnold Hall site.

When discussions first started on building new cultural facilities, Arnold Hall had been the choice of the Cultural Arts Facility Task Force for the museum and performance space.

The council decided instead on the WPA post office, which disappointed some who had hoped Arnold Hall would be used for traveling exhibits and small concerts or performances. The post office’s layout is too restricted for both uses.

Gray said the former plan would have meant only a temporary home for the museum, so moving that project to the post office avoids moving the museum twice. It’s currently in a cramped corner of the Lee’s Summit train depot.

Gray had earlier asked city staff to find money outside the bond issue for converting the Arnold Hall to a “white box” for exhibits and performances, but tight operating budgets dashed that idea.

As the plan is evolving, now the city has $600,000 to use at Arnold Hall from the bond issue.

That building now is in mothballs, having served a number of uses since in 1946. It was originally a factory manufacturing pipe nipples.

In 1950, Joe Arnold bought the building and donated it to the city with hope it will be used for a community center. In recent years, the city hasn’t had a use for the facility, which was last a senior center and served as council chambers.

Exactly what will happen depends how designers can work with the footprint of the building and its parking lot. Razing Arnold Hall would ruffle some feathers, but it may not be necessary.

The new plan could include alterations to the building to create the outdoor stage space while preparing the building for additional uses, Gray said.

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