Brainstorming for Arnold Hall

rpulley@lsjournal.comJanuary 3, 2014 

A few additional ideas came forward this week for the downtown plaza and performance space planned for downtown Lee’s Summit.

Fleshing out those notions is on hold because Arts Council members are uncertain about how far the City Council wants it to go in making a recommendation.

But Dec. 30, an Arts Council subcommittee did talk about the best orientation of the stage or uses of Arnold Hall before discussion derailed.

Paula Belser, an Arts Council member, asked whether an indoor/outdoor stage could be built into Arnold Hall so it could be used all seasons.

Chris Heinz and Brian Roth of Hollis + Miller, architects for the project, said it is possible, but that modification might be expensive.

In their update to the committee, Heinz and Roth said that the site was slightly bigger than the original site on Market Street, even excluding Arnold Hall, so it was large enough for the planned venue to serve crowds of about 450 or more. They said a community-wide steering group had already decided a stage and green space were essential elements.

Orienting the stage so on the north end of the property at Third Street has several advantages, the architects said. It could be built to be viewed from either side, making it useful for concerts or for emcees and judges reviewing parades on Third Street, and if there’s a larger crowd, seating can extend farther to the south on the site.

Locating the stage at the southwest corner of Arnold Hall could make it easier for larger crowds to be closer to the stage, but then music might be blasting toward condominiums facing Douglas Street.

A broader plan for inside Arnold Hall is to use moveable walls and a small platform stage, for exhibits and smaller performances.

Trisha Drape, executive director of Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Inc, said that group would be interested in using a small part of Arnold Hall as office space, if it is running programming for the plaza and stage. It now organizes weekend concerts at Howard Station Park.

If it had that presence, then its staff would be available to let people into the hall for viewing temporary exhibits, she said.

Drape said DLSMS would be willing to consider an agreement similar that the Lee’s Summit Historical Society for the WPA Post Office, where it was charged a nominal amount for a lease.

She told the subcommittee the downtown park is too small for the more than 25 concerts and other events held there each year, not counting major downtown festivals and parks department concerts held downtown.

She suggested that the arts council avoid recommending uses such as a coffee shop or event space for weddings in Arnold Hall, which would compete with already existing downtown businesses.

“What we hear, is people want more places to eat lunch, more park benches,” Drape said.

The committee briefly discussed parking. Architects told them it would be feasible to retain limited parking to serve Arnold Hall, depending on the layout chosen for the site. The City Hall parking structure a block away would be available for concerts.

The committee also briefly discussed offering a small amount of office space for groups like the Summit Theatre Group or Lee’s Summit Symphony, which now are administrated out of homes.

Brad Cox, who was involved in the failed effort to bring the Martin City Melodrama to Arnold Hall, said there would need to be solid commitments, as there were similar suggestions for that attempt at reusing Arnold Hall.

“When it gets down to writing a check and doing it, it vaporized,” Cox said.

Cox said the city shouldn’t become too hung up on whether Arnold Hall will someday be replaced by a larger performing arts center. He said there are so many things up in the air, the city should concentrate on the present proposal.

“Getting something going is the first step,” Cox said. “If it works for the next 20 years, woohoo for us.”

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