Lee’s Summit preparing for gateway monument

rpulley@lsjournal.comMarch 26, 2014 

A group of volunteers raising money to build a gateway monument for Lee’s Summit has met its goal.

There is now $126,000 committed to the project, a volunteer contractor and a coalition of community leaders are wrapping up details so construction can begin. The plan is to build the monument on the south side of Interstate 470, just east of 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 switched out if it’s changed 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 hearty native plants and solar lighting to keep expenses and maintenance low.

Gene Gamber and others have spent months raising funds for project which had been an elusive goal for many years.

Randy Cain, a member of the Lee’s Summit Beautification Commission, said the idea for a gateway started in the mid 1990s when he was a board member of Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce.

“I won’t take you down that tortured trail, but a lot of good people have been working on this a long time,” Cain said. He praised Gamber and Tom Lovell, parks administrator, for their roles in moving it forward.

Cain said many city leaders recognized a monument would help the city create its identity, differing itself from other suburbs. He said it’s more difficult to market the city if travelers can’t see where it begins and ends.

“Lee’s Summit has grown into a community in its own right, in the last few years, instead of a bedroom community,” Cain said. He said he hopes the momentum continues so that the city can add other monuments at its borders on the north, south and east.

The hindrance was of the “chicken and egg” type, Cain said. Promoters of the gateway couldn’t raise money without a design, and without money couldn’t get a design.

Lovell secured city money to hire consultants to work with the Beautification Commission on a study and design completed in 2008.

Again, no money stopped the project, until Gamber saw an opportunity.

The Lee’s Summit Industrial Development Authority was looking for a worthy use of money it collects as fees for bonds it issues. Gamber, a director on the IDA, thought those funds could bring the community project back online. He and Rick Viar, also on the IDA, offered up the idea and other directors agreed on a $50,000 matching grant, although the monument is not an official IDA project.

Gamber, the city and other community leaders pitched in to move the project forward last April.

The Lee’s Summit Missouri Municipal Building Authority is receiving the donated funds, contractor Ron Williams is overseeing bids and construction, working with Hollis+Miller architects, and the parks department will take over maintenance for the monument when it’s finished.

“We have raised the money,” Gamber said. “We’re tying up loose ends so we can get construction started.”

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