The shift of the voter-approved outdoor performance space from the west side of the railroad tracks in downtown Lee’s Summit to the parking lot of Arnold Hall has raised some serious questions – namely, have we thought enough about the displacement of parking and in other ways that lot is used?
As the final plans for that space are brought to city council next week, we are going to see and hear the culmination of weeks and months of work by the Lee’s Summit Arts Council, city staff and other experts in the field.
And while no plan is perfect and voters were not (and should never be) asked to drill down on specifics, what will be missing (due to lack of funds) from the outdoor space may be noticeable.
First, no restrooms. The money simply isn’t there to use Arnold Hall as a restroom facility for the space that could occupy hundreds of people during an event.
Secondly, outdoor lighting isn’t part of the plan.
While these are not deal breakers, the displacement of parking is an issue that needs a serious look before council votes to move forward.
Every day is a different parking situation, but most days there are many cars parked in the Arnold Hall lot. Many of these are used by people who work downtown or are visiting businesses nearby on Third or Douglas.
On weekends, the lot is generally full, particularly if there is an event. And the parking garage that sits to the west of Arnold Hall has structural issues that prevent it from taking on additional use, although on any given day there are many cars parked on top of it. And at the Bunny Hop last weekend, people were parking below it as well.
We also have the issue of the carnival that takes up the entire lot during Downtown Days each year. This carnival is a major driver for the event, both in people visiting downtown and in important revenue for Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street.
I am going to assume that when the outdoor space is not in use, parking will not be available there, resulting in a loss of dozens of spaces.
While that may not seem like a lot, all you have to do is watch the activity around that area during busy times to see the need.
Individual businesses are hanging signs warning of not using their particular parking areas, kids going to music lessons at Third and Green are instructed not to park in Red Racks.
Parking is at a premium. And we’re about to take a bite of out it.
Back on the other issues, Deputy City Manager Brian Scott has been transparent that if there is extra funding available, the restrooms and lights could be brought back into the plan for the outdoor space.
About a third of the $600,000 allocated goes to the stage. The rest is spent on design, engineering needs and work to address storm water issues, as well as demolition of part of the lot and other expenses.
I certainly hope those additions continue to be an option and that the city might find some funding for a vital second downtown parking garage.
Our new city council has some serious discussions ahead on May 1 regarding these issues.
John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.