Lee’s Summit downtown performance stage in council’s hands

rpulley@lsjournal.comMay 7, 2014 

The Lee’s Summit City Council heard a recommendation for the downtown outdoor performance space from the Arts Council May 1, but stopped well short of approving the plan.

They asked architects to report a breakdown of expected costs and raised questions about available parking.

Councilman Rob Binney asked City Manager Steve Arbo to bring back the plan for selling Arnold Hall so the council can decide whether to restart that process.

Councilman Allan Gray praised the work of the Arts Council, saying the plan is something voters would be pleased with, but he had questions about the budget.

Councilman Derek Holland and Gray were keen to know whether the proposed designs can be within the $600,000 budget.

“It’s a tight fit,” said Chris Heinz, an architect with Hollis + Miller which is designing the space. “We’d have to be very careful moving forward.”

Holland asked the architects to bring the council a breakdown of costs, from demolition and disposal of the asphalt parking lot, to rebuilding storm sewers for the site, to building the stage.

“I’m blown away at the cost,” Holland said. “I built a 5,000-square-foot building for less than this ... six trees, pavers and a stage, it just seems excessive.”

The conceptual plan recommended by the arts council is for a stage, with lighting, that is configured so that can be used for performances viewed from a festival area to the south, with room for 450 people, or as a grandstand for events on Third Street, such as parades or road races. The council also set priorities for landscaping, including tree wells and pavers on the perimeter of the festival area. Alternatives include conduit under pavers and tree wells to eventually allow adding outlets for festival booths or holiday lighting, plus limited remodeling of Arnold Hall to provide restrooms without access to the rest of the building.

Councilman David Mosby asked whether removing Arnold Hall would change architects’ concepts for the space. Heinz said the natural slope of the lot and the locations of other buildings made the Third Street location for the stage a good choice.

In an interview, Mosby said he thought it’s a bad plan to use only part of the lot, if the city is only using a small part of Arnold Hall for the project.

“I didn’t think it’s a good use to only use the restrooms and let the rest of (Arnold Hall) deteriorate,” Mosby said.

Mosby said he thinks that for $600,000 the city ought to be able to build a high-quality performance space on the entire lot. He said the city should keep in mind the long-term plan of building a larger performing arts building downtown.

Binney and Councilwoman Trish Carlyle asked about parking spaces which would be lost. Carlyle wondered if the plan couldn’t include some shops or cafes, like Kansas City’s city market.

The city’s traffic engineer, Michael Park, said that if all the asphalt area was striped the capacity was 65 spaces in the entire lot.

The proposed festival space will take away 14 of the 57 striped parking slots, he said.

Park said there is parking available nearby. He said that with the current occupancy rate, the downtown area is about 75 percent at capacity for parking (based on “industry best” practices).

Mosby said he the city needs to work on creating more parking downtown, either in conjunction with a new apartment complex proposed at Second and Green streets or another location.

Binney said, “To grow downtown, we need to expand public parking.” He added that it needs to be remembered that “ ... as a council we took Arnold Hall out of the bond issue.”

Gray also asked if the arts council considered using restrooms in City Hall across Third Street to serve events at the festival space. He said performers will need stage access on the street side.

“You’re going to have to look at blocking off Third Street,” Gray said.

The arts council had rejected that notion of using City Hall restrooms because of safety concerns for crossing the street, instead recommending utilizing the Arnold Hall restrooms at a cost of about $20,000.

Gray’s idea could require closing Third Street between Douglas and Green nearly every Friday night between from May through August, if the city wants to provide public restrooms for Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Inc. summer concerts.

Presently those are in Howard Station Park, but DLSMS officials have said that series attendance is outgrowing that space, which was one of the reasons touted for building a downtown performance space. Temporary closures for Third Street would have to be sold to other council members.

“I would be totally closed to closing Third Street,” said Councilwoman Diane Forte in an interview. “No one has convinced me that’s a viable option.”

She said she’s undecided on what direction the council now needs to take, because there is still much doubt about the details, with constantly evolving ideas on where to put it or how to build it. Forte said the festival space without lighting or other amenities seems incomplete.

“Wherever we put it, whatever we do, I just want to be sure in five years it’s worth the money we spent,” Forte said.

Binney asked during the meeting if the city will actually get any of the proposed alternates. Unknowns like the exact cost for rebuilding storm sewers raised doubt about what can be included. Heinz replied that it would depend on how bids come back.

If there is additional money after base bid is met for completing the stage, grass seating and some landscaping, the council can choose from alternates.

“Our goal is to get all of those,” Heinz said.

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