The Lee’s Summit City Council seems prepared to tear down Arnold Hall and expand the size of a proposed outdoor stage and festival space for downtown.
Led by council members Allan Gray and David Mosby the council on May 15 asked city staff to get estimates on the cost of ripping up all the asphalt and razing the building at 123 Third Street.
Councilman Rob Binney unsuccessfully tried to revive a plan to sell Arnold Hall on the site.
“If you marketed that building, I’m confident there would be offers,” City Manager Steve Arbo had told the council at its meeting May 15.
The council tied on that issue, with Binney, Trish Carlyle, Diane Seif, and Diane Forte voting to market the building while Allan Gray, Derek Holland, Bob Johnson and David Mosby voting no.
Mayor Randy Rhoads broke the tie with his “no” vote.
Prior to the council discussion Chris Heinz of Hollis + Miller architects presented cost estimates for constructing stage and festival space.
Architects showed the council three ideas for the stage, two with a trellis-like covering and the third a metal arch. There would be an open area for lawn seating with landscaping. The totals ranged from $568,000 to $580,000. A 10-percent contingency is included in those estimates. The total includes the stage, providing electrical outlets for festival booths on the perimeter, demolishing part of the parking lot and rebuilding storm water outlets.
There are three alternates, if money goes far enough:
• renovating Arnold Hall restrooms at $20,000 but leaving the rest of the building untouched
• pedestrian lights with the same look as downtown streetlights
• water outlets for concessions at back of Arnold Hall
Heinz said that “theoretically” the alternates could fit into the budget, if the contingency money isn’t needed for the main features.
He cautioned that material costs are rising and the bid “climate” is volatile.
Johnson, Gray and Mosby said they didn’t think it would be worthwhile to use Arnold Hall’s bathrooms and let the rest of the building deteriorate.
The Lee’s Summit Arts Council had not talked demolishing Arnold Hall during its meetings to recommend a plan for the outdoor performance space.
It would cost $35,000 to $40,000 to demolish Arnold Hall, Heinz said.
Gray said “We asked for something that could capture the imagination and create an identity downtown.”
He said the city has an opportunity to create a venue that would be a “draw” in Lee’s Summit and beyond.
“It provides it a park-like setting, that we don’t have downtown,” Mosby said of Gray’s plan for enlarging the project.
Forte and Carlyle questioned whether the plan would dramatically increase costs.
“I’d like to know where we’re going to find that kind of money,” Carlyle said.
Mosby said that once an excavator is on site the additional cost of removing more asphalt wouldn’t be that much.
Gray’s suggestion also would eliminate about 65 parking spaces from the downtown area.
Binney asked for comments on the parking situation from Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street.
Trisha Drape, DLSMS executive director, said the group is excited about the performance space but has some concerns about the plan.
“That’s a lot of (parking) spaces to move around,” Drape said. “If all these people come, where are they going to park?”
Arnold Hall is on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
Joe Arnold donated it to the city in 1950 asking that it be used for a youth center. It has served as a rental building, a restaurant, city council chamber and a senior center. Gray’s idea isn’t popular with everyone.
“It’s pretty heart breaking, I’m not the only who has worked hard to save that building over the years,” said Kathy Smith, president of the Lee’s Summit Historical Society and chair of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. “It means something to a lot of the older generation.”
Binney, Forte and Carlyle voted no on Gray’s motion, the other five voted yes.
Rhoads said Gray’s proposal raises the question of whether the project will be built in phases.
“Intuition tells me it’s going to be more money than we have,” Rhoads said.