Mallory Herrmann

Lee’s Summit will be recognized this month for their work to build a community for all generations. The city has achieved the gold and silver levels of MARC’s (Mid-America Regional Council) Communities of All Ages program and will receive recognition at a Jan. 18 event in Johnson County.

The program was started in 2012 to encourage area cities to prepare for changing resident demographics. By 2030, an estimated 20 percent of the population will be 65 or older. And while many communities have been preparing for years to support the Baby Boomer generation as they retire, the Millennial generation is even larger.

“This is something we need to prepare for,” Victoria Nelson, long range planner for the city, says.

Not only will Lee’s Summit need to consider the Baby Boomers’ retirement and Millennials entering middle age, but people are generally living longer lives – and longer active lives. From parks and civic involvement to transportation and housing, cities need to account for these changes in their long-range planning.

The Communities for All Ages (CFAA) program includes six categories of criteria: public outdoor spaces and buildings; housing and commercial development; transportation and mobility; social inclusion, communication and participation; civic participation and employment; and community and health services.

Twelve cities in the metro area and on both sides of the state line are participating in the CFAA program. Mission, Kan., and Gladstone, Kearney, and Raymore, Mo., have received gold-level recognition. Independence, Mo., will also receive gold-level recognition this month.

Bob McKay, director of planning, praised MARC – as well as the other participating cities – for their leadership and support. He described an interactive and collaborative process in which cities are sharing what’s working for them and offering feedback and recommendations.

CFAA awards bronze-level recognition to communities who have established awareness of these needs, compiling information and starting a conversation with both public and elected stakeholders. Lee’s Summit received this recognition in January 2018.

The silver and gold levels recognize the assessment and implementation phases: a thorough assessment of strengths and opportunities within the community and adoption of CFAA component goals in a major local plan.

Lee’s Summit created a committee of nine community members to work through a toolkit book and make recommendations on improvements and goals. The group discussed food deserts, community gardens, transportation issues, affordable housing, health, and how to better promote information throughout the community. These recommendations influenced the comprehensive master plan currently in the process of being updated.

A new continuance committee has been formed to help the city maintain its gold-level status through continued improvement and will begin meeting next week.