Sept. 28, 2019

Tribune Photo/Joey Hedges

I have been blessed to be the Mayor of Lee’s Summit the last year and half for one reason in particular–the city council members. The council members have exuded professionalism, have diligently considered every bill, and have discussed or debated analytically, passionately, and respectfully. I have leaned on the experience of the council many times, and they have given me grace many times. We have collaborated in many several sessions this year and found common ground in all we have embarked upon. They have recognized the opportunities before us with a strong economy, a great citizenry, and a talented and supportive staff. They have set good policies, have governed, and have provided accountability. They developed a vision for our community through a collaborative process with the citizens. Collectively, our council members are doing everything a mayor could ask for and are working hard for their citizens. I know for a fact the community is proud of our council and so am I.

Earlier this year the council participated in a strategic planning work session in which we examined the last 50-60 years in Lee’s Summit and all the difficult decisions made by our past leaders. It took incredible foresight and courage to make some of those decisions especially in what I call the roaring 1990’s, a decade in which our city grew by 25,000 people. That is 25 percent of our current population! Mayor Karen Messerli was leading the way when decisions were made that enabled us to build our much-needed infrastructure while prioritizing public safety to set the stage for our city’s success and prosperity today.

We’ve gathered this evening with three objectives:

  1. To commemorate the successes we have enjoyed fiscally and economically.
  2. To celebrate the spirit of community and collaboration that has transpired over the last year.
  3. To address the vision for Lee’s Summit, the city’s strategic plan, and the critical success factors to sustaining and building upon our excellent quality of life.

As we commemorate and celebrate, I will point out times that we were mindful and how we will need to be mindful in the future.

Let us begin with some updates
In the last 12 months, the city and council have been engaging with developments that were previously considered approved but ran into some obstacles along the way. These include:
• Paragon Star – A $212 million, multi-faceted development that combines youth sports activities with a residential and entertainment district. The fruition of this development will be due to the dedication and vision of the developer and city to overcome challenges and provide an innovative landmark that will be a symbolic gateway to our city.
• The Grove: To be located just south of the 291 Interchange is projected to be 1.2 million square foot commercial development of industrial warehouse, office, retail, and residential. The conditions and terms between the city and developer were restricting the developer in moving forward effectively. However, through thoughtful consideration by council and staff we restructured our contractual agreement in hopes of seeing significant progress.

Citizens should see significant progress with these monumental projects within the next couple of years and should know that the city council, with mindful consideration, played an instrumental role this year in moving them forward.
• The Meridian at View High by CityScape – Located on the westside of town, this is a $40M multi-family project with 310 units. It encountered a few obstacles this year as well, but through cooperative thinking by the city and developers they are back on track. We are looking forward to the high-quality finished product that this developer, Jim Thomas, will build just as he has numerous times before in our community.

Developments approved in the last 12 months include:
• Downtown Lee’s Summit Apartments by CityScape – This is a $52 million luxury apartment redevelopment of the United Methodist Church downtown campus and will include 274 units and phenomenal amenities. This is a game changer for downtown Lee’s Summit and the businesses there. The downtown was in need of more residents for economic health as well as workforce.
• Streets of West Pryor – Located at Pryor and 470 and Chipman Rd, this is a $178 million mixed-use development and will be anchored by a new concept grocery store, McKeever’s Market. The high-profile location will also include dining, retail, senior living, high-end apartments with underground parking, and a host of amenities. When finished, the project will be a sight to see as it cozies up to Lowenstein Park, a community favorite. Drake Development President Matt Pennington was quoted as saying “It’s the kind of high-end development Lee’s Summit needs because of its demographics.”
• Summit Orchard – A $73 million Townsend Development project is located at Chipman and Ward Roads and is adjacent to the Summit Technology Campus. This project will be a neighborhood-oriented, mixed-use commercial area. Numerous popular retail and dining options are in discussions, but possibly none more popular than a bigger and better Aldi’s who has already submitted a license permit. Lee’s Summit citizen and regional developer Steve Rich brought this neighborhood plaza to Lee’s Summit.
• The Donovan by Northpoint – Otherwise known as Summit Square Phase II is a $48.5 million multi-family development consisting of 326 units. Phase I had the fastest lease up to full occupancy Lee’s Summit has experienced. This apartment location, adjacent to the Missouri Innovation Campus, has been positively commented on throughout the community.
• A third Mid-Continent Public Library – This was approved and is under construction for $4.2 million and is located near the Lee’s Summit Medical Center on Blue Parkway. This will be a tremendous resource for the dense residential 4th district on the east side of the city.
• A $2 million brick building is going up in the downtown right behind the chamber offices and will house Reece Nichols. This beautiful addition to our downtown will bring increased foot traffic to our downtown businesses.
• Aria – Is a 974-unit multi-family development (1st phase: 392 units and 2nd phase: 582 units) located near Unity Village at Colbern and Lee’s Summit roads and will likely cost over $100 million in construction.
• The Princeton – This continuum of care facility by O’Reilly Development will be constructed for $35.5 million at the southeast quadrant of 50 Hwy and Todd George.
• In addition, Lee’s Summit has continued to realize growth as a healthcare hub and is experiencing $10.2 million in medical office construction.

The projects that I have listed as new developments are those that we have approved in the last year, exceed a half billion dollars in construction investments. That is a half billion dollars my fellow citizens!

Of course, one of Lee’s Summit’s biggest announcements of the last 30 years occurred just 9 months ago. Property Reserve Inc (PRI) announced that they would be releasing over 4,000 acres of land for development. That is more than 6 square miles or the size of Prairie Village. That is two thirds the size of Raytown. Property Reserve Inc is conducting due diligence currently and has hired an engineering firm to provide a scope of where all the utilities and infrastructure connection points are. The city has begun conversations with PRI regarding the process to master plan the 1,100 acres across from the airport on 291 and 470 and the 3,000 acres of wide-open prairie south of 50 Hwy and north of 150 Hwy. While the master planning has not officially kicked off, I have visions of mixed use in the northern region to take full advantage of the proximity to our expanded airport and the proximity to 70 Hwy as well to 470. It could be our next corporate offices or ecommerce or flex space and could include residential nestling up to Fleming Park and Lake Jacomo.

In the southern region I envision gathering places connecting residential to commercial, parks and trail connections, and creating more mindful places like you find in our downtown where the culture is neighborly, friendly, and draws you into the moment. PRI has a great reputation for ensuring the land they release for development is done so with care and precision. They are phenomenal partners with cities, and we are looking forward to building upon our strong relationship for many years to come.

Let’s talk about Downtown Lee’s Summit.
In 1993 the vision for the downtown began more formally with a study called the Vision of the Heart.

A decade later, in 2004, a master plan for the Downtown was created with a Vision statement as follows: “downtown is and will continue to be the historic, present and future heart of Lee’s Summit. It is a commercially vibrant, cultural, spiritual, and educational family destination. Downtown Lee’s Summit is a regional destination with a mixture of uses, including specialty shops and restaurants, and public buildings that make an important civic statement. It is a place of ‘experience’ – people living, walking, music playing, events happening…a public environment.”

And now in 2019, we are continuing to honor and fulfill that vision with the most exciting news. The city of Lee’s Summit has secured a contract for the land due east of our City Hall and Parking Garage allowing us to fulfill a commitment made in 2004 for a permanent Farmer’s Market and Performance Venue. The Conceptual Plans include a Market Pavilion and Conservatory, Boutique Hotel, Office, Retail, Loft apartments, and a redesign of the Plaza in front of city hall to accommodate the outdoor performance venue. The construction and operations of the public spaces will be planned in a collaborative effort with the Downtown Community Improvement District and the Downtown Mainstreet Board.

Funding for this project will come from numerous sources including:
• Millions of dollars from residuals from numerous past property sales and releases of options.
• The downtown CID will be contributing significantly to project.
• The sale of the land parcels to private investors to develop the Office/Retail/Apartment/ and Boutique Hotel components of the complex.
• Remaining funds from the 2013 bond issue of $600,000.

It was with mindful intent and consideration of the past stakeholders and visionaries that we examined our options and remain committed to the vision statement of 2004 that the downtown is and will continue to be the historic, present and future heart of Lee’s Summit.

If you have not noticed my friends, Lee’s Summit has arrived. I have spoken with a half dozen of the most influential and knowledgeable people in the Kansas City Region the last couple months and have let them know we’ve arrived, and they all agree. We have the data points and demographics to entice any small or midsized business to relocate here. We have the density to bring commercial developments here. We have the amenities of the finest schools, parks, downtown, and public safety to welcome new families here. We have the mindfulness factor in our culture. We come together in the spirit of community throughout the year in the most powerful ways.

This coming together is needed most in the times of adversity. Stay with me as we celebrate some successes where we worked well together to overcome a challenge.

In January of this year, after great diligence from city administration and with the oversight and vision of the council, we implemented a significant compensation increase of $4.2 million for all employees. This yielded a 10.7 percent average in increase for our core employee making Lee’s Summit competitive with our comparator cities. The core employees don’t often get the attention that our public safety departments do, so instead of calling them the core, I am hereby declaring them our “every day champions.” We would not be the great city we are without our Every Day Champions!

The represented employees received a proportionate increase and also implemented step plans that will allow us to compete for the best of talent when it comes to our police department, the Guardians of the City, our Fire Department, the Hometown Heroes, and the Pillars of the City, our public works and water departments.

The new fiscal year on July 1st also allowed for merit increases of 1-4 percent based on performance. This came at the heels of an internal audit and standardization of every job description in the city. The human resource department has implemented procedures and resources dedicated to monitoring these job descriptions and compensation in relation to comparator cities to help us stay competitive in the market. Our employees provide more than just the infrastructure of our city such as roads, bridges, buildings, and water lines. They also provide the services that make our city operate efficiently and effectively each and every day.

On behalf of the council I would like to thank the city administrator, Steve Arbo for his leadership, and his team of leaders for their dedication and long hours to make this happen late last year. You are unsung heroes that need to be recognized.

The biggest recognition and thank you of the night goes to our citizens, who on August 6th, approved by 86 percent, a measure for a no tax increase bond election for two fire stations, a police station upgrade, police body and vehicle cameras, and fiber upgrades to key emergency facilities. This 86 percent approval rate mirrored the community conversations and citizen surveys stating that public safety is priority number one.

City Strategic Plan
That is not all the citizens did for this community this year. They engaged with us in the city strategic plan, Ignite! by way of social media, surveys, meetings, and more meetings. They identified the critical success factors for our city, the council analyzed the data to put together a mission statement and outcomes to achieve the critical success factors. Back to the citizens we went for feedback regarding what we had formulated and summarized. With additional input from the citizens the city council refined 7 critical success factors and more conclusively defined the desired outcomes to adopt a strategic plan and framework. It was an extremely valuable process as the council got to experience first-hand what our citizens were stating and feeling and then later were able to work alongside staff members and council members in a collaborative format that rarely happens from the dais in these chambers. Now, council members will be afforded an even greater opportunity to work with our citizens. We have targeted the October 15th city council meeting to approve seven C4 Committees comprised of the City, City Council, Community Partners, and Citizens to develop strategies to achieve each objective identified under the critical success factors. We Ignited the strategic plan and now C4 will finish the job….

The C4 committees will consist of city staff, community leaders from the Chamber, EDC, Downtown, Community Marketing, and Velocity, and a diverse group of citizens and stakeholders for the next 5-6 months. The committees will be comprised of 25 members and will include 15-17 members of the community.

With a strong council, talented staff, dedicated community partners, and engaged citizens we will maintain our course and vision for Lee’s Summit to be a vibrant community ensuring the finest quality of life for all generations. Notice I said all generations, we must be mindful to include and not exclude any generation.

Our mission is to enrich lives in our community through collaboration, creativity, and commitment.

Notice the word creativity. Mindfulness is the springboard for creativity.

Before I read the critical success factors for the City’s Strategic plan, I would like to tell you a story.

In 1997, at age 27, Hillory and I moved to Lee’s Summit with our daughter, who was only 1 month old. We leased with an option to buy an 1,100 sq ft all brick ranch with about 500 square-foot finished in the basement for $99,000. That same house today is worth nearly double that amount at $180,000. Most of our friends that are around our age moved here in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. What a driving economic force people were for Lee’s Summit between the ages of 23 and 38 years old. We were beginning our careers, getting married, having families, buying houses, growing our families, buying bigger houses, growing our businesses, starting new businesses or moving our businesses here, and building commercial properties. Owe to be young again. You know what you call someone between the ages of 23-38 today? That’s right–a Millennial. And what do we know about the Millennial generation?

  1. By the end of 2019, the Millennials will overtake the Baby Boomers as the largest adult generation. By year end boomers are projected to be at 73 million in population and Millennials at 74 million. With the X-Gens, my generation, trailing at 66 million.
  2. The Millennials are already the most impactful generational source on the economy with $200 billion in buying power per year. They have represented the largest share of the home buying market for the past five years in a row with their 2018 share at 36 percent. Pretty amazing considering younger Millennials are more likely to rent than buy a home.
  3. Millennials are more likely to commute to find affordable homes.
  4. And many Millennials, eight years post-recession, are still waiting longer or living with their parents to save money.
  5. Most millennial homebuyers are looking for smaller, more manageable properties.
  6. And as our city is well aware, Millennials have dramatically changed housing starts and the housing market, resulting in the construction of more multi-family dwellings including apartments than in past cyclical expansions.

The night I was sworn in as mayor one year and five months ago, I stated “the digital disruption that has altered the path of economic activity, the new digital technologies and business models that have affected the value proposition of existing goods, and the digitization of all services will continue to affect our local economy and ultimately change the landscape of our city.”

The most impactful result of the digital disruption our nation has experienced is not the advancement of e-commerce, smart phones, social media, or Netflix. It is the impact of all those things on the largest economic driver in our local, state, and national economies. That driver is the millennial. The millennial grew up with everything at their fingertips including video, products, entertainment, and most importantly their social networks. They forced parents AND their grandparents to text, to monitor their social media accounts, and even to learn how to buy online to get them what they really wanted for their birthday!

Now those children are amongst us as adults and citizens, as doctors and business owners, as community activists and future council members, and let’s not forget their multiple roles as family members. They are parents or becoming parents, they are children and grandchildren, and with people living longer they maybe even great grandchildren. They got a lot on their plate! Someone has to take care of us in our later years. We want to continue with the greatest quality of life we can. We like our parks to be clean, our streets safe, and we want the best in health care facilities. If we are going to work this hard to get to where we are now and hand over this beautiful city on a Summit, we need to embrace them now to let them know what we will expect and need.

As we move forward with decisions for our city, we must be mindful of all generations in our community and that includes the Millennials. We must take care of our own, grow with the future in mind, and welcome all that want to be a part of and contribute to our community.

The citizens came up with 7 Critical Success Factors to focus on for our City Strategic Plan

Strategic Economic Development: The citizens want us to be Strategic in our Economic Development and build an adaptable framework for continued growth in a changing environment.

Cultural and Recreational Amenities: The citizens want us to support and facilitate a community that celebrates, welcomes and supports cultural and recreational amenities.

Strong Neighborhoods with Housing Choices: They want us to maintain thriving, quality neighborhoods with housing choices that connect a diversity of residents throughout the community.

There are many innovative developers and builders in the metropolitan area that see the opportunities for meeting the demand and preferences of the millennial home buyers and renters by choice. As challenging as it may be, we will accommodate the millennials housing preferences. Considering the future development of the PRI land totaling 4,200 acres, if 25,000 people were to move to Lee’s Summit over the next 15 to 20 years, it will require a mindful and innovative approach to attract people between the ages of 23 and 38 years old. Otherwise, our children will take roots and raise their children in more accommodating and accepting communities.

The stakes are too high to not welcome and entice this pool of talent to our community just as this community welcomed my generation to the area in the 1990’s with a plethora of housing options such as split entries, raised ranches, front to back splits, and atrium splits. Not accommodating innovation in housing would alienate the largest generational source of power for our economy alongside the baby boomers.

Community Engagement: Our citizens made clear they want healthy and balanced community engagement mindful of all generations.

One of the most exciting initiatives of community engagement became a reality yesterday. The Lee’s Summit Community Calendar went live. This was a collaborative venture between the City, Chamber, Tourism, Downtown Main Street, Velocity, Economic Development Council, and Parks and Recreation and spearheaded by Jim McKenna, the Chief Marketing officer for Community Marketing. You will be able to access all that is happening in Lee’s Summit at with weekly events and beyond. No longer will you need to go to all six websites to find out what’s up in Lee’s Summit. There will be opportunities, with conditions, for the private sector to post events and advertise. Check it out at and give us some feedback.

Community Health and Wellbeing: Our citizens desire and support a healthy and happy community by improving healthy lifestyle choices and opportunities for our citizens to live healthy lives physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Collaborative Relations with Education Partners: The community conversations and feedback from our citizens made clear they want collaborative relations with education partners. Whether it is the public schools, private schools, community colleges, or universities, our citizens see the city having a role as a partner with the educational institutions. We have many workforce development initiatives that have started in the last year, but there is so much more we can do.

We CAN build cooperative relationships with our educational partners so that we may combine our financial resources, connect more businesses, develop workforce development curriculum, and create a shared message and vision when dealing with our shared constituencies. For some of our education partners, it’s time them come to the table and be present, mindful, and collaborative. It’s been twelve years since the LSR7 school district had a good relationship with the City of Lee’s Summit and with other community partners. The citizens expect better, so we will take the initiative to build a better relationship. We need a strong relationship with them with 4,200 acres of land to develop in order fully understand the impact our decisions have on each other.

City Services and Infrastructure:
As council and mayor, it was satisfying to hear from the citizens their desire for the city to sustain and enhance our city services and infrastructure to protect our high quality of life. We will need your support as we develop strategies and invest in our infrastructure.

A Missing Critical Success Factor
One final note about the City’s Strategic Plan. The community conversations came at a time of high tensions in our community resonating from the race and equity discussions and media attention at the Lee’s Summit school district. Many people were not comfortable talking about these issues during the strategic planning meetings. Many people are still not comfortable about talking about these issues and have no opportunity to have healthy conversations. Social media is not a safe place to have conversations about race and diversity. We must create safe venues to have these healthy conversations. Therefore, I will be appointing 9 members to a commission to find a path forward. These 9 members will be the individuals that represent the varying perspectives and opinions of those in our community. They will not be those that have used social media to cast out those of differing opinions or those that have used social media as their primary tool to provoke others. The members of this commission for inclusion and diversity will find common ground and an appropriate path for our community to have the civil face-to-face discussions with ALL perspectives in the room so that we will move our forward as a community. They will work together to find the best long-term plan to facilitate a healthy inclusive framework and culture for convening community conversations on race and inclusion. There are many organizations that provide services to facilitate community conversations about diversity and inclusion such as the National League of Cities, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, as well as the Department of Justice. This commission’s purpose will be to come to a consensus on the best path for our city and to get those of varying opinions in the room once that path has been chosen.

Tonight, I have shared our many successes and we should celebrate the spirit of community that makes this city so great. I have shared the vision our city council and citizens have set forth in a strategic plan with the strategies to be determined. And, I’ve shared the challenges of the future and the mindful approach we need to be the most vibrant community ensuring the finest quality of life for all generations.

Thank you, Mayor Bill Baird