EDC Executive Director T.J. Berry (standing) welcomed nearly 200 people to the Feb. 28 State of the Cities Luncheon, including this group from Gladstone.
The annual meeting sponsored by the Clay County Economic Development Council featured reports from representatives of Excelsior Springs, Gladstone, Kansas City, Kearney, Lawson, Liberty, North Kansas City, Pleasant Valley and Smithville. Nearly 200 people attended the event at Harrah's North Kansas City Hotel and Casino.
Excelsior Springs Mayor Brad Eales told how Excelsior Springs is attracting places that in turn attract people. Leading the way is the Elm’s Hotel and Resort, which has been purchased by Hyatt Hotels and is set for a multimillion refresh beginning this year. Excelsior Springs also boasts a unique choice of restaurants, including several People’s Choice Awards winners, multiple wineries and two breweries. Other developments include the reconstructed golf course clubhouse, one of the largest Aldi stores in the U.S. and a larger El Maguey restaurant.
In Gladstone, Mayor Bill Gamos praised the new upscale restaurant Summit Grill and the continued development of Hobby Hill Park. The city has seen the opening of the business development center, iWerx, which is also the new home for the EDC and several affiliates. A similar development location for artists, DesignWerx, is coming later this year. Gladstone’s downtown continues to grow and attract visitors, with several festivals and the popular community center. Gladstone has also made important improvements to Pleasant Valley and Old Pike roads, as well as the Shoal Creek Greenway and Rock Creek Trail.
Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner and Councilwoman Heather Hall outlined a dynamic year of growth in Kansas City that saw $56 million worth of new construction during 2018 just in Clay County. Continued expansion of Antioch Crossing and the new Northland Rehabilitation and Health Care Center are two, while a new fire station and proposed Spring Hill Suites Marriott Hotel are under way. They also announced two new retail centers are being planned, Marketplace 152 on Northeast Barry Road near Maple Woods College, and Valley View Shoppes north of Highway 152 and Booth Avenue.
Mayor Dan Holt of Kearney said the city’s most visible development is the dramatic addition of a second I-35 interchange at 19th Street. The project will not only ease traffic at Highway 92 but open new areas in the southern portions of Kearney. Expansion to Lions Park, including a new splash pad, a new Kearney Amphitheater entrance and the Kearney schools Early Education Center are also in progress or completed.
Lawson Mayor Greg Taylor explained that major upgrades to City Lake Park include an RV park and 18-hole Frisbee-golf course under way, and a splash park planned for later this year. The community continues to grow with an aggressive incentive program for both residential and commercial development.
Liberty Mayor Lyndell Brenton cited a cluster of significant projects that included completion of the second phase of South Liberty Parkway, Mariott TownPlace Suites, the Liberty B&B Theatre and the Cottages of Bluebird Creek. Even with all of that, Liberty currently has over $250 million in development in progress, including an addition to the Ford Stamping Plant, Copper Ridge Apartments, Homestead, Riverwood and Timber Ridge. Two more hotels and additions to the successful Liberty Commons have also been announced. The biggest project, however, is the massive Kansas Street Corridor improvement that will include a new bridge over I-35 with a total of 10 lanes.
North Kansas City Manager Eric Berlin had multiple major developments to discuss, starting with the dramatic One North near I-35 and Armour Road. Elsewhere in the city, a new Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, growth in Northgate Village and the new Curran Lofts plans have started. Just completed are projects like the huge North Kansas City High School campus redevelopment and the new Cerner Demonstration Center.
Mayor David Slater of Pleasant Valley easily earned the “standup comedian” award with a much-applauded sprinkling of humor in his presentation. The biggest laugh came when he quipped that “…we not only got Liberty to build South Liberty Parkway, but pay for it, too!” Slater cited several public and private developments planned or in progress, but said one of the biggest successes is continued cooperation among Clay County communities.
Smithville Mayor Damien Boley concluded the presentations with updates on projects in progress from voter approval of an improvement sales tax in 2018. That work includes a downtown streetscape and several infrastructure projects, including multiple bridge projects and trails on Main Street and 180th Street. New businesses include the Little Platte Distillery and Kenedy’s Family Restaurant, while no less than seven subdivisions are seeing additional residential development.
EDC Executive Director T.J. Berry concluded the luncheon with the announcement of four monthly community meetings to gain input for an update of the Strategic Initiative. First created in 2013, the initiative set a roadmap for quality growth in Clay County. Berry noted 70 percent of the initiative has been successfully completed, and it’s time for an update.
“We need to make sure we have great quality of life and that the great communities we’ve seen here today continue,” Berry said. “I want to encourage everyone to be involved.” The first meeting will be March 28 at the Gladstone Community Center.