Pleasant Valley Mayor David Slater closed out the 2020 Clay County State of the Cities Luncheon with a call for cooperation to ensure the area’s progress continues.
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. More than 200 people attended the event at Harrah's North Kansas City Hotel and Casino.
Mayor Carol Sutter of Gladstone may have best summarized the tone of the meeting. “Clay County may be smaller in some things, but we have big dreams,” she said.
Kansas City Councilwoman Heather Hall said the dynamics are not limited to a single community. “It’s so exciting and vibrant right now,” she said. “And it’s not just Kansas City; it’s the entire Northland.”
Lawson Mayor Greg Taylor opened the presentations. Although it’s the smallest community in the county, Lawson completed a dramatic year of development and is looking for more, including $3.2 million in work for just one bridge project. Other efforts include introduction of gigabit fiber internet and several park projects.
Assistant City Administrator Kim Nakahodo of North Kansas City had one of the largest lists to announce, including continued development of the One North project along I-35/I-29. Other work includes the Curran Park Lofts and major reconstruction on the Burlington Corridor, NKC’s major east-west roadway. She also noted that the city’s fire department is now one of only six in Missouri with a Class 1 rating, which improves safety and lowers costs like insurance.
Smithville Mayor Damien Boley announced an impressive list of developments and organizational advances, including a new strategic plan. Major projects include a trail from downtown to Smithville Lake planned for completion late this year. Smithville residents also approved a ½-cent sales tax and associated bond issuance to fund a number of projects. In less than two years, more than $12 million in projects have been initiated and completed, including a downtown streetscape project, trails, sidewalks and replacement of bridges.
Kansas City's dynamic growth is indicated by the city's widly distributed residential building permits.
Excelsior Springs Mayor Brad Eales cited several projects and played a video created in part by 12-year-old MacKenzie Cole, a local student who helped illustrate the dramatic growth downtown. Other major advances include a recent, $750,000 Community Development Block Grant to help with a major sewer project. Excelsior Springs is also working with a local company to expand a manufacturing plant that will bring $4 million in work on an existing plant and $1 million in road improvements.
Mayor Sutter in Gladstone cited that city’s creation of a “built from scratch” downtown has achieved dramatic success in only 10 years. Upscale housing, offices and restaurants will be joined this year by a new Fairfield by Marriott hotel.
Liberty Mayor Lyndell Brenton had some of the most dramatic announcements, including completion of the $26.2 million Highway 152 Bridge over I-35, which saw opening of the double span in less than 90 days after demolition of the old span. Nearby, dramatic redevelopment of Liberty Commons is complete, while additions to the Ford Stamping Plant have nearly doubled the size of that facility. Lane4 is now planning a nearly one million square foot industrial and commercial development near Liberty Drive and I-35.
Kansas City Councilwoman Hall and Councilman Kevin O’Neil noted the county’s largest city last year had $101.3 million in new construction and saw 1,668 new construction permits just in Clay County. A wide range of public projects under way or scheduled include Maplewoods Parkway, North Brighton and the Chouteau Trafficway/I-35 Interchange improvements. Several efforts have been completed at Penguin and Hodge Parks, while the new Francois Chouteau Fountain will be built this year on Chouteau Trafficway north of Parvin Road.
Mayor David Slater of Pleasant Valley closed the presentations by noting several developments in that community, including recent recognition of the community’s QuickTrip as the corporation’s No. 1 location in Greater Kansas City.
Slater’s most dramatic remarks involved praise for Northland community cooperation on projects like funding for a new Buck O’Neil Bridge, where he praised both Gladstone Mayor Sutter and Riverside Mayor Kathy Rose, who had joined the event. He also celebrated the recent selection of Winnetonka High School Principal Dr. Eric Johnson as Missouri Principal of the Year. Also present, Dr. Johnson received a standing ovation.
Slater closed by urging the Clay County business and community leaders to continue cooperation on community and state improvement efforts. “We have a lot to do,” he said. “We have to work together to get it done.”
EDC Chair Greg Canuteson noted several of the projects represent progress for the EDC’s Strategic Plan, which has identified four key areas to help support quality county growth.