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Big Crowd, Big Developments Highlight EDC’s State of the Cities Event

July 2021

One highlight of the State of the Cities Luncheon July 8 was presentation of honors to the EDC and member Tony Reinhart for a fundraising event they held last year for the nonprofit Feed Northland Kids. Those present included (from left) Chris Evans, Feed Northland Kids; Greg Canuteson, EDC Chair; Jean Moore, Gladstone City Council member; Michael Atchison, Feed Northland Kids; and Tony Reinhart, EDC board member.

Over 250 people attending the July 8 Clay County State of the Cities Luncheon heard an impressive array of development news ranging from new splash parks to massive logistics centers.

Held at Harrah’s North Kansas City, the event featured presentations by representatives from nine communities, Clay County and the Clay County Economic Development Council, which hosted the event. Also included were presentations from Feed Northland Kids and the Clay County Bicentennial Committee. One of the most dramatic announcements came when EDC Chair Greg Canuteson presented an update on the organization’s 587 plan, a study to identify best uses for the I-435/Highway 152 interchange.

Canuteson said the EDC has contracted with the Olsson engineering firm to create plans for a regional destination complex. The goal is to lay the groundwork for public/private development that would feature Class A office space, unique civic spaces and regional entertainment venues.

“This is going to be a fantastic, game-changing project,” Canuteson said. “We think Clay County is a great place to live, and we need the amenities to match.”

Olsson is currently examining successful features in other areas in order to create a list of those best suited to the interchange. Over half of the area surrounding the intersection is undeveloped, creating one of the most strategic locations in Greater Kansas City. The project, named “587” from the combination of I-435 and Highway 152, is one of the EDC’s Big 4 goals.

Clay County Presiding Commission Jerry Nolte also updated the county’s status, noting especially the cooperation of the new commission that includes newly elected Eastern Commissioner Megan Thompson and Western Commissioner Jon Carpenter.

Community Progress

Clay County mayors and council members all reported significant developments that reflect public and private investment in Clay County.

Claycomo Board of Trustees President Norma Sulzberger said her community faces a widespread problem of being surrounded by highways and interstates, although increasingly cities are seeing this as an opportunity as well.

Excelsior Springs Mayor Sharon Powell cited millions of dollars in public/private investment in that community. She said those many efforts may have been equaled by community spirit following recent storms and flooding.

Gladstone Mayor R.D. Mallams noted that city recently saw completion of its first hotel, major improvements to a large shopping center and additions to community parks, greenways and trails.

The county’s largest city, Kansas City, North, was presented by First District Councilpersons Heather Hall and Kevin O’Neill. The two noted a long list of commercial and residential development that represents the biggest percentage of Kansas City’s growth, north or south of the river. “The Northland is the economic engine of Kansas City,” O’Neil said. “I think we’re going to see the most development in the Northland (for the entire city).”

Hall also praised the huge amount of Kansas City development but praised all Clay County communities as well. “Every single city in Clay County is contributing to the extraordinary growth of the Northland,” she said. “I’m eager to talk about how we can work together more. It’s really exciting to see what each of us is doing”

Kearney Mayor Randy Pogue was one of several noting the pandemic challenges over the past 15 months but said that the city had done well overall. “Even though revenues went down, we finished year with a surplus,” he said. “Unlike some of our peer cities, we did not have to cut any positions or make any other drastic decisions. Even with the COVID pandemic, Kearney saw a lot of development last year.”

Big Projects Everywhere

Although it was the smallest community represented, Lawson Mayor Greg Taylor said major developments are planned and under way, including a $365,000 trail connection that will link much of the city and, eventually, county trails leading to nearby Watkins Mill State Park. Lawson also opened a new splash pad and, in cooperation with the local school district, new storm shelters that will ultimately have the capacity for the entire city if needed. Lawson is also planning it’s “Sasquatch Centennial.”

Liberty Mayor Lyndell Brenton may have had one of the longest lists of major developments, including $510 million in projects that will bring nearly 4,000 jobs. Brenton also noted extensive quality of lifestyle amenities, especially several from a new “use” tax that was also a critical component of Liberty’s fiscal soundness during the pandemic.

“We’re growing and stronger,” Brenton said. “We showed great resiliency during the pandemic.”

North Kansas City Mayor Bryant DeLong also had an extensive list of projects in that city. Some of the largest are in the new One North development where two adjoined hotels and apartments have recently opened where a grain elevator once sat. Several redeployment projects are also planned or under way, including the $40-million Swift Apartments and a $24-million project by the city to modernize the Burlington Corridor.

Smithville Mayor Damien Boley pointed to several major developments, including infrastructure efforts by the city that include a $20-million center designed to host events like weddings and other gatherings.

The meeting began with a presentation to EDC board member Tony Reinhart from Feed Northland Kids for his efforts leading an EDC fundraiser for the nonprofit organization. Chairwoman Katie Steele Danner also presented a report on the Clay County Bicentennial Committee and events planned this summer commemorating Missouri’s 200th year.

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