Downtown Lee’s Summit: Lee’s Summit, Missouri

In 1989, vacant buildings were a common sight in downtown Lee's Summit, about 20 miles south of Kansas City, Missouri. Investment was waning, with funding going to new strip malls and retail centers located on the edges of the community. The city was growing rapidly, but the downtown neighborhood's future was dim.

Civic leaders recognized the decline and joined forces to revitalize the heart of their beloved city. The business community, in partnership with the city, formed Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street to give a common voice and vision for the downtown stakeholders.

Downtown Lee’s Summit Chocolate Crawl. Photo courtesy Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, Inc.

Downtown Lee's Summit Chocolate Crawl. Photo courtesy Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street, Inc.

To achieve this vision, civic leaders turned to planning to create a downtown neighborhood that would one day benefit Lee's Summit residents of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street's first action as an organized body was to develop the Vision of Heart Study, which recommended early facade and streetscape improvement projects to lay the groundwork for revitalization projects that reminded residents of the value of the long-neglected neighborhood.

City residents showed their support for early downtown improvement projects on the ballot, giving the city the green light to invest $13.5 million in utility lines in need of repair, new and wider sidewalks, landscaping, and streetlights.

Shortly after, the city adopted the Old Lee's Summit Development Master Plan, a foundational document describing the community's vision for how downtown should be used and how to make it a destination for local and regional businesses. From this plan stemmed a grassroots effort to keep City Hall in downtown Lee's Summit, which won the support of the community and led to more than $30 million in construction in a new City Hall, public parking garage, and the new streetscape and infrastructure downtown.

The community continues to be deeply engaged in managing its constantly evolving vision for Downtown Lee's Summit. In 2015, a group of citizen leaders reviewed the 2004 master development plan and identified five priority areas to address through future planning and action: Expanding downtown zoning to encourage density; a parking plan; a permanent farmers market structure; more housing options; and improved traffic corridors into the downtown area. Their work led to the successful passage of a sales tax that the city estimates will result in $25.5 million in transportation-related improvements in and connecting to the downtown neighborhood over the next 15 years.

Downtown Lee’s Summit Halloween Parade. Photo courtesy Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, Inc.

Downtown Lee's Summit Halloween Parade. Photo courtesy Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street, Inc.

"The beauty, charm and culture of our great city is best exemplified in the heart of Lee's Summit, our historic downtown. We are thankful for the vision of those past and present that invested their time, money, passion and talents to develop and implement a downtown master plan."
—Lee's Summit Mayor Bill Baird

Downtown Lee's Summit is once again a neighborhood where people can live, work, and play. Since 2009, 80 new businesses opened, resulting in 553 new jobs for long-time and new residents. Retail sales have increased by more than 3,200 percent, from $1.26 million in 1993 to more than $42 million in 2018. A new multifamily housing development, the first in over a decade, was recently approved, bringing an additional 276 market-rate units to the neighborhood.