Maybe the year hasn’t been perfect, but community leaders across Kansas City’s Northland are, for the most part, looking back with fondness. It was a year that brought business expansions, a major donation toward parkland, new school construction. One city laid the groundwork for millions of dollars worth of development in 2016. Another got its first tenant in a new office park.
And everyone, or course, could bask in the reflected glory of the Kansas City Royals.
Liberty joined in the Royals mania as the World Series race heated up. Feeling that it just wasn’t right to drive down Liberty’s Blue Jay Drive when the Royals were battling Toronto, the city made a temporary name change, said Mayor Lyndell Brenton. For a while, anyway, it was dubbed “Royals Drive.”
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Frivolity aside, Liberty leaders were busy this year putting the final touches on development deals that may reshape the city, Brenton said. “This year has been like planning for a big wedding,” he said. “We put together the plans, put together the funding and signed for the dates. Next year will be the big event.”
A long list of big events, actually. The Liberty Commons shopping center at I-35 and Missouri 152 will rebuild a vacant Kmart and strip mall that was largely empty. The B&B Cinema at the end of that mall will relocate to an area a few yards east, putting in a 14-theater complex and office headquarters, he said.
In addition, the city made plans this year to put in $5 million of improvements to the streetscape on its historic town square, enlarging sidewalks in front of stores around the courthouse.
On the city’s south side, construction will start on a new four-lane road connecting Missouri 291 to the South Liberty Parkway – a change that will open up about 1,000 acres of pastureland to potential development. In addition, development plans were finalized on about a 300-unit multi-family residential complex and another development of about 150 single-family homes, he said.
“It all adds up to $200-$300 million of investment we’ll see in the coming year for the city of Liberty.”
Platte R-3 School District
The banner news for the Platte R-3 district came in April, when voters approved additional property tax to pay for much needed expansion of the school districts, said Laura Hulett, communications director.
The additional revenue will affect about every school, she said. The district will build a new elementary school in its northern sector to take kindergarten through fifth grade, and expand Siegrist Elementary, currently a first-through-third grade school into kindergarten through fifth grade. That will allow the district to close its 60-year-old facility for kindergartners. In addition, Pathfinder Elementary, which is now K-2, will become K-4. Platte County High School will get additional space as well.
The expansions are needed because the attendance has been growing at the rate of 85 to 100 students each year for the last several, Hulett said.
Construction wasn’t the only good news, though. The district also is running a pilot program offering different lengths of classes and labs in the high school, and it opened the Treasure Chest resource center for donations of food, clothes and toiletries to district families in need.
West Platte School District
The most visible change over the past year for West Platte is also construction. The district is building a new football track and stadium with hopes that track meets can be held there next year, said Superintendent John Rinehart.
But it’s not just about sports. The $20 million project also will expand class space, add science lab space, a multi-use room, cafeteria for the high school, meeting rooms and playground space. “There’s something to benefit a lot of kids, once it gets done,” Rinehart said.
Work is scheduled to be finished by fall of next year.
North Kansas City
Dagg Park renovations have been at the top of the city’s list this year. The park has undergone major changes this year that include updated new playground equipment and a sprayground, said Mayor Don Stielow.
In addition, several big planning operations have been afoot to guide the city in future years, he said. The city is almost finished writing its master plan, an important document that officials will consider when making future decisions about city policy and development. Also, the city has continued to work on the Burlington Corridor Design project to update the area from the Heart of America Bridge to the northern city limits, he said.
The city also is working on a water study to determine the city’s options on water treatment and supply issues in the future.
Highlights for Riverside include the opening of three new businesses at Horizons Business Park and the renovation of the Eagle Animal Hospital, a long-time Riverside business serving the Northland, said Mayor Kathy Rose.
Other positive developments for the city were the strong housing growth and the opening of a “next generation” QuikTrip store at Vivion Road and Gateway, she said.
Parkville celebrated this year when the men’s and women’s volleyball teams from Park University won their national championships, said Mayor Nan Johnston.
There were other reasons to celebrate as well. The city dedicated the Maria Ewing Circle, a new trail at its Sullivan Nature Sanctuary. The size of that sanctuary was recently doubled to about seven acres by a donation of land from two local families.
The year also brought about the opening of the city’s first “class A top-of-the-line” office space, Johnston said. The office park near The National Golf Club got its first tenant when eShipping moved in this year.
The city also took steps this year to promote retail use of the first floors of businesses on Main Street, she said. The ordinance limits ground floors as a way of encouraging pedestrian traffic there, rather than office space, she said.
Weston officials have been working on new streets and sewer projects, but probably the biggest event of 2015 was the Applefest, said Mayor Kent Stelljes. The festival was one of the largest ever this year, with a record 30,000 to 50,000 in attendance to enjoy the parade in perfect weather, he said.
“We just think it’s the best little town in the world.”