The Johnson County Commission made the appropriate decision last week in deciding to reuse the historic King Louie building.
The commission narrowly moved ahead with a plan to place a multi-purpose cultural center inside the distinctive structure. It will include a home for the county’s history museum, meeting rooms and space for early voting.
As we noted several months ago, rehabbing a highly visible landmark along Metcalf Avenue could help the Kansas City region add programs that appeal to arts audiences. And fast-growing Johnson County especially could use more outlets for the arts.
The project won’t be cheap. The Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center will cost just over $22 million, preliminary estimates indicate.
The 4-3 vote indicated that commissioners remain divided on whether spending so much money was really a good deal for taxpayers.
In backing the idea, Commissioner Steve Klika put it well: “Let’s get past the politics of this project and start getting excited about the project and how it will add to the quality of life here in Johnson County.”
It’s up to the commission and arts boosters to keep a close eye on how the project moves from here. They must make sure it stays on budget and all of the amenities discussed so far are included in the renovated building.
The Park and Recreation Department can get busy luring theater groups and others into leasing space in the building, which should provide revenue to keep it open.
If all these good things occur, the public is far more likely to embrace the decision to reuse the building when the arts portion of the structure opens in 2017, as is now scheduled.