In 2010, Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street scored one of the biggest award conquests in the history of the city – that of Great American Main Street.
Just a year off its 20th anniversary, Downtown Lee’s Summit was honored at the national convention in Oklahoma City that year with other towns across the country for that coveted title – including Paducah, Ken.; Ferndale, Mich.; Columbus, Miss.; and Fairmount, W.V.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation grants the awards to downtown organizations that align with the National Main Street approach concerning revitalization of the central business districts.
The GAMSA award for Lee’s Summit put us in rare company, particularly in Missouri. Since the awards have been given (to three to five downtowns each year since 1995, except for 2007 and 2008) only one Missouri town had been able to reach that precipice.
Little Clarksville, Mo. – a town of around 500 on the Mississippi River, bordering Illinois – was honored in 1995.
Since Lee’s Summit’s win, both Washington, Mo. (in 2012) and Cape Girardeau (in 2015) have both been named Great American Main Streets.
Having been to both Washington and Cape, I can tell you those awards are certainly well deserved. Years and decades of planning, development work and sweat equity have gone into transforming those business districts into one of the many to be proud of in the Show Me State. Lee’s Summit’s place on that list, too, is well deserved.
It’s a story of investment, redevelopment and forward thinking. A story that started in 1989 with the formation of Main Street. Of course, as our history shows us, it was a story that started well before that year as the city was formed in the few square blocks that now make up our award-winning downtown.
Lee’s Summit’s place on the map around Kansas City, in Missouri and regionally very heavily tie back into what has transpired downtown over the course of more than 150 years.
Look at our many recent awards that continually rank Lee’s Summit as one of the best places to live – Money Magazine had us No. 1 in September of 2016 and Zippia ranked us at the top of the “Happiest Mid-Sized Cities in America” list in August of 2016 – and you can easily make a correlation back to downtown Lee’s Summit.
Time and time again, our nationally recognized downtown and our Gold Medal-awarded Parks and Recreation system are noted as two of the main reasons Lee’s Summit continues to make these lists – from happiest places to traffic safety, bike-friendly to environmental.
Of course, every citizen, every business owner, has a specific reason why they love Lee’s Summit. Their neighborhood and neighbors, customer base and loyalty, all of it ties into the algorithms and processes that, ultimately, lead to this town being included when talking about the best towns in the nation.
And, as it will likely always be, that discussion starts downtown. Where the town was born. Where innovation began. Where investment still lives and breathes today.
Lee’s Summit resident John Beaudoin writes about city and civic issues, people and personalities around town. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.