Broken Lenexa truss could become art

For more than a year the huge metal truss has lain on the ground.

The $875,000 metalwork was supposed to stretch across 87th Street Parkway and Renner Boulevard with traffic lights dangling from it, a welcoming beacon to Lenexa City Center.

But it broke during installation and was destined for a junk yard.

Now, though, it could become a work of art.

Lenexa is in negotiations with one artist and has asked for concepts from others.

“We’re certainly looking to turn something that was a problem into a benefit,” said Mayor Michael Boehm.

Melding the metalwork into something pleasing to the eye is expected to cost roughly $50,000.

The idea came about when well-known Kansas City Crossroads sculptor Stretch spotted the hunk of metal while driving through the intersection one day.

Stretch, also known as Jeff Rumaner, approached city officials and suggested the truss could be made into a graceful work of art.

During a meeting, Stretch quickly sketched out a potential sculpture that looked like very long, pointed horns crossing each other. It got everyone’s attention.

“He put that together on a napkin in a few minutes,” Boehm said.

Stretch declined to comment for this story because talks about the metalwork are still ongoing.

“Honestly we have nothing in the world to report to you,” said Stretch, owner of Grinders restaurants. “It will complicate the whole process.”

Last week, the Lenexa City Council got to view Stretch’s initial concept — it is 60-feet to 100-feet tall with translucent Plexiglas panels mounted on the frame and programmable LED lights inside the sculpture.

If the council approves a project with him, Stretch’s artistic verve could be on display for the public. City officials said he had indicated a willingness to fabricate the metalwork onsite rather than moving the trusses to another location. It’s estimated the work could take three months.

The council reviewed the project proposal last month and said it supported the reuse of the truss as artwork.

Council members indicated that their preferred location for the sculpture is at the southwest corner of 87th and Renner Boulevard, where the truss is now.

The council also supported a regional call for artists to submit design concepts for the art work.

Lenexa’s nine-member arts council and city staff are working with the council, Boehm said, and the staff and Stretch have had numerous talks.

The Lenexa City Center, Lenexa’s visionary plan for New Urbanism-style downtown that was put on paper more than a decade ago, is still trying to take off.

Millions of dollars in public money have been spent buying land, building roads and installing street lights. Even so, the city is still searching for an anchor store.

Earlier this year, Perceptive Software announced that it would move its headquarters to the City Center.

Beccy Yocham, Lenexa’s community development director, said a new truss is being built for the city at no cost, and the city owns the one on the ground and is free to do with it whatever it wants.

Yocham liked the idea of turning the broken truss into artwork.

“I think it would be nice to do something positive with that,” Yocham said.

Mayor Boehm said the deal with Stretch is far from done, but he’s enthusiastic.

“It could be a really neat piece out there,” Boehm said. “It’s going to be really tall.”