Fans of historic buildings at Longview Farm are urging Lee’s Summit and a developer to continue preservation efforts that were derailed by the recession and foreclosure on land and buildings of the New Longview subdivision.
The new owner, Mariner Real Estate Management, wants to build Kessler Ridge, a 55-house project next to historic barns on the west side of town. The city is holding hearings on that proposed project.
The Longview Alliance, formed by members of surrounding neighborhoods, wants the city to hold developers more closely to the original plan for developing the New Longview subdivision, which would preserve those historic buildings. The housing wouldn’t cause the barns’ demolition, but could discourage their reuse.
Other buildings, like the cattle barns which are gradually degrading, could be saved if there’s will on the part of the developer and the city to make the effort and spend money, alliance members said.
Thos buildings’ fate is uncertain.
“They’re all sound. They’re all salvageable,” said Kathie Ehrenreich, a member of the strategic team leading the alliance.
Robin Trafton, another member, said the group’s leaders have been meeting with city officials and developers. She said they have indicated a willingness to see buildings preserved.
“We are very excited they’re working in that direction,” Trafton said. “I drive by those barns every day. I get a thrill every time I see them.”
The developer could not be reached for comment.
The earlier plan for the New Longview subdivision included traditional neighborhood design, which has been used for houses to this point in the New Longview project. Mariner asked for a waiver of restrictions created by a tax-increment financing district created to help preserve the historic buildings.
The design of the proposed Kessler Ridge houses would be like Bridlewood at Longview to the east of the barns.
Mayor Randy Rhoads said the direction the city will choose is uncertain.
“I don’t have a feel for that. I know there’s interest in the community and from some of the council members,” Rhoads said.
Nearly 15 years ago, David Gale, of Gale Communities, came to the city with a bold plan for preserving remaining buildings at Longview Farm, built in 1913-14 by Kansas City lumber tycoon and philanthropist Robert Alexander Long.
Then the 1,780-acre farm was opulent, with stucco exteriors and red-tile roofs. It had hundreds of farm hands, housing for their families, champion livestock, greenhouses and its own water tower.
Like a quilt unraveling, after his death the farm was gradually lost to other development. Long’s heirs donated some land to build the campus of MCC-Longview. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acquired more to build Longview Lake. Subdivisions were built on its other land.
Gale’s vision called for adapting most of the remaining buildings for commercial use and a school, while preserving other landmarks like its arches, pergola and mansion. The city has a façade agreement to protect the building exteriors in return for tax-increment financiung.
Gale succeeded with some of the reuses and restorations.
The show-horse barn was converted into Longview Farm Elementary School. The mansion is used for wedding and other events. But structures like the calf and dairy barn are empty and weathering.
Gale still owns some of the land and commercial buildings at New Longview, while Mariner obtained a large portion in foreclosure, including the barns.
Trafton and Ehrenreich said the alliance is hoping to build broader support from Kansas City area residents, who share the Longview Farm heritage of R.A. Long.
Trafton, who studies Longview’s history, said Long’s philanthropy and leadership was instrumental in building the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City and he donated his Kansas City mansion, Corinthian Hall, to be the Kansas City Museum.
He spent much of his money on philanthropy, but the Great Depression took a huge toll on his assets. His name faded from prominence but was not forgotten.
“It’s kind of ironic he’s not remembered, because of his generosity,” Trafton said.
The issue is particularly meaningful as this is the city’s 150th anniversary, Ehrenreich said.
If the historic buildings are repurposed, it would enhance Lee’s Summit’s reputation, so it’s known as a city that “embraces its past and has a vision for the future.”
Upcoming hearing \
Lee’s Summit has scheduled a March 5 public hearing on the Kessler Ridge subdivision before the City Council at City Hall, 220 S.E. Green St. The council meets at 6:15 p.m.