The Prairie Village Council Committee of the Whole voted to approve a study for the proposed Village Square project at Harmon Park.
During discussion at the March 27 meeting, some council members expressed reservations about the project. Funding concerns and possible effects on residents living near Harmon Park were mentioned.
However, the council voted to move forward with the investigative phase and approved the study by a nearly unanimous vote. City Administrator Quinn Bennion noted that, though funds are currently budgeted for this concept and market study, funding for the project itself is not.
Under review and study by the Village Square Committee since 2016, the project originally was developed by council member Brooke Morehead. Preliminary plans for the project include elements of the Prairie Village 2009 Parks and Recreation Master Plan for Harmon Park, along with the addition of a permanent amphitheater.
Moore has envisioned the amphitheater, which would be the project’s cornerstone, as a permanent home for the annual Prairie Village JazzFest, as well as a venue for other outdoor performances, including local and national jazz artists.
Kansas City’s BBN Architects Inc. will carry out the study, which will take approximately 22 weeks to complete. However, Bennion said there is not a hard deadline for completion because the process involves public and committee meetings, and the deadline will stay flexible to accommodate meeting schedules.
The scope of the study will include a needs assessment and site analysis, anticipated capital costs, the development of refined design concepts and project phasing, and costs and benefits associated with the project.
Though the study is an initial step to determine the feasibility of Village Square, some council members shared reluctance about the overall project itself. Council Member Eric Mikkelson raised concerns.
“As we develop this project, preservation of the green space and mature trees is important,” Mikkelson said. “Harmon Park is the most popular park in Prairie Village. It’s an amazing success as is, and I’m not sure I can support a majority of items in this plan.”
Council Member Andrew Wang expressed concerns about potential costs and budget restrictions.
“I don’t see myself being supportive of this plan at all,” he said. “We’re planning another park here for which we don’t have the money.”
Mayor Laura Wassmer responded by suggesting some possible funding options and reiterated that the concept/market study is a preliminary step.
“The costs will probably not be something we can implement all at once,” Wassmer said. “But, we can come up with a strategy to implement the project in segments.”
Before the vote, Morehead spoke about her vision for Village Square.
“Prairie Village is a jewel. It’s a unique setting,” Morehead said. “I think we need to think differently. We need to think about what we’re going to do the next 10 to 20 years. Let’s build something beautiful in Prairie Village. Rather than renovate, let’s do it with a master plan that goes beyond.”