NEJC mayors point to rebound of development projects in their cities during 2014

Mayor Joel Marquardt showed slides depicting his city's highlights to a full house at the annual 'State of the Cities' luncheon.
Mayor Joel Marquardt showed slides depicting his city’s highlights to a full house at the annual ‘State of the Cities’ luncheon.

The mayors of northeast Johnson County assembled for the annual “State of the Cities” luncheon Thursday with most of the focus this year on the development work or new public projects that were accomplished in 2014.

Few had more impressive numbers to tout than Merriam Mayor Ken Sissom, who pointed to both the new IKEA store and a pending Menard store for Shawnee Mission Parkway. The IKEA store saw 76,000 customers come through the door and did $1.5 million in sales in the first five days it was open, Sissom reported. He said the Menards planned for the old Kmart site will be double the size of a typical Menards, making it the largest home improvement store in Kansas.

At the other end of the spectrum, Mission Hills Mayor Richard Boeshaar noted that his is one of only two communities in Johnson County that has no commercial property and no developable land. Property re-development is the biggest issue facing the city, he said, and that 440 building permits were taken out in the year even with only 1,320 home sites in the city.

Mayor John Yé of Westwood used a series of slides to show a continuing trend of development in the half-mile square city from the Woodside Village mixed use development to the recent additions along the 47th Street corridor. Yé also pointed to investments in residential remodeling calling it “a true renaissance in the housing stock in Westwood.”

Prairie Village Mayor Ron Shaffer, who had been hospitalized for two nights earlier this week and missed his last scheduled city council meeting, was back and gave the summation for his city. Shaffer opened by pointing to the investment in the Corinth Square and Village Shops, saying he would “argue with anyone that the success of the shopping centers was the result of the CIDs (Community Improvement Districts that allowed for an additional sales tax). Shaffer told the crowd to “watch for news about Meadowbrook Country Club.”

Fairway Mayor Jerry Wiley announced that the city had just closed on a new 2.33 acre property for its public works building – in Roeland Park. The Fairway public works will be next to Roeland Park’s operation in an industrial park near Roe Avenue. Replacing the city’s public works building was part of a bond issue that also is rebuilding the Fairway pool.

Mission Mayor Steve Schowengerdt opened with the rebuild of Johnson Drive. “It was the right decision,” Schowengerdt said, “it needed to be done and we’re glad it’s over.” As he listed new businesses and developments that have come into the city in the last year, Schowengerdt included the East Gateway project, then said , “Oh, no (not that one),” bringing a laugh from the crowd.

Roeland Park Mayor Joel Marquardt said, “we bicker like family, but we are a family. We are different.” Roeland Park has seen several controversial issues this year and long council sessions. Marquardt highlighted the work of the citizens committee that raised money for a new walking trail in R Park.

Westwood Hills Mayor Paula Schwach noted her city’s designation as a National Historic District and a new grant to repair stone walls and entryways in the city. Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach also enumerated developments that are pending in the northern parts of the city. The annual meeting is sponsored by the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce.