Leawood mulls idea of turning former city hall building into community museum

The former home of Leawood's city hall at 96th Street and Lee Boulevard.
The former home of Leawood’s city hall at 96th Street and Lee Boulevard.

By Jerry LaMartina

The Leawood City Council is sifting through plans to repair and preserve the city’s old City Hall building and to build a new Fire Station No. 1.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the council unanimously approved the issuance of general obligation bonds and related notes that would allocate $5 million for the new fire station.

In a work session before the council’s meeting, the conversation worked its way through several options for how to proceed with the old City Hall, including:

  • Move it on its current site at 96th Street and Lee Boulevard to better accommodate the new fire station, and build an annex with climate-controlled space for historic artifacts, a restroom, an elevator, workspace, classrooms and a parking lot
  • Move the building to Ironwoods Park or Leawood City Park in order to open up space for it and an annex
  • Tear down the old City Hall and build a replica of it on the current site, with an annex; or combine various elements of these options.

The Leawood Historic Commission several years ago “lobbied vehemently against moving the City Hall building anywhere,” Mayor Peggy Dunn said.

City Administrator Scott Lambers said preliminary conversations had yielded a consensus “that we would keep the building pretty much where it’s at,” lift it, remove its understructure and replace it with a concrete slab, which would cost several hundred thousand dollars.

“However, I wouldn’t let the cost give us sticker shock right away,” he said. “You’re looking at putting together a facility that will be a historic museum for the city for perpetuity, and if we’re going to do it, I think that we need to probably do it right.”

Ward 1 Councilwoman Debra Filla said artifacts could be stored off the existing site, which would keep more space available there. She also emphasized the value of preserving and expanding green space to include a gathering space on the site.

Ward 3 Councilman Chuck Sipple said he wondered “if we should consider leaving the front view the same and the side view the same, put it on a slab and build an annex on the back.”

Lambers advised proceeding by first addressing the new fire station, then the old City Hall and then surrounding park improvements. The consensus at the work session was to proceed with that approach and revisit it with a construction cost estimate and timetable at the July 18 work session.

Fire Chief Dave Williams said the new fire station probably would occupy 7,000 to 8,000 square feet and have two stories, a basement and three bays — two for working fire trucks and another to display an antique truck. He advised building a fence between City Hall and the fire station to prevent children from coming at will from the park to the fire trucks “because they are fascinated with them,” but including a way for people to come to the station from the City Hall grounds.