By Roxie Hammill
Although no decision has been reached on the future location of the Overland Park Farmer’s Market, the city may budget $3 million for improvements to a nearby park consultants recommended as a future location.
City officials say the changes to structures at Santa Fe Commons Park are independent of the possibility of a future farmers market there. “We’ve had thoughts and ideas about refurbishing Santa Fe Commons park for years,” said parks and recreation director Greg Ruether. The influx of people to nearby new apartments gives the city even more of a reason to see that the downtown park is refreshed, he said.
The work, which includes play areas for children, is part of the proposed capital improvements budget – a five-year planner for upcoming city expenses. The city council will consider the program and the maintenance budget when it meets April 2.
Also under consideration is about $200,000 in spending to upgrade the current market facilities in Old Town. Both proposals are included in the city’s five-year capital improvements program, which has not yet been approved.
The future of the market became controversial late last year, after the city council engaged a consultant to examine problems with the current site and look at ways to improve the popular market for future years.
The market – one of the most popular in Johnson County – has had growing pains lately due to its age and popularity. Vendors and shoppers are protected from weather by a canopy, but it is not fully enclosed. The slope of the area also creates drainage problems. Increasing development in Old Town also has put parking at a premium.
Changes are needed at the market so Overland Park can remain competitive with other cities, the consultant said. Newer facilities in other cities increasingly are enclosed so the markets can double as event space.
The consultant, Market Ventures, recommended moving the market about 700 feet to Santa Fe Commons Park. But that idea was controversial among some of the park’s neighbors who worried about noise, traffic and parking. Some as well as some Old Town businesses that benefit from the shoppers the market brings also disliked the idea of moving the market.
Building at Santa Fe Commons Park would take place next year and include restrooms, shelters, a play feature, plaza with fountain and game play area. Work would also be done to upgrade the bandstand, parking and carriage house there.
The work would bring the park closer to being ready to go in case the market moves there. But in the meantime, city officials also have proposed spending measures to ease problems in the existing location.
The $200,000 would fix up the 20-year-old market canopy, update the electrical systems and address some of the drainage and pavement problems. The city council also has a pending deal to buy a car wash adjacent to the market at a cost of $600,000 to be used as parking.
Meanwhile, officials propose to make playgrounds at 15 city parks more accessible over the next five years. The city’s long-term maintenance budget calls for $1.5 million in spending to bring playground equipment up to standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The new equipment is being brought in as existing equipment reaches the end of its useful life, Ruether said. The current equipment is about 20 years old.
The schedule would bring new equipment in 2019 to Amesbury, Lexington and Summercrest parks, followed by Cross Creek, Rosehill and Roe parks in 2020, Cherokee, Robinson and Green Meadows parks in 2021, Brookridge, Bluejacket and Foxhill North in 2022 and Kingston Lake, North and Gregory Meadows parks in 2023.