Lenexa State of the City Address
February 25, 2015
State of the City
Good afternoon and thank you for attending today’s State of the City address.
I would like to begin by thanking Kansas City Power & Light for their continued sponsorship of this important event. This is the 13th year KCP&L has sponsored our lunch and we are grateful for their ongoing support.
The State of the City address is an opportunity for us to pause and take measure of how we are doing as a community.
Lenexa’s Governing Body has six long-term goals which help set the overall direction for our community. These goals guide the daily work of elected officials, professional staff and dedicated volunteers. Throughout today’s speech, we will reflect upon these six goals and examine how we measure up to our own expectations.
The first Governing Body goal of city services challenges us to create a superior quality of life to make Lenexa a place where people desire to live, work and play.
So, how do we define a superior quality of life? If you ask 100 people, you will likely get 100 different answers. Some place the highest value on well-maintained roads and infrastructure. Others appreciate excellent parks and trails where they can spend time outdoors. Some care deeply about making sure neighborhoods are kept in good condition. Others place high importance on feeling secure. And everyone wants to make sure tax dollars are being used wisely, all of which goes toward creating a strong sense of community.
Our citizens continue to tell us that quality infrastructure is important to them, and we are committed to taking care of the 660 lane miles of streets in Lenexa. In 2014, the city committed nearly three million dollars to upgrade streets, sidewalks and trails, and we are investing even more this year. When it snows, our citizens know we will clear the streets as quickly as possible.
We have also prioritized creating outstanding recreational opportunities throughout Lenexa. Six playgrounds received new equipment last year and we added a new playground at Little Mill Creek Park, which features a 60-foot zip line and the city’s tallest slide. A new disc golf course was installed at Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park, and Lenexa’s Freedom Fields Park has three new fields, which can be used for multiple team sports. Last year we offered a variety of recreation programs geared toward every age group – from toddlers to seniors.
Maintaining quality standards in Lenexa’s neighborhoods is also important for our citizens. We are proud to have an active Community Standards Division, which encourages timely maintenance across the community, throughout the year. Their work ensures that our neighborhoods – both commercial and residential – remain in good condition to protect property values, deter blight and minimize criminal activity.
Last year we entered into contracts with Google and AT&T to ensure high speed fiber technology will soon be available to our citizens. Deployment of new technology citywide can be disruptive, but our right-of-way manager worked diligently to make sure the work of hundreds of contractors was orderly and safe – and done with respect for the property on which it was installed.
A safe atmosphere for our citizens is another quality of life component, and we are fortunate to have dedicated Police and Fire Departments who work tirelessly to accomplish this objective.
Last year, our Fire Department received a Class One rating from the Insurance Services Office, an independent organization which rates the quality and effectiveness of municipal fire protection. At the time, our Fire Department joined an elite group of just 17 accredited agencies to receive this top rating. They achieved this remarkable accomplishment through years of dedicated work and outstanding partnerships with WaterOne and the Johnson County Emergency Communications Center.
Lenexa’s Police Department also continues to have a strong and positive influence on our community. Already recognized as one of the best departments in the metropolitan area, Lenexa Police continued a tradition of using new technology to help keep our community safe. Last year the Police Department created a voluntary program to register privately owned security cameras to aid in detecting and apprehending criminals. They also were one of the first departments in the region to use body-worn cameras and are serving as a resource to other communities who are now looking at deploying this technology.
The feeling of safety starts with our kids – and we strongly support outreach to children. The Police Department increased the number of staff dedicated to youth outreach and now has four school resource officers serving 10 schools. These officers teach a variety of topics in the classroom, promote a safe environment in schools, and serve as positive role models and mentors to thousands of students throughout the school year.
We had a record number of participants in our Youth Police Academy last summer, as 44 young adults learned about law enforcement, safety and teamwork.
The Lenexa Fire Department visited 171 classrooms last year to teach fire safety to students and held educational sessions for local day cares, home-school groups and church childcare facilities.
From safety to neighborhood standards and infrastructure to recreation, we have supported the elements which create an outstanding quality of life for our citizens and will continue to do so in the future.
The second of our six goals deals with fiscal responsibility. We strive to provide exceptional value with the resources entrusted to the city while maintaining long-term financial stability.
Last year, Standard & Poor's upgraded the City of Lenexa's general obligation bond rating to AAA status. This is the highest possible rating and reflects extreme confidence in the city’s fiscal health and in our strong financial management policies. Lenexa also achieved the highest rating of Aaa from Moody's Investors Service. This is notable since both agencies downgraded the State of Kansas ratings in 2014 and the financial health of the state impacts our bond ratings.
So what does this mean for our citizens and the business community? With superior ratings, we are able to issue public debt at lower interest rates to finance capital projects. Last year during our bond issuance, we saved a quarter of a million dollars in interest costs because of our exceptional ratings.
We believe it is our responsibility to look for ways to maximize the value of the tax dollars entrusted to us and our bond rating is just one of many ways to accomplish just that.
The Municipal Services Department carefully studied our vehicle use and recommended we lease rather than own a number of city vehicles. We began right sizing our fleet last year and expect to save thousands of dollars annually because of this program. Lenexa is the first municipality in the state to adopt this innovative program.
In another example, Community Development was able to work cooperatively with the Kansas Department of Transportation to incorporate five planned construction projects into their $288 million Johnson County Gateway project. Our $10 million investment of local funds will ultimately yield $30 million in upgrades to city infrastructure.
Most importantly, in a time when many government budgets are experiencing challenges, I am pleased to let you know that Lenexa has a strong financial position. The outlook for our General Fund is very positive, with a balanced budget and a healthy reserve projected through the next five years.
The third Governing Body goal is economic development. This goal challenges us to promote and stimulate quality development to enhance the city’s diverse economic base.
The city is fortunate to enjoy a strong partnership with Blake Shreck and the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce staff. As a result, we work closely and cooperatively with the Chamber and LEDC to promote economic development in our community. We are also lucky to have outstanding business leaders who have invested and reinvested in our community throughout the years and continually bring new projects to Lenexa.
A good indicator of a community’s economic vitality is the value of new construction. 2014 was one of the strongest years on record for building permit activity in Lenexa. With total construction valuation of more than $277 million, we have returned to levels last seen before the great recession. Building and expansion projects included the Lenexa Logistics Centre, Suburban Lawn and Garden, Shawnee Mission Health, Meritex, Alliance Data and many other outstanding developments.
Construction of Ridgeview Road from K-10 to Prairie Star Parkway will begin soon. When complete, this project will open yet another major area of the city to retail and commercial development opportunities.
Lenexa has a diverse economic incentive toolkit, including tax increment financing, industrial revenue bonds, and special benefit districts, to help us create strong economic growth. We diligently review economic incentive applications and judiciously approve plans when we believe they will benefit not only the business but our community as a whole.
Lenexa City Center was an important part of last year’s success and we will revisit that topic a bit later.
Through the fourth Governing Body goal of Reinvestment, we strive to support efforts to redevelop commercial sites and improve our neighborhoods.
Reinvestment is an important part of maintaining a healthy city. In the past three years, more than $130 million worth of redevelopment has taken place in Lenexa. You can see a selected list of these important projects at the right .
This past year, the city partnered with several developers to use community improvement districts to reinvigorate older parts of Lenexa. Greystone South shopping center on 87th Street Parkway west of Rosehill Road is a shining example of how successful this can be. Block Real Estate Services used a CID to make numerous improvements which substantially enhanced the site’s appearance and market appeal. The improved center attracted new tenants, including Arris Pizza and Parker Payne, a floral and interior home store, and provided improved conditions for the long-term tenants.
The city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program has also been used successfully to promote reinvestment in some older parts of the community. Sparhawk Labs is more than doubling the size of their facility at Santa Fe and Monrovia by investing 7.5 million dollars and adding 100,000 square feet to their existing operations. Using the NRD tax rebate program, Sparhawk Laboratories will receive a tax rebate on the increased appraised value attributed to improvements made to their site. Across Long Street from Sparhawk, CEVA Labs continued to expand its campus. During 2014, the company removed outdated multi-family residential properties to accommodate additional lab space and parking requirements.
Our Exterior Grant Program helps foster reinvestment within the Neighborhood Revitalization District by incentivizing owners to improve their properties through the promise of grant funds to assist with those enhancements. Over the past eight years, the city has awarded more than 270,000 dollars in grants, which has spurred a total reinvestment of 1.5 million dollars in these neighborhoods. In these days of zero percent interest rates, I believe that you will all agree that a 555 percent return on investment is a very good result.
Reinvestment is happening throughout Lenexa. Grinder’s Stonewall restaurant opened in July after renovating the former Kieltyka’s Stonewall Inn at 103rd and Pflumm. The Quivira 95 Shops at the northwest corner of 95th and Quivira replaced a long-abandoned gas station, auto service shop, and restaurant and greatly enhanced this important entry for the city. Bulk It, a local health food store, opened in Old Town Lenexa last summer, and Sprouts Farmers Market opened at 87th and Maurer last fall.
As our community continues to grow, it is critical to support new business and residential development as well as promote reinvestment in all areas of our community.
As I mentioned before, Lenexa City Center has seen tremendous progress in the past year, and development of this premier destination point is the Governing Body’s fifth goal. We have prepared a short video about City Center to promote the area.
You can see why we are so excited about the momentum underway at Lenexa City Center. A remarkable 31 percent of Lenexa’s total construction valuation in 2014 was invested in City Center.
Last year Perceptive Software moved into their new world headquarters and WaterCrest at City Center began leasing luxury apartments. Our traffic signal truss now serves as gateway to the area. The French Bee Bakery opened next door to Grand Street Café and Saint’s Pub opened yesterday at Renner 89.
Luxury apartments at the Domain at City Center are under construction and should be open in the spring of 2016. The Hyatt Place Hotel, featuring the Lenexa Conference Center, broke ground last year and we look forward to the grand opening later this year.
This summer, we will break ground on the Lenexa Civic Center Project, which will feature an indoor aquatic center, recreation facilities, a public market, a new city hall and much more. The Civic Center will serve as a cornerstone to Lenexa’s new downtown. We recently announced that JE Dunn Construction will serve as the General Contractor for the Civic Center and are pleased they are joining PGAV Architects to make the Civic Center a reality. Construction is anticipated to last for approximately 22-months, with an occupancy date scheduled for the fall of 2017.
Many other exciting projects are in the works for Lenexa City Center and we look forward to sharing those details soon.
I am proud that we have stayed committed to the community’s vision of creating Lenexa City Center and look forward to the growth which will continue in the coming years. We are grateful to the citizens for their support in allowing us to take a long-term view on strategic projects.
The final Governing Body goal is sense of community, which encourages us to celebrate Lenexa’s heritage and history.
Earlier during lunch, we shared a number of pictures taken over the past year. We asked people to tell us why they like Lenexa by writing a few words on a chalkboard.
Their answers included the phrases “small town feeling but big city amenities” and “many family friendly activities” and words including safe…beautiful…clean…friendly…and growing. I believe these words do a great job describing sense of community.
Last year brought record attendance at our festivals and, as usual, the events received rave reviews. We celebrated Lenexa’s history at the Spinach Festival and our civic pride during the Community Days Parade on July Fourth. We carried on traditions like the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle and fostered new ones at the Sar-Ko Aglow lighting ceremony.
The first annual Lenexa Art Fair was held last May in Central Green Park at City Center. With beautiful art - and wine and craft beer tasting, the Lenexa Art Fair is an exciting signature event for City Center. I have no doubt it will quickly become one of the most popular of events we host during the year and hope you will join us for this year’s Art Fair on Saturday, May 9th.
We continue to support the arts in Lenexa and introduced new programming including an outdoor theater hike at Black Hoof Park. We welcomed hundreds of third graders to City Hall for the popular Learning about Lenexa program, which shares our history and teaches important civic lessons to our youth. We hosted our first Food Truck Frenzy at City Center and plan to host two more of these popular events this year on June 12th and Sept. 25th.
As you can see, it has been a busy and rewarding year in Lenexa. I am proud of the hard work that takes place day after day as we use these six goals to guide us in moving the city forward.
I want to thank the members of the Lenexa City Council for their leadership and devotion to our community. I appreciate the countless hours that our volunteers spend on boards and commissions to make sure that citizen’s voices and influences are felt throughout our planning processes. I am grateful for the professional staff from the City of Lenexa which is dedicated to our citizens and do an exceptional job every day. I want to thank Commerce Bank and my associates there for their support, allowing me time away from the office to perform city business.
I also appreciate our partnership with the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce. We are really fortunate to have such a great business community. And I am grateful to all of you here today for your ongoing support of Lenexa.
Over the last 25 years, the population of Lenexa has nearly doubled – and in 2014 we reached a new milestone of 50,000 residents. I believe our steadfast commitment to achieving these six goals has helped create a unique community where people truly want to live, work and play.
I look forward to working with all of you to make sure Lenexa remains one of the best cities in the region. Thank you.