By Kent Larsen
LDS Church's Kansas City Area Land Has Developers Waiting
LEE'S SUMMIT, MISSOURI -- An article in this week's Kansas City
Business Journal shows that developers are frustrated waiting for The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to develop land it owns
near Lee's Summit, just outside of Kansas City in Eastern Jackson
County, Missouri. The Church has refused to sell the land or even
hint about its plans there. The property in question, some 8,000
acres, is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and its value is
increasing as the city improves access to the area and as nearby
development increases. However, the article doesn't mention the
Church's history in Jackson County or the beliefs of Church members
about that portion of Missouri.
One area real estate agent, Lloyd Hill, says he long ago gave up
trying to interest the LDS Church in selling even a small piece of
the land, which is located east of interstate I-470 and west of
Fleming Park. "It's been years since I approached the church," Hill
said. "They don't want to sell. I'd might as well just drive around
them." The land stretches roughly from Colbern Road to the south to
Woods Chapel Road to the north, and is located about 10 miles
southeast of Independence, Missouri.
The Church is one of the largest landowners in the area, but local
planning officials say the Church has not approached them about
development plans. According to Pete Kenney, a marketing executive
with real estate firm J. D. Reece, residential property in the area
currently sells for $20,000 an acre, and commercial-use property
sells for $100,000 to as much as $250,000 an acre. At those rates,
the Church's property is currently worth at least $160 million, and
is probably worth much more.
This is not the only property that the Church owns in the Kansas City
area. In addition to property associated with Mormon historical sites
across northern Missouri, the Church is actively developing property
known as Shoal Creek Valley, located northeast of Kansas City. But
that development is 1,700 acres, less than 1/4 the size of the Lee's
The property's physical location is what drives interest in it from
developers and local government officials, at least some of whom are
anxious that the land be developed. "No one seems to know the
long-term plans of the church regarding this land," Kenney said.
"However, it is clear that if some or all of it is released to the
public, it will greatly stimulate the local economy and provide
opportunities for growth of every sort." Lee's Summit director of
planning and development, Bob McKay, agrees, "The potential is much
greater for quicker development on that piece of land," McKay said.
"It's a mixed-use development waiting to happen. [But] we have not
yet been approached by the church about any development activity."
City officials assume that the Church plans to develop the land and
are actively looking for the Church to act. "The city wants to see
development happen," said McKay. "This is a prime piece of ground in
our long-range plan, especially because it is so visible from I-470."
Kenney agrees, "The table is being set as we speak, as new schools
and roads are being built," Kenney said. "Ward Boulevard is ready,
new commercial growth is under way, and 150 Highway and Scherer
Parkway soon will create more opportunities. With the vast majority
of undeveloped land in the southwest being owned by the Mormon
church, it is plain to see how important and vital it is to open
things up for development."
But McKay recognizes that the Church will only act when it is ready.
"We know development is coming," McKay said. "It's just a matter of
when, what type and what amount. They are going to allow development
to take place when their time frame is met." The City just doesn't
know what that time frame is.
Mormon church's land has potential for Lee's Summit
Kansas City MO Business Journal 18Jun01 B1
By Alan Goforth: Contributing Writer
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