Lansing: the place to be
Two and a half years ago, Jeff and Sarah Lashley gave up their home in Johnson County for a move up Kansas Highway 7 to Lansing.
For the Lashleys, and a growing number of others like them, Lansing is the place to be.
To the casual observer, the idea might seem odd. The Lashleys, parents of two young children, lived in a brand new neighborhood in Overland Park, just blocks away from an elementary school in the highly regarded Blue Valley school district. Jeff Lashley continued to work as a financial services officer with Morgan Stanley in Overland Park.
To the Lashleys, the move to Lansing still made sense.
"I moved to Lansing for the benefit of my family," said Jeff Lashley, who grew up in nearby Leavenworth.
There are other reasons Lashley moved his family to Lansing.
"I can be in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, in 30 minutes. I can be to the Country Club Plaza in 30 minutes. I can be at my office in Overland Park in 30 minutes. Lansing is central to my needs," he said.
And the family didn't exactly take a step backward in housing with the move. The Lashleys live in a new house in the Rock Creek Estates, a 170-home community still under development by Reilly & Sons Real Estate.
Mike Reilly, one of the "sons" in the Leavenworth-based real estate firm, said Lansing's allure shouldn't be all that surprising, especially with its proximity to Kansas City.
"You get a sense you belong to something when you're in Lansing, yet you're just 20 to 30 minutes from Kansas City," he said. "There are wonderful schools; it's a great school system. You have access via the highways."
From 1997 to 2001, the city's population grew by 20.9 percent, from 7,800 people to 9,430. By July 2003, the latest estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau pegged the population at 10,023.
Much of the growth is tied to the boom in nearby western Wyandotte County brought on by the opening of the Kansas Speedway, the NASCAR track that opened in 2001, Cabela's and Nebraska Furniture Mart.
But Reilly disputes the notion that all of Lansing's growth was predicated upon the opening of the track.
"The past 10 years, growth in Lansing has been pretty strong, and now, southern Leavenworth County and western Wyandotte County are getting more notice, which brings Lansing and Leavenworth more notice."
Kenneth Bernard, Lansing's longtime mayor, attributes the boom in Lansing to three factors: Lansing's "excellent" school system, the city's small-town atmosphere and low interest rates spurring the housing market.
The city has seen about 250 new residents a year in the recent past, said Mike Smith, now in his fifth year as city administrator.
And public officials are meeting the needs brought on by growth head-on.
For the city's part, it is in the midst of a $15.8 million expansion that will nearly triple the capacity of its wastewater treatment plant. New sewer lines have been installed. The city also is adding to its police force, expanding its parks offerings and working with state transportation officials on an upgrade of K-7, the city's Main Street.
Lansing School Board is studying plans for a new building that would house the district's Elementary and Intermediate schools. Indications are the board will put a bond issue proposal before voters in April 2005.
But the private sector also is contributing.
The Greenamyre family has opened its Lansing Business Center, a 15-lot industrial park with office, industrial and business space, on the south end of the city, just east of K-7 on Gilman Road. Larkin Industrial Park has 10 lots nearby on Gilman Road.
Danny Asher, who owns a garage in Leavenworth, wants to build a strip mall on North Main Street, near his brother's Main Street Auto Body & Towing shop. If Asher gets approval for his plans, one of the first tenants of the "Old Town" development would be his own Dasher Rods & Garage.
"I feel confident enough in Lansing's future that I'm going to move my business there," he said.
And then there's the housing.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony in July officially opened the new Lansing Heights townhomes development on West Mary Street.
Reilly and Sons, which has built about 350 homes in Lansing in the past five years, has plans on the board for another 200 to 300 new homes in Lansing in the next five years, Reilly said.
"From a real estate standpoint, you're going to get 20 to 25 percent more house for the money than you'd get in Johnson County," Reilly notes.
Lashley credits Reilly & Sons for having the foresight to see what could be done in the Lansing housing market.
"I have my own Johnson County house in Lansing," Lashley said.