Archive for Thursday, September 8, 2005

Developers share know-how at forum

September 8, 2005

Economic development officials from throughout Leavenworth County got a chance to hear how-to suggestions firsthand from heavy-hitter commercial developers.

Eighty-six representatives from all of the various planning commissions in the county, economic development directors, city councils, the Leavenworth County Commission and the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce attended the forum Aug. 31 at the Riverfront Community Center in Leavenworth.

Discussion panel members were Bob Johnson, chairman of R.H. Johnson Real Estate; Joyce Murray, vice president of Zimmer Real Estate; Dan Bourk, vice president of Grubb-Ellis/The Winbury Group; Joanna Shawver, leasing specialist for Red Development; and Bill Schultz, manager of Red Brokerage.

The panel represented, by Johnson's estimation, "90 percent of commercial retailers in the Midwest."

The list of developments the five have worked on underscores Johnson's point. Murray was project manager for developing the Sprint campus in Lenexa; Shawver is contracted to develop the Legends project near the Kansas Speedway; Johnson's clientele has included several national chains including Burger King and Federal Express; Bourk represents, among other clients, Applebee's; and Schultz brokers for Qdoba Mexican Grill restaurants throughout Kansas.

LAD executive director Lynn McClure said the focus of the forum was to bring together Kansas City developers and local planners, both for spreading their knowledge as well as networking.

"I think it opened up some other options that might be available to us," said Lansing City council member Harland Russell, who attended the forum.

Among the ideas Russell said he received were the hiring of a development company as a consultant for the city, and how Lansing merchants and restaurants were affected by developments as far away as Zona Rosa in Kansas City, Mo., and the Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County.

McClure said the most important aspect of the forum was for the attendees to hear from outside experts instead of him on how to attract the eyes of developers to their communities.

Shanae Randolph, director of economic development and the Convention and Visitors Bureau in Lansing, said of the forum, "It was a nice cooperative effort between jurisdictions and the county and a good opportunity for planning commissioners and leaders to ask questions to the developers on how to make the area more marketable."

Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard, who also attended, said the forum gave him some good ideas for Lansing, though he wouldn't divulge any specific ones.

Randolph said that the forum helped to reinforce some of the city's goals, such as adding to the city's Web site more information, including maps, traffic counts and demographic data, as well as links to the county property rights database to offer easier access to prospective developers.

One such idea from the meeting was the suggestion by Shawver that incentives and plans be in place to expedite construction of developments.

McClure said that if the time from initial planning to the groundbreaking for a development were set at six months, instead of the two years that local developments often run, communities in the county could attract more developers.

McClure said he planned to have another such forum next year with an emphasis on industrial, instead of retail, development.

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