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Design Principles

Community design principles provide guidance for the future development and redevelopment of Lee’s Summit’s Activity Centers and corridors. While the principles are not prescriptive, they do provide overarching guidance for new streets, open spaces and buildings. They serve as the basis for the review of development applications, revisions to, or the development of, future regulatory guidance, and as a signal to the community regarding the expected character and quality of development.

Mobility & Connectivity Principles

The inclusion of drive-thru should be limited along the corridors and in activity centers to help maintain a focus on pedestrians. If included, drive-throughs should be in the rear of development sites and should not front public streets or open spaces.

Parking should be broken up into parking blocks that contain no more than 40 parking spaces. Parking blocks should be separated by landscape medians with street trees and oriented toward the buildings they serve.

The number and width of vehicle entry areas into parking lots and driveways should be minimized to prioritize pedestrian traffic and safety; particularly along high-speed thoroughfares. 

On-street parking should be included on new and existing street sections; consideration should be given to new streets in activity centers.

An on-site pedestrian walkway system should be developed for all development and redevelopment. Walkways should provide a clearly delineated and safe path from parking areas to buildings, as well as between buildings. 

There are numerous opportunities to better connect activity centers and corridors to existing parking, neighborhoods and amenities. Priority connections, including adequate sidewalks, trails, wayfinding and bike lanes should be given to connecting to environmental assets, parks, public transit and key community amenities.

Parks & Open Space Principles

Design should enhance comfort, such as seating, shade trees and shade structures. Wherever possible, offer seating options with backrests so people of all ages and abilities can sit comfortably, longer.

The scale and comfort of open and public spaces should be maintained. Street trees should be installed in conjunction within open spaces, including outdoor furniture and other design elements, should maintain a pedestrian scale. 

Public art and water elements make spaces inviting. Streetscapes and open spaces should incorporate public art, including state-of-the-art interactive digital public art that engages passersby, promotes informal interaction and draws the creativity of the local arts community into the corridor. 

Parks and green spaces/plazas intended to be publicly accessible need to be visible from the street, not enclosed by or behind buildings. 

Public spaces must be designed to allow flexible use, including seating, lighting and ideally a connection to retail or food close by. Incorporate programmable space in parks, with flexibility to provide four-season experiences. 

Building and Site Development Principles 

Site design should minimize the amount of surface parking and screen any surface parking from view of public spaces to the greatest extent possible.

The active wall of buildings (those frontages with a majority of storefronts, public entrances and windows) should be sited toward the primary access street, an internal main street, or the active frontage of another building.

Outdoor seating areas should be included along walkways and adjacent to restaurant/retail buildings. A cluster of buildings may include a pedestrian plaza or delineated outdoor pedestrian area. 

Along primary street frontages, ground floors should be dedicated to retail (including restaurants, cafes, etc.) and/or other activities that animate the public realm including arts, culture (including museum), entertainment and civic uses such as a library or other community-serving activities that animate streets and public spaces. Ground floor uses that spill out into the public realm (e.g., restaurants, cafes) should front actively used public spaces.

Design Principles for Strip Malls

Strip Centers should have a clear and consolidated service and loading that is located away from primary building entries and pedestrian areas where feasible.

Where possible, parking should be located to the rear of the side of new buildings to reduce street - or thoroughfare - facing parking. Landscape islands should be included in parking fields to minimize the impact of parking and to increase tree canopy and impervious area.

Transitions from strip shopping centers to adjacent residential development should use adequate setbacks, green spaces and/or landscaping, natural features, or similar land use and scale elements to create a cohesive connection.

The perimeter of strip centers should include landscaping (street trees and shrubs) to ease the transition to adjacent uses, increase the City's tree canopy and improve permeability for stormwater. Landscaping should also be used to screen the view of parking from adjacent uses and the street. 

Public open space should be provided in conjunction with infill or redevelopment of strip centers. Depending on the call of the project, a range of open spaces should be applied (e.g., small plaza to neighborhood green). Open space should be visibly and physically accessible and allow for a range of activities to promote usability. 

Commercial and residential buildings should be arranged to define streetscapes and open space. Active building frontages should be oriented toward a common street or common open space to increase accessibility walkability. 

Buildings should provide logical arrangements that define and/or enclose outdoor pedestrian space and provide an arrangement of buildings that help to define streets as public space and parking areas. 

Connections between adjacent nonresidential development parcels and residential neighborhoods should be provided by siting access points continuous to the adjacent development.

“Missing Middle” housing types help fill the gap between traditional detached housing units and large multi-unit apartment or condominium buildings – generally including duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, and small apartment structures. The market analysis for Lee’s Summit illustrates that there will be a need for missing middle housing types over the next two decades, which can be accommodated primarily in the new Activity Centers (with guidance from the place types), but also as infill development in existing mature neighborhoods and along the community’s corridors—as referenced above. The incorporation of missing middle housing throughout the community – particularly in proximity to existing infrastructure and transit – provides a larger range of housing choice and offers increased affordability for a larger portion of the community.

Scale and form parameters are key to ensuring that missing middle housing supports the context of an area; it is not necessary to introduce large buildings in sensitive areas to create more housing options. Most of these missing middle types fit into structures that are a similar scale to existing housing: not more than 2.5 stories, no more than 55-75 feet wide and approximately 45-60 feet deep. While most missing middle housing types are appropriate within the urban or neighborhood place types, some of the denser housing types could reach up to 3-4 stories and are only appropriate in the context of higher density, mixed-use development.

The following characteristics provide guidance and considerations for incorporating missing middle housing in the community. Shared characteristics common to missing middle housing types include:

Infill development is not a goal, but a powerful tool Lee’s Summit can use to manage the accelerating pace of demographic, economic, and similar changes in ways that enhance the quality of life and opportunity for the entire community. The community can use infill development to:

  • Expand opportunities to enable people to “age in place”, welcome younger folks to become part of our community, and enhance economic diversity by providing appropriately located and designed accessory dwelling units in residential neighborhoods and a variety of missing middle housing options in Downtown.
  • Focus infill investment in strip retail, outmoded office or industrial sites, and other places that today do not enhance the quality and character of our neighborhoods and downtown.
  • Adapt to changing housing preferences— and markets (shaped by a growing number of households without kids)—for more diverse housing options in existing neighborhoods and downtown.
  • Provide the growing local housing necessary to preserve and expand neighborhood center and downtown retail vitality amid a rapidly changing market environment that places growing importance on residents within walking distance.

Getting the character, quality, and fit—in terms of use, design, and a broad array of impacts— is particularly important not just for making infill acceptable, but for achieving its full potential to meet the community’s changing needs and aspirations. The following points illustrate priorities for infill development that inform the Design Principles for the entire community located at the end of this chapter:

  • Mobility & Connectivity. Infill development downtown can fill gaps, animate sidewalks, invite greater walkability. While infill development rarely generates noticeable traffic, it is critical to ensure that any associated parking is well managed and does not convey a sense of crowding in neighborhoods to overtax existing facilities downtown.
  • Parks & Open Space. Infill development downtown can offer opportunities to create small public spaces—perhaps a small plaza to sit outside with a cup of coffee and meet a friend or a small garden fronting new housing. In neighborhoods, it is rarely appropriate to use front lawns or other green spaces to accommodate accessory dwelling units or other new infill housing.
  • Building & Site Development. In neighborhoods, there are many examples of successful approaches to adding accessory dwelling units that include a new backyard building, a small apartment located over a garage, a new unit carved within an existing house by a family seeking to downsize, or similar approaches that invite new neighbors and address affordable housing challenges without making a noticeable change to neighborhood scale or character. For downtown, the goal is generally to respect existing—or desired—character through the use of appropriate materials, design details, and massing while adding new street-facing retail or other uses that enliven the pedestrian experience. In neighborhoods and downtown, special consideration should be given to preserving the context and integrity of historic buildings and places.
  • Strip Commercial Development. In neighborhoods and downtown alike, infill development can replace auto-oriented and strip commercial development with buildings and uses that enhance the pedestrian experience, invite walkability, and enhance the sense of community character and quality.

For infill development, this question is often far easier to answer than for larger-scale developments. The fiscal costs and benefits, traffic impacts, infrastructure costs and benefits, and similar questions can be readily determined. But these are generally not the critical questions for these small-scale projects. The real questions focus on the adaptability and value infill development can add in terms of the ability to contribute toward addressing community challenges—the ability to age in place, provide affordable housing for younger residents, support economic and other types of diversity, contribute to downtown vitality, and meeting similar goals that make Lee’s Summit a more complete community. And can it add this value in ways that respect Lee’s Summit’s qualitative goals for the character and quality of the community.

Not this way:

Develop around the central organizing principle of protecting open space to produce an interconnected network of conservation lands throughout the community. For individual properties, preserving tree cover and high-quality natural resources and open space is always preferred over replacing it with new.

New streets will have a grid system that allow for the creation of walkable neighborhoods with a mix of uses. This means that new development will follow the walkable “neighborhood model” of development—like historic neighborhoods of Lee’s Summit.

Grid street networks are not just better for walking, biking, and livability, but also offer far greater vehicle capacity and connections. Because it makes turns easier, a grid street network greatly reduces the need for complicated, multiphase traffic signals. A network of small interconnected streets has more traffic capacity than the same street area arranged in a sparse hierarchy of large streets. This superior capacity is unrelated to the reduction in travel demand or shortening of travel distances.

A grid street network also cuts the cost of infrastructure and services needed to serve development making development more affordable.

“Purposeful” infill growth, in the form of well planned and managed development, can play a critical role in enhancing existing neighborhoods and strengthening downtown—in large part by supporting their ability to adapt to the community’s changing needs and opportunities. Addressing three key questions provides clear direction for identifying the right kinds of infill development, shaping it to enhance the quality and character of our community, and ensuring that its benefits outweigh its costs.

Missing middle housing is most easily located in newly built development, but integration into existing neighborhoods with proximity to jobs, schools, shopping and entertainment are important considerations.


Missing middles housing allows enough density to support services and amenities (including public transit), while not contributing to an increase in the perceived density of an area when the scale of new development is context sensitive. These structures can generate average densities at or above 12 units/acre while ensuring predictable results for the surrounding neighborhoods in terms of form, scale and building types.

These housing types have similar heights, depths, and widths as single-family homes and present a compatible scale with existing housing in the community.

Missing middle housing provides a similar living experience to single-family homes even though the unit size is smaller. For example, being able to enter from a private door on a front porch or stoop as opposed to an apartment hallway. The smaller spaces and lower costs allow developers to integrate well-designed open space solutions in conjunction with new projects.

Missing middle homes can be either owner-occupied or rental, or a mix of both. As a more affordable option than traditional single-family homes, these housing types provide a more attainable option for owning a home in Lee’s Summit (see information related to cost-burdened households in Lee’s Summit).

Requiring too much parking can be a deterrent to the creation of missing middle housing, because not enough units can be constructed to make a project economically viable. A thoughtful approach to the quantity of parking and how that parking is integrated into the design of the site should be considered. Generally, missing middle housing requires less off-street parking because it is constructed in walkable areas, households are smaller and on-street parking is available.

Missing middle housing is generally built using simple and cost-effective techniques. Wood construction and two-story buildings are common for these housing types, which provide greater cost efficiencies for builders.

Allowing for and encouraging additional housing types helps create a stronger sense of community by being in vibrant neighborhoods with access to shared spaces. This is especially important to single-person households and empty nesters who are often looking to belong to a community when considering housing options.

This is the correct way.



Missing Middle Housing types are most easily integrated at the edge of neighborhoods (left) or as a transition between commercial and existing residential development (right).