Quality of Life
Our quality of life represents the standard of health, comfort and happiness experienced by the people who live, work and play here. Lee’s Summit’s high quality of life is the result of the great jobs, schools, homes and community amenities such as parks, trails, and cultural facilities available here. Parks, recreation and cultural resources are critical to achieving a high quality of life and a safe, vibrant and healthy environment.
Six of Lee’s Summit’s top ten employers are in the healthcare and social service sector, including three hospitals and one mental health clinic. The availability of facilities does not always translate into ready access for healthcare consumers. In the U.S., distance to healthcare facilities, transportation costs, lack of transportation and lack of insurance or financial capability to pay for services are common barriers to access.
People who do not have access to medical facilities are less likely to obtain preventive healthcare. Routine medical visits can reduce the risks of developing serious health issues and chronic illnesses.
Quality of care, when it is accessible, is another significant contributor to a healthy community. When people think they will receive good care, they are more likely to seek it. AARP’s Livability Index shows that about 76 percent of patients in Lee’s Summit rated local hospitals a 9 or 10, with 10 indicating the highest level of satisfaction.
Access to Mental Healthcare
In 2018, the National Council for Behavioral Health reported four barriers to mental health care.
Parks have been a part of the American landscape since 1634, when Boston created Boston Common. Since then, municipalities continued to place value on these natural spaces, building parks of all sizes and shapes, and featuring a variety of facilities. Parks serve a wide variety of purposes to achieve three essential objectives: provide health and environmental benefits, economic value and enhanced cultural identity.
Lee’s Summit established a park and recreation department with three parks and one staff member in 1968. The department grew into a national award-winning team serving with 41 full-time employees, 300 part-time and seasonal staff, 30 parks with a total of 1,200 acres, four community centers, 91 miles of trails, an outdoor aquatics facility, an amphitheater, a youth sports complex, an outdoor ice-skating rink, an adult sports complex and hundreds of available recreational programs.
In a 2019 survey, 88 percent of residents indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with the number of city parks and how parks are maintained. Lee’s Summit’s achievements of receiving national accreditation for 15 years and winning a Gold Medal Award for Park and Recreation Excellence demonstrates its leadership in this area. Lee’s Summit’s 2016 Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan and 2017 Parks Master Plan provide a roadmap for continuous improvement.
Lee’s Summit is committed to continuing its standard of park and recreation excellence, planning to add new programs and facilities. Future projects include one community center, renovations to neighborhood parks, new splash pads, athletic field house, a nature center and extending its trail network. Maintaining a standard of excellence includes more than adding new facilities—new industry trends and changes in culture and public health must guide future development of park and recreation offerings.
Access to parks and recreation resources are important measures of community success and livability. Lee’s Summit has 12.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, well above the national average of 9.35 acres per 1,000 residents. Jackson County also developed an extensive park system that is third in the nation for amount of public land converted to parks. Lee’s Summit benefits from those resources—nearly 80 percent of the city’s population is located within a half mile from neighborhood parks, falling short of the national standard of 85 percent. All Lee’s Summit residents live within three miles of off-road trail access.
Lee’s Summit provides robust youth activity programming, ranging from Lego workshops to horsemanship. Youth sports are thriving, as both the City and private non-profit organizations provide recreational and competitive sports programs. However, additional indoor and outdoor practice spaces for youth sports are required to meet demand.
Most rapidly growing cities such as Lee’s Summit find it challenging to keep up with the community’s need for adequate parks and facilities because they tend to rely on a one-size-fits approach. Cities that fare better are those that develop policies and facilities that meet the community’s unique needs. This local-level approach creates greater flexibility to adapt to emerging trends, changing resources and community preferences.
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The Lee’s Summit Arts Council, established in 2002, is responsible for promoting cultural vibrancy and serves as the local arts agency for the community. The City and its many community partners annually host a variety of events that offer enriching cultural experiences, including a Fourth Friday Art Walk, Music in the Park, Downtown Sculpture Walk, Downtown Days, farmers’ markets and various seasonal festivals and activities. These public events showcase the City to a broad audience, drawing visitors from across the region. Community organizations also promote arts and culture by providing other unique experiences for residents.
Artists & Performers
Lee’s Summit is also home to many local artists and organizations that provide a sense of community culture. Summit Art is a nonprofit that provides exhibition opportunities, professional development and mentoring to visual artists, and hosts the annual Summit Art Festival. The Performance at The Legacy Park Amphitheater Lee’s Summit Symphony entertains thousands of people each year, including families with school-aged children.
Summit Theatre Group is a community theatre company that produces several small and largescale theatrical productions each year and has recently launched a theatre education program for school-aged students. In 2019, the Lee’s Summit Jazz Orchestra was formed giving musicians interested in Jazz music an opportunity to perform as part of a group. Many members of the jazz orchestra are music teachers within the school district.
Venues & Performance Space
The public library, local high schools and the Metropolitan Community College provide performance venues, but demand for this limited space creates scheduling challenges, forcing local artists and performers to look for new opportunities elsewhere in the region.
In April 2013, Lee’s Summit voters approved a $2,898,000 general obligation bond to construct and rehabilitate public improvements for cultural arts, including enhancements to the Legacy Park Amphitheater, rehabilitating the former city hall building and the creation of a downtown performance and festival space.
The Legacy Park Amphitheater is a major cultural and entertainment amenity in Lee’s Summit. Located in Legacy Park, the amphitheater serves as an indoor and outdoor facility space for a variety of groups such as musicians, actors, actresses and performance artists. The Legacy Park Amphitheater is available to rent for weddings, corporate picnics, family reunions, festivals, movies, and more. The amphitheater also hosts an annual summer concert series to introduce local bands to the community.
The approved bonds and meetings with the City and key stakeholders resulted in the conceptual plan of The Downtown Market Plaza in 2020. The conceptual plan includes several public and private facilities and uses that would greatly add to the cultural vibrancy of the downtown. Most notably for cultural amenities are the addition of an outdoor performance area and farmer’s market.
Planning for Arts & Culture
The Lee’s Summit Cultural Arts Plan, adopted in 2007 and updated in 2016, guides the City’s investments in culture. The City’s 2012 Cultural Facilities Survey indicated that 96 percent of respondents thought there was a need for additional arts and cultural facilities. Respondents identified the top three types of spaces as those with high-quality acoustics (76%), a large stage (66%), and a large lobby or reception area (54%).
In 2018, the City hired a cultural arts manager to coordinate, develop, and implement programs that enhance quality of life and provide diverse learning opportunities for residents.
Lee’s Summit struggles to retain its artists and cultural amenities. The Got Art Gallery on Third, an independent nonprofit gallery managed by Summit Art, permanently closed in 2020. Past cultural plans are now outdated, based on significant changes in public demand for the arts, and facility needs.
Taking a proactive approach to arts and culture planning, rather than a reactive one, is the best way to ensure realistic, effective arts and culture plans that complement the surrounding community and minimize unintended consequences.
"Public art takes many forms in Lee’s Summit. Sculptures and murals are placed throughout the community enhancing the vibrancy of the city."
Cultural amenities include a wide range of activities, programming and facilities related to music, theater, media, fashion design and applied, culinary and visual arts.
Nurturing culture, the arts, and creativity is increasingly crucial to the vitality of communities, how they grow and innovate. In recent years, cities across the nation focusing on revitalization have found success using arts as a catalyst to drive robust economic development and neighborhood transformation.
Communities with a strong arts and culture presence demonstrate an increased sense of place, skilled workforce population, visitor attraction and increased participation and engagement from community leaders. Art is no longer a luxury for the affluent—it is an integral component of planning, community development and enhancing quality of life.
Local cultural art amenities and programming help reduce economic disparities, increase a sense of identity and spur development. Communities rich in arts and culture attract sectors such as tech, finance, creative and media. Cultural amenities also positively influence the health, safety and wellbeing of people, especially low-income individuals.
Lack of funding for cultural amenities and facilities is a barrier in many communities. Proactive planning and a firm understanding of the resource requirements and potential benefits of cultural amenities helps communities make sound investment decisions.
Since the early 1800s, local governments have preserved historic places in their communities. In 1906, the federal government passed the Antiquities Act granting government agencies the power to protect and manage historic assets. The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 protected historic and cultural resources from demolition - especially federal-funded infrastructure and urban renewal projects built after World War I.
The NHPA established the National Register of Historic Places and gave state governments greater authority by creating State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO). Certified Local Governments (CLG) were also formed under the NHPA to give local governments more influence and control over historic preservation in their communities. Individual properties, neighborhoods and cultural sites can be recognized and placed on the National Historic Register or designated by a local government.
Local cultural art amenities and programming help reduce economic disparities, increase a sense of identity and spur development. Communities rich in arts and culture attract sectors such as tech, finance, creative and media. Cultural amenities also positively influence the health, safety and well-being of people, especially low-income individuals.
Lack of funding for cultural amenities and facilities is a barrier in many communities. Proactive planning and a firm understanding of the resource requirements and potential benefits of cultural amenities helps communities make sound investment decisions. Parks have been a part of the American landscape since 1634, when Boston created Boston Common. Since then, municipalities continued to place value on these natural spaces, building parks of all sizes and shapes, and featuring a variety of facilities.
Parks serve a wide variety of purposes to achieve three essential objectives: provide health and environmental benefits, economic value and enhanced cultural identity.
Health & Wellness of Lee’s Summit Residents
City Health Dashboard assesses community health, the factors that shape health and the drivers of health equity at the city level. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the dashboard compares data for over 750 cities with populations over 50,000. Detailed health data is categorized into three domains: health outcomes, health behaviors and physical environment.
The AARP Livability Index rates neighborhoods and communities across the U.S. for services and amenities that influence residents’ lives. The index measures housing, neighborhoods, transportation, environment, health, engagement and opportunity characteristics. For each category, the Index evaluates current conditions and compares it to the median U.S. neighborhood.
Health Outcomes and Behaviors
Cardiovascular Disease Deaths
High Blood Pressure
Excessive Drinking Rate
Cities Dashboard Average
When comparing Lee’s Summit to median U.S. neighborhoods and the average of 749 other cities with populations over 50,000, health outcomes are consistent with other cities. For health behaviors and physical environment, four areas stand out:
When comparing Lee’s Summit using the AARP Index, access to exercise opportunities is higher than the median U.S. neighborhood. This rating indicates plentiful opportunities for Lee’s Summit residents to engage in physical activity, which likely contributes positively to the City’s health outcomes.
At the same time, the preventable hospitalization rate is better than the median U.S. neighborhood, meaning more people in Lee’s Summit are effectively treated through outpatient care avoiding hospitalization. Preventable hospitalizations occur when a person does not receive preventive care and waits until a serious condition develops to seek medical help. Access to and affordability of care often influence the rate of preventable hospitalizations.
Good mental health is essential for the individual and helps achieve a resilient, sustainable city. Around the world, one in four people will experience mental health problems. The World Health Organization projects that a failure to treat just depression and anxiety costs the world $1 trillion per year.
We are witnessing a rise in anxiety, stress, depression and suicide, specifically in young adults. Lee’s Summit is not immune to these mental health issues, although Lee’s Summit residents have fewer mental distress incidents compared to cities on the Health Dashboard. Nearly 12 percent of residents indicate that 14 or more of the past 30 days were not good mental health days. The Missouri Department of Mental Health (2018) ranks suicide as the number one cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 17. Suicide ranks 10th of all causes of death in the state.
Lee’s Summit has abundant parks, open spaces and recreational programming. These amenities are essential factors in creating a healthy community. Nearly 94 percent of Lee’s Summit residents are within three miles of recreational activities. Lee’s Summit has four community centers with multi-generational programming. Like many suburban communities, the design of Lee’s Summit's existing development accommodates automobile travel. Automobile-centered design can have negative impacts on the built environment, especially for low-income residents that don’t have the means to afford a vehicle. Automobile-dependent communities can weaken the need to walk somewhere because driving is quick and easy.
Combating unhealthy behaviors like physical inactivity and obesity, which often lead to chronic diseases, is a challenge. Local government is in a unique position to reduce the occurrence and negative outcomes of chronic illnesses by connecting activity centers better to neighborhoods through land use planning, building connecting infrastructure and recreation to support healthy lifestyles. Easy access to parks, gyms and farmers’ markets or neighborhood grocery stores increases physical activity in daily life. It promotes mental wellness by increasing a sense of community and belonging.
Even when opportunities to make healthy lifestyles are available, the health of a community is unlikely to transform overnight. Measurable success will come over the years and decades. Sustained success requires encouragement and education.
Preschool through High School
Most of the city’s students are served by the Lee’s Summit R-VII School District, but students also attend schools in Blue Springs, Raymore- Peculiar, Hickman Mills and Grandview. Lee’s Summit R-VII School District also serves students from outside Lee’s Summit, including those who reside in Greenwood, Lake Lotawana, Lake Winnebago, Unity Village and portions of Kansas City, Missouri. Private schools include Our Lady of the Presentation, Saint Michael’s and Summit Christian Academy.
Although increased housing construction is expected in the short term, the aging Lee’s Summit population will likely continue offsetting much of the increase in the school-age population resulting from new housing. Longer-term, the Lee’s Summit R-VII School District foresees great possibilities for the city’s growth. The district is well-positioned to benefit from economic expansion and the potential for the renewed growth from Property Reserve Inc. (PRI) land development. Figure 3.1.E.1 compares Lee’s Summit R-VII K-12 enrollment to the State of Missouri.
Like many other school districts nationwide, the Lee’s Summit R-VII School District has experienced a sharp increase in students eligible for the Free or Reduced Lunch Program since 2000. In 2019, 3,586 students (nearly 20% of all students) qualified for the program. However, the dropout rate for students has decreased over the past 20 years.
Post-high school education helps build the foundation for a thriving economy and enhance quality of life that brings both public and private benefits to a community. Lee’s Summit is home to two higher education institutions: Metropolitan Community College – Longview Campus (MCCLongview), and the University of Central Missouri – Lee’s Summit Campus.
The MCC-Longview campus opened in 1969 and became one of the first community colleges to earn TIME Magazine/Princeton Review “College of the Year” honors and MCC – Longview offers one of the best automotive technology programs in the nation.
The University of Central Missouri – Lee’s Summit Campus, commonly known as the Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC), opened in 2017. MIC is a partnership between Lee’s Summit R-VII School District, Metropolitan Community College and the University of Central Missouri.
The MIC campus is a high-tech facility with a STEM-focused curriculum. It serves nearly 600 Lee’s Summit R-VII School District students, numerous students from other area high schools, and 1,200 University of Central Missouri students. MIC’s 2+2 program is a collaboration with industry professionals that provides a rich, immersive experience to prepare students for the workforce. MIC also permits students to attend high school while simultaneously earning an associate degree, a model that decreases college debt and increases job placement.
Education plays a significant role in the quality of life and vitality of a community. Educated individuals earn higher incomes and experience greater opportunities, tend to live longer and lead healthier lifestyles. Cities reporting high rates of educational completion and achievement among residents see lower crime rates and experience higher levels of civic involvement.
Historically, most cities’ roles in education were limited to providing the infrastructure for students to access facilities. Cities are now more active participants, understanding that collaboration between cities and educational partners drives economic development and attracts new people into the community.
Likewise, schools now rely on cities to bridge gaps they cannot fill alone. Cities also seek meaningful and functional partnerships with key education partners, institutions, industry professionals and community organizations. These cooperative efforts increase student outcomes and support local workforce needs.
Increasingly, workplaces and industries in many sectors require education beyond a high school diploma. Post-high school education can include pathways other than a traditional four-year university degree, such as community college programs, apprenticeships, trade school, certificates or online skills training. Such alternatives increase the knowledge and skillsets employers require while minimizing student debt.
In 1988, Lee’s Summit became a Certified Local Government (CLG), demonstrating the City’s commitment to preserve and protect its cultural and historic resources. As a CLG, Lee’s Summit is eligible for technical assistance and funding through Missouri’s SHPO to help maintain the community’s unique and historically significant features.
Incentives and funding are an integral component of cultural and historic preservation. In 1998, the State of Missouri established the State Historic Preservation Tax Credit for property owners that incur expenses related to rehabilitating historic properties. The tax credit excludes public or nonprofit organizations, religious buildings, historic bridges and cemeteries.
Lee’s Summit’s Downtown Historic District is one of many historic designations in the city. Lee’s Summit has a total of 15 districts and four properties on the National Register as well as three local historic landmarks. Other historic resources in Lee’s Summit are not designated but contribute to the community’s cultural heritage:
Lee’s Summit National Register Districts
Lee’s Summit National Register Landmarks
Lee’s Summit Local Register Historic Landmarks
What is the difference between the National Register of Historic Places and a Local Designation?
National Register of Historic Places
Provides formal application and review process
Determines if the historic asset is nationally significant
Does not offer the same level of protection as those that are locally designated
Triggers automatic review when development is proposed that may impact the historic integrity of the site
Qualifies for federal tax credit to maintain the property
Recognized by the municipality as an individual property or district to protect
Adopts a local ordinance to designate the site
Local regulations in place to protect properties (National Historic Register is not protected)
Does not qualify for federal tax credits to maintain the property
As a new wave of properties reach eligibility requirements, additional cultural resource surveys will be conducted. Properties generally must be 50 years or older for historic consideration. Rare eligibility exceptions can be made for buildings less than 50 years old, if exceptionally significant.
The City of Lee’s Summit is currently seeking proposals to survey historic residential neighborhoods surrounding downtown. Due to financial constraints, the survey will occur in two phases over several years. Surveys establish a baseline of information about the City’s historic resources and help ease the application process if the individual property owner voluntarily applies for designation. Historic overlay districts and conservation overlay districts can also protect architectural or cultural attributes of residential and commercial areas through a local design review.
Currently, neighborhoods and properties built in 1970 and earlier are eligible to apply for the designation, based on historical significance. In 2040, buildings constructed before 1990 will be eligible. The City must be selective and strategic about what to save and what to build. When developing a Comprehensive Plan, we should ask: Are we building neighborhoods and structures today that future generations will choose to preserve?
Most Lee’s Summit residents are likely or very likely to recommend Lee’s Summit to a colleague as a place to live, work or visit. A substantial majority (90 percent) are satisfied or very satisfied with the overall image of the City. Many factors contribute to a positive image and feeling about a city: a healthy environment, a sense of safety, maintained infrastructure, excellent schools and so on. But community spirit and sense of belonging are what turn a city into a community.
Developing community spirit and a sense of belonging is an active process. The City of Lee’s Summit provides community members opportunities to get involved, with Citizen’s and Junior Police Academies and a Citizen’s Leadership Academy. The City also encourages volunteerism that offers services to the less fortunate, promotes the arts and cultural events and creates a healthier environment. The City’s Creative Services department plays an essential role in providing accurate and timely information about community news, activities and events. Civic, social service and religious organizations and their members are actively involved in the community.
A 2018 CIGNA study revealed that nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone or left out. When people feel like they do not belong, they are less likely to invest time and energy to maintain or improve what is around them. People who feel connected interact more with others and enjoy better mental and physical health than those who are more isolated. Getting people to engage with each other and organizations in purposeful ways are keys to building community cohesion and pride and improving individual health.
Lee’s Summit is a safe community to live, work and raise a family. The City has 10 police districts. The crime rate is stable, with property and violent crime rates lower than those for the State of Missouri and the national average. Calls for services have increased since 2017. The Lee’s Summit Fire Department provides fire and emergency medical services to the City of Lee’s Summit and neighboring Greenwood and Unity Village. Nearly 70 percent of calls are for EMS. A new public safety communications system will be complete in 2020.
While most residents enjoy a sense of safety, Lee’s Summit’s continued growth has increased the need for facilities, equipment and staffing. Residents rated their lowest levels of satisfaction with the Fire/EMS Department response times, with only 83 percent being satisfied or very satisfied. For the Police Department, police visibility in neighborhoods received the lowest satisfaction ratings (75 percent satisfied or very satisfied). Both Police and Fire/EMS have difficulty filling current job vacancies.
Compared to other communities in the Kansas City area, Lee’s Summit residents have a high level of satisfaction with police services. Fire and Emergency Medical Services have similar satisfaction levels and compare favorably to other communities in the area.
Community safety is not just about injury prevention and crime prevention; it is about increasing well-being and building healthy, cohesive, vibrant and participatory communities. In addition to improving the quality of life to existing residents and businesses, safe, healthy communities attract commercial and business investment and are a strong draw to new residents.
Perception of safety impacts community health and well-being by influencing residents’ participation in physical and social activities. People who don’t feel safe in the community are less likely to get involved, increasing their risk of isolation, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions.