Lee's Summit Excels When it Comes to Quality of Life

By Sue Lenthe on April 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm EST

PHOTO CREDIT: Stephen Cherry

There may be debate over the roots of the name Lee’s Summit. Is it Lee for Gen. Robert E. Lee or Lea for Dr. Pleasant Lea‚ the town’s only physician and an early settler?

While that fact may still be up for discussion‚ when it comes to quality of life in Lee’s Summit‚ there’s little to argue about.

Award-winning schools‚ gracious neighborhoods‚ a vibrant downtown business district and abundant parks all are part of the mix in this thriving community of about 80‚000‚ located just west of Kansas City.

Local entrepreneur Jon Ellis and his wife used to travel through Lee’s Summit on the way to graduate school and talk about what life might be like there.

“We said‚ ‘You know‚ that would be a great place to live.’ ”

What they saw‚ he recalls‚ was a nicely developed community‚ clean and family-oriented.

“Every time we drove through it‚ it reminded us a lot of the areas where we grew up.”

The couple moved to Lee’s Summit 19 years ago and started a business and a family. Today‚ Ellis is CEO of Paradise Park‚ a family entertainment center.

Despite striking population increases over the decade between 1990 and 2000 – when the city grew by 52 percent – Lee’s Summit remains a great place to live‚ Ellis says.

“The way it’s all been planned‚ you can have parks and trails and woods all backing up to your neighborhood‚ if you like‚” Ellis says. “At the same time‚ you can find good-quality growth going on as far as planning for what people want in a community.

“Green space‚ retail opportunities‚ recreational opportunities‚ quality schools‚ quality businesses‚ quality jobs – all those things have been coming along with this growth‚” he adds.

The city boasts four lakes‚ where residents enjoy sailing and motor boating‚ and public golf courses serve those with a passion for the links.

Ellis’ business‚ meanwhile‚ is working to meet the needs of a growing number of families.

“Lee’s Summit is so much of a family-oriented community‚ and a lot of that is because of the quality of the schools‚” Ellis says. “We really feel like we are addressing a need in the community for a family-oriented entertainment venue.”

Certainly there’s more to quality of life than pretty housing developments and shady parks. In Lee’s Summit‚ a solid foundation has grown up behind the lovely facade.

The city is an affluent community where the median income is $60‚905‚ and the population earns one of the highest average incomes in the state. Major industries in Lee’s Summit include government service‚ technology and telecommunications.

Job numbers have grown‚ as well. According to the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council‚ the city has attracted more than 33 new companies in the past five years‚ creating upward of 4‚000 jobs.

Home ownership is an important community value‚ with 75.6 percent of residents owning their own homes.

Stephen Arbo‚ assistant city administrator‚ says there is still room for growth in Lee’s Summit.

“Our community is 64 square miles in geographic area‚ which is a fairly good size‚ and I would say about 50 percent is still open for growth.”

Lee’s Summit has attracted the amenities of a quality urban area as it has expanded‚ with more sophisticated shopping and entertainment.

“It’s a great place to live and work‚” Ellis says. “It’s a great community to be a part of.”

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