May 14, 2011

Quarterly Investor Luncheon Highlights "Great Things in Independence"

 By Jeff Fox -
A new business is coming to the booming commercial district in southeast Independence, another sign of what local leaders describe as part of growth ahead in the Little Blue River Valley.

Local developer David Edwards is opening Strikerz in the old CompUSA building on Valley View Drive near Costco. It will have an arcade, restaurant, bowling lanes and a lazer maze – think “Mission: Impossible” – at a facility geared toward family entertainment as well as church, school and corporate events.

“It’s been a fun project, and hopefully we’ll get started on construction in a couple of weeks,” Edwards said at Friday’s quarterly investors luncheon of the Independence EDC.

Others at the luncheon spoke of progress in the city, particularly that sparked by the soon-to-be-completed Little Blue Parkway.

“The Little Blue Parkway should be known as the big opportunity for Independence,” City Manager Robert Heacock said.

The road will run 8 1/2  miles, generally on the west side of the Little Blue River, from U.S. 40 north to U.S. 24. Some of it has been done for years. The section from R.D. Mize Road to Necessary Road opens this month. The final piece, from Bundschu Road to U.S. 24, is now set to be completed next spring.

Officials point out that with the river valley, Independence has more undeveloped space than many cities in the metro area have space overall. Blue Springs, for example, would fit inside the valley.

As the road works its way north, several projects have been announced, including the massive Harmony project, described as “a town within a town” with up to 14,000 homes, 4 million square feet of retail and commercial space, walking trails and dozens of pocket parks and an intentional focus on a sense of place.

“What they have planned for Independence is really nothing short of spectacular,” Heacock said.

There are also plans for other residential developments and the Independence Business Park, proposed for Missouri 7 and Missouri 78, across from the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.

Executive and officials gave several other updates Friday:

Community Services League Executive Director Michael Levine said the transition to the agency’s new headquarters on Noland Road just north of Truman Road has gone well. The agency moved into the $2.75 million facility in March and, among other things, has more storage space, so it can gather more food and clothing.

“These are two of the most important things we do on an annual basis,” he said.

Last year, the agency served more than 52,000 clients.

Tom Lesnak, president of the EDC, said the Independence Ennovation Center continues to show progress. That’s where the EDC is and where Friday’s luncheon was, in the old Independence Regional Health Center cafeteria. The EDC has set up space for small businesses that need to rent commercial kitchen space. He said 14 companies are there now and another 60 are in the application process. Also, a Florida company is looking at becoming the Ennovation Center’s first bioscience client.

Jim Hinson, superintendent of the Independence School District and chairman of the EDC board, said the 12 Block West program is doing important work, such as a project to rehab apartments on Overton Avenue.

“Everywhere you look, you see the signs of a community that doesn’t know the meaning of standing still,” he said.