Johnson County Square Project

Residents enjoy live music at a performance stage at the Johnson County Square

Photo courtesy of Olathe Chamber of Commerce

Johnson County’s new courthouse at the corner of Kansas Avenue and Santa Fe Street in downtown Olathe was completed in January 2021. The old courthouse was demolished to create this new space, known as Johnson County Square. The open space sits in the heart of Olathe, at the corner of Cherry and Santa Fe streets, across from the new Johnson County Courthouse. 

Construction of the Johnson County Square was done in phases. Phase one included a community green, a curved walkway and a tree grove. Phase two included upgrading the public square with a multipurpose platform, a History Plaza, an art garden play area and tree grove seating.

A Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the new Johnson County Square and dedication of the Rotary Tree Grove of the County Square took place Dec. 9, 2021. During the event, local officials and county partners touched on the history of the square and how the community helped shape the design.

Ribbon Cutting and Tree Grove Dedication

Preferred Concept

The public weighed in on the preferred concept for the new Johnson County Square. The details were presented to the Board of County Commissioners at a public Committee of the Whole meeting in November 2020.

Download this presentation to see renderings of the steering committee’s preferred concept, called an Activated Public Gathering Space. Presenters showed a base, intermediate and master plan option to the board and recommended the county start with the intermediate option and make funding decisions for additional elements associated with master plan option in the future. Watch the presentation to the board, starting at 32:27.

On Jan. 7, the Public Building Commission approved funding for the intermediate option. Watch the Public Building Commission meeting.

Intermediate Option

A drawing of the proposed design elements for the Johnson County Square

The intermediate option included establishing circulation, site lighting and landscaping. The gazebo would be removed. The existing water feature would remain. The square would initially include a community green, a curved walkway and a tree grove.

The existing water feature was designed to remain in place. The community green would be a space where groups can gather. The space would be programmed for outdoor venues small and large or activities like concerts, yoga and small performances or can remain open for kite flying, yard games or informal gathering and picnics.

A curved and widened sidewalk would link the administration building and the courthouse and all of the park elements. The scoring pattern and colors would match the pavement on the courthouse property and include callouts for each of the cities that comprise Johnson County. The city names or logos could be imprinted in the order that they joined the county from oldest to newest.

The plan included a tree grove on the northeast corner.

Public Engagement

People providing feedback at gatherings about the proposed Johnson County Square

Before a steering committee appointed by the Public Building Commission narrowed options for the County Square down to the preferred concept, the county gathered feedback from the public. The public engagement efforts included pop up meetings, open houses, a focus group and two online surveys.

Three pop-up meetings were held in September and October to gather feedback from the public on the project:

  • September 6 and 7, 2019 at Old Settlers Day
  • September 28, 2019 at the Overland Park Fall Festival
  • October 5, 2019 at the Olathe Community Center

Programming ideas were gathered at the Old Settlers Day pop-up meeting, which were later grouped into eight themes. Those themes were then voted upon at the Overland Park Fall Festival and Olathe Community Center pop-up meetings.

A total of 259 people voted for the following theme preferences:

  • Regional Attraction: 224
  • Gathering & Eating: 194 
  • Family Activities: 190 
  • Passive Recreation: 156 
  • Active Recreation: 150 
  • Art, History & Storytelling: 86 
  • Event Planning & Wayfinding: 68 
  • Other: 5

The first survey, in October 2020, asked about the most important features. More than 1,100 people responded. 

In November 2020, 44 people attended an open house to look at the initial concept. 

The next survey, on the heels of the November open house, received 1,400 responses. It asked more detailed questions about how the site would layout for the concept. The last survey, in February 2021, followed the last open house in January 2021. That survey asked what should be done first.

A focus group was conducted with residents and business owners, school representatives and a member of the Sheriff’s Office helped establish the priorities.

Design Workshop

A design workshop was conducted with the steering committee, and then the steering committee was presented with three concepts. The committee ultimately chose the plan for an Activated Public Gathering Space.

Steering Committee

Johnson County Square Steering Committee Members reviewing documents

As part of the planning process, a steering committee was formed for the Johnson County Square project. The committee provided feedback and guidance in addition to the public input.

Steering committee members included:

  • Joe Waters (Johnson County)
  • Danni Livingston (Johnson County)
  • Rhonda Pollard (Johnson County)
  • Susan Sherman (City of Olathe)
  • Nikki Johnston McDonald (1st District Appointee)
  • Nazyrah Rogers (2nd District Appointee)
  • Jeff Stewart (3rd District Appointee)
  • Tawn Nugent (4th District Appointee)
  • Ryan Nelson (5th District Appointee)
  • Jay Lang (6th District Appointee)
  • Robert Brogden (Chairman Appointee)

The steering committee also helped the design-build team brainstorm potential programming concepts.

The concepts built on previous planning efforts, such as the Envision Olathe Downtown Plan (2018), Streetscape Master Plan and Downtown Design Guidelines (2003), Downtown Active Transportation Plan, Olathe’s Bike Share Implementation Strategy (2018), and more.