Johnson County’s new courthouse at the corner of Kansas Avenue and Santa Fe Street in downtown Olathe was completed in early January. The old courthouse is being demolished to create a new space known as Johnson County Square.
Exterior demolition of the old courthouse started in April. The demolition and debris removal should last through mid-August, then work will begin on the square. The backfill of the courthouse foundation is expected to be complete by mid-September, and the square is expected to be finished in early November.
The public weighed in on the preferred concept for the new Johnson County Square, the details of which were presented to the Board of County Commissioners at a public Committee of the Whole meeting in November.
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 masterplan option in the future. Watch the presentation to the board. It starts at 32:27.
On Jan. 7, the Public Building Commission approved funding for the intermediate option. Watch the Public Building Commission meeting.
The intermediate option includes establishing circulation, site lighting and landscaping. The gazebo will be removed. The existing water feature will remain. The square will initially include a community green, a curved walkway and a tree grove.
The existing water feature is designed to remain in place. The community green is a space where groups can gather. The space can 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 will link the administration building and the courthouse and all of the park elements. The scoring pattern and colors will 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 includes a tree grove on the northeast corner.
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, asked about the most important features. More than 1,100 people responded.
In November, 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, followed the last open house in January. 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.
Christina Hoxie, of Hoxie Collective, and Triveece Penelton, of Vireo, led the public engagement efforts.
A design workshop was conducted with the steering committee, and then the steering committee was presented with three concepts, and they ultimately chose the plan for an Activated Public Gathering Space.
As part of the planning process, a steering committee was formed for the Johnson County Square project. The committee provides feedback and guidance in addition to the public input.
Steering committee members include:
- 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. Landworks Studio developed the master plan concepts.
The concepts build 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.
Follow the county and the city of Olathe on social media and use the #JoCoSquare hashtag.