Johnson County and City of Olathe support JoCo Square enhancements

Open green space and walking path outside of the County Administration Building

Visitors to downtown Olathe will be able to enjoy future enhancements at the Johnson County Square thanks to separate actions taken this week by the Board of County Commissioners and the City of Olathe for Phase 2 improvements.

The project includes upgrading the public square, located between the Johnson County Administration Building and the Johnson County Courthouse, with a multipurpose platform, a Memorial Plaza, an art garden play area and tree grove seating.

“The Johnson County Square required community involvement with public meetings in helping to design the square. We are very appreciative of that important public input,” said Johnson County BOCC Chairman Ed Eilert. “We also appreciate the partnership with the city of Olathe in making the Johnson County Square a community asset for all to enjoy now and in the future.”

Five board actions taken for Johnson County Square Phase 2

  • On Thursday, Aug. 4, the BOCC approved five action items in separate votes regarding the Johnson County Square Phase 2 project, including:
  • A maintenance, management and use agreement with the city of Olathe and adjoining outdoor recreational space for public events. Under the agreement, Olathe will oversee programming for activities in the square, such as public events and concerts. Johnson County will be responsible for the maintenance of the property. The Olathe City Council approved the agreement on Aug. 2.
  • An amendment of $2 million to the county’s Capital Improvement Program to include the Phase 2 capital project and reallocation and expenditure of $1 million of Countywide Support Funds for the county’s portion to finance the improvements to the public square. As a joint project, Olathe is also contributing $1 million.
  • A contract of $196,500 with TreanorHL to complete the design of the Phase 2 project. TreanorHL, an architectural firm, was part of the design team for the new Johnson County Courthouse and redevelopment of the current Johnson County Square after the old courthouse, the county’s third court facility (1952-2020), was razed in 2021.
  • Regulations regarding the use of the Johnson County Square and adjacent property, including animals, alcohol and cereal malt beverages, fires and open flames, sales and structures.

The board also approved a short list of possible construction companies for the Johnson County Square Phase 2. That required the board to increase the expenditure authority by $2 million for the Johnson County Square Phase 2 project for term and supply contracts for on-call construction services by the county.

The list of on-call construction services includes KBS Constructors, Inc.; Kelly Construction Group, Inc.; B.A. Green Construction Co., Inc.; and Universal Construction Co. The firms will be invited to submit bids for the project.

“We want to start work shortly after Old Settlers Days this year with plans to ensure the square opening by May 2023,” Assistant Johnson County Manager Joe Waters said.

The Old Settlers Days celebration ends Sept. 10.

Planned enhanced amenities for Johnson County Square

Final design details for Johnson County Square Phase 2 are still in the works by TreanorHL, but current plans include the following enhancements:

The multipurpose stage with possible solar lighting and an art garden play area will be located at the northern end of the square. The stage will be at the apex of the curving sidewalks near the entrance at Santa Fe and Cherry streets, overlooking the large community green space in the heart of the Johnson County Square, which remains the centerpiece of this engaging and activated public space.

The Memorial Plaza will be located near the Children of the Trails Fountain at the southern end of the square near the Administration Building, with a redesigned entrance from Kansas Avenue. Plans include informational and educational plaques, highlighting the history of Johnson County and the city of Olathe.

The plaza also will be the new location for six existing historical structures (some or all) in the Johnson County Square, including:

  • Bicentennial Committee’s time capsule from 1976, with a scheduled opening in 2076.
  • Johnson County Old Settlers Association’s 100th anniversary time capsule from 1957 commemorating the incorporation of Olathe in 1857. The capsule is to be opened in 2057.
  • Santa Fe Trail Monument from 1907.
  • Listing of Old Settlers Association presidents from 1898 to present.
  • Cornerstone of the county’s second courthouse, known as the Washburn courthouse, from 1892-1952.
  • A long, flat granite stone from the third courthouse that was demolished last year.

The county also plans to install a new time capsule at the Memorial Plaza to commemorate the opening of the new courthouse and redesigned Johnson County Square. Planning for and preparing of the new time capsule will be completed during the Phase 2 construction.

Also, near the Memorial Plaza and the fountain will be a space dedicated to the cities of Johnson County.  The history of the community will be connected to the names of each city in Johnson County and their year of incorporation, all memorialized in stone/concrete inlays. 

A tree grove with seating is also proposed at the southern end of the square close to Cherry Street. Phase One of the project included a tree grove, which was donated by Johnson County Rotary Clubs, and seating, which were installed by the county on the north side of the project near Santa Fe and Cherry streets.

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