Thursday, January 10, 2013

Steve Dennis Q&A: A Candid Conversation

By Paul Thompson
It’s 2013 and we’re back to business as usual: the world didn’t end, the fiscal cliff was (momentarily) averted, and Grandview Mayor Steve Dennis continues to dream big. The Advocate sat down with Dennis
last week to discuss the past, present, and future of what the mayor calls the “center of the known universe.”
Below, we’ve put together the highlights as Dennis takes the inventory of his city at the dawn of a
new year.
How important is I-49, and what does that designation mean moving forward?
Most people won’t really truly understand why it is so important. I think they’re going to see it before they know it. To most people, it’s a name change and that’s all it is. But with Ikea, the deciding factor was that we were not on an interstate at that time. I won’t say that was the only factor, but it was huge. We were almost immediately discounted. A lot of retailers want to be located along an interstate because of
the traffic counts. Unless it’s on an interstate, they just won’t come. It was the same thing with Cracker Barrel.
So it will make a difference for us. Our four miles of I-49 are going to be looked at intently. We want to make sure that whatever we do from here on out, everything has to be done with excellence. People are going to know that we’ve really taken pride in what we’re doing in Grandview.

With I-49 completed, what would you say will be the next shoe to drop?
The next shoe to drop would certainly be Truman’s Marketplace. That’s what it’s going
to be called, is Truman’s Marketplace. We’ve got to re-brand. It’s time.
We actually had five people at one point in time vying for the opportunity to redevelop Truman Corners. That in and of itself is an oddity. In the development world, you’re lucky to have one developer who comes to you with a project, and you just kind of follow along as a city.
There are folks around here that want to hold on to the past, and I do too. I’m a traditional guy. It is time for us to shine. Truman’s Marketplace gives it a down-home feel to the whole thing.
I think that there’s a certain flavor that we need in Grandview. We don’t need Saks Fifth Avenue in here. We need value-oriented, but high-end value-oriented stores here. We’re not looking for Dollar General, but I am looking for Gordman’s and T.J. Maxx. Here, you’ve got a community that we’re building with Truman’s Marketplace. It’s going to be a shopping and dining center. It’s going to be an experience up there. I hope it’ll even be iconic.
We’re really pressing RED Development to do the little extras: the façade, stacked stone brick, dramatic lightings and water play, things that you do with imprinted and colored concrete. Small things, but they
make a huge difference in the experience that you get as a shopper there.

How is development going outside of Truman Corners?
The city is working on and close to two major projects that are even bigger than Truman Corners. I’m traveling a lot. I’ve been to Dallas, I’ve been to Colorado, I’ve been to Minnesota, and I’ve been to Pennsylvania. It’s all to let people know about Grandview. The next two or three years are going to be incredibly exciting. It will revolutionize this city.

What is the status of the city’s TIF Districts?
The (December 11 Board of Aldermen) meeting made it look as if we are kind of loosey-goosey with the taxpayer money, and that’s not the case at all. To take that chance to make money, and not have to pay a penny to take that chance, is actually a good thing for the city.
Right now, at the end of the year, we’ll be down to seven TIF’s.

Do you think the new Farmer’s Market will be on schedule for this spring?
It’s about a three-month project to build out. We need to have it completed before the Truman Heritage Festival, and the bids are out. That farmer’s market did a lot of business this year, and made a lot of people happy. And it’s a great community service and a great community builder.

How do you see Grandview moving forward?
I’ve got seven pages of vision right here. You’d think I was crazy, but this is what I dream about. This is the stuff that motivates me. That’s why I knew that I (had to) run for re-election.
I think most people in the city like the direction we’re going. You have to be a cheerleader in this position. You have to be. This city is so active in going out there and pursuing everything we can to improve our city. We can no longer be a status quo city.
If you’re not at the decision-making tables with MARC and MoDOT and some of the other groups, you get passed over like we have been for 25 years.
What is going to happen with Meadowmere Pool?
We’ve done the study, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to go out there on a summer’s day and see that there are eight people using our pool. I learned to swim there, forty years ago, in that pool. It is the same look and feel that we had forty years ago.
It’s costing us $100,000 a year. In tough economic times, you can’t lose taxpayer money that way. We’re probably going to close that pool within a year. No decision has been made yet, but if that were to come to pass, rest assured that there will be some sort of water play area. That’s our commitment.

Do you see the city asking for any new bonds in the near future?
Parks bonds have really served the city well. We are spending money on each of our major parks. That bond will come to an end in two years. If we do something, it’ll be a no-tax-increase bond.

What is the most frustrating aspect of being the Mayor of Grandview?
Everything in government takes too much time, period. That’s my biggest frustration. Truman Corners: man I would have loved to start knocking buildings down last February when we made the decision with RED Development. But it takes time. And lawyers get involved.
I want to be emperor, and say ‘this is what we’re doing.’ But you have to work through a process, and that takes time.
I see myself as the CEO of this company we call the City of Grandview. Cory (Smith) is our COO, the chief operating officer. But we have a number of different departments. For the first time in my 45 years of living here, I feel like we’re all functioning on a good level. We’ve got quality people in there; they all love their job, and they love this city.
Every Wednesday at 9:00, we have our staff meeting in here. We talk about all the things that the fire department does over the course of a week and all the things that the public works department does over the course of a week. It’s geared towards one thing, and that is building community. That one word means everything to all of us.

1 comment: