By Ashley Dean, Denverite | The money has to be spent on things that’ll be around a long time, but it’s otherwise unusually wide-open. On the final day of February, about six months after Grandoozy took over Overland Park Golf Course and nearly two months after the music festival announced it wouldn’t return in 2019, Overland residents gathered to decide how to spend the money the neighborhood got from the festival.
Around 40 people, including a handful of representatives from the city, attended a meeting led by District 7 Councilman Jolon Clark ahead of the usual Overland Park Neighborhood Association meeting. No decisions were to be made at this meeting. Clark and other city officials were there to hear ideas in a process for which Clark said there is no blueprint.
“This is a pot of money that is unlike anything else in the city that I’m aware of,” he told the room.
Festival producer Superfly’s contract with the city stipulated that it would give $1 per ticket sale to community improvements. Clark said Thursday night that the total ended up at $413,327. It’ll be divided up among golf, parks and the neighborhood — $137,776 each.
The money allocated for golf might be headed toward some much requested on-course bathrooms, though it won’t fully fund them. Neighbors at Thursday’s meeting needed to begin to decide what to do with the other $275,000 for parks and general neighborhood improvements.
The contract stipulates that the money be spent in neighborhoods affected by Grandoozy. There’s no hard boundary — or a deadline, for that matter — but generally that includes Overland, Ruby Hill, Athmar Park and Platt Park.
Because it’s a seat tax (that’s a technical term), the money has to go to capital improvements. Emily Snyder, capital budget manager for the city, explained that this means the money has to go to fixed assets with a lifespan of 15 years or more. It needs to go toward building things, or the planning and design of something to be built. Land acquisition and environmental remediation also count.
This ruled out some of the ideas floated by neighbors who attended the meeting, including a well-received suggestion to put on plays in an under-utilized amphitheater in Johnson-Habitat Park.
There were suggestions involving public art (yes, technically a capital investment, though Synder said it can be a grey area) and improvements to Ruby Hill’s bike park.
But the common refrain was accessibility and pedestrian safety. Many of the ideas had to do with the safety of walking or crossing Jewell Avenue and other busy streets in the area.
“I think we need to build the infrastructure for our neighborhoods to be connected,” Judy Greek said. “… Make sure it’s connecting all of us, so we have a community.”
One person suggested using the money for lighted crossing signals for pedestrians on Jewell and on Florida Avenue — a project a public works representative said would cost $10,000 to $15,000.
The other suggestions would cost millions, several city officials in attendance confirmed, though that doesn’t mean the Grandoozy money couldn’t be put toward them. Neighbors noted the need for wider sidewalks along Jewell and Lipan Street, as well as inside Ruby Hill Park itself. There seemed to be a general consensus in the room that it was too difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to access the park and Levitt Pavilion, particularly at night and from south of Evans Avenue.
With these ideas collected, along with unspoken ideas written out on forms passed out at the beginning of the meeting, Clark and other city officials will regroup and schedule the next meeting. It’s not scheduled yet, and Clark told Denverite he doesn’t know yet how many meetings it will take to get this done, only that there will be as many meetings as they need to be to make sure everyone is heard. (But not so many that they don’t get anything done anytime soon.)
As for the more distant future: Superfly announced in January that Grandoozy would be taking a hiatus in 2019. The announcement surprised many, given how long and hard organizers worked to make it happen — particularly when it came to making the neighbors happy. Superfly’s contract gives it five years in Denver, so it could still return.