Unity CEO envisions campus collaborations

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Unity Village CEO Jim Blake is casting a vision for a holistic health and fitness community with tiny homes and natural amenities nestled in the sprawling campus. Blake told Advisory Level investors of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council monthly luncheon that Unity would like to pursue collaborative public/private partnerships to build a convention center and resort on its Lee’s Summit property.

“Why not build a huge hotel and conference center here?” Blake said. “We can attract speakers here if we had greater inventory, and the business community would have whatever it wants in a conference center next to a 9-hole golf course, walking trails and fishing lakes.”

Although no official plans have been drafted, Blake envisions a healthy lifestyle community that is home to a first-of-its-kind holistic medical facility staffed by a renowned naturopathic physician. The community would offer summer youth programs that take advantage of miles of trails, stocked lakes, golf course and tennis courts as well as a tiny home development near the existing Hotel.

“Nature is built on collaboration. Ecosystems are built on collaboration. Survival is building upon how communities collaborate. We have the opportunity to collaborate and build something powerful in this community rather than build something separately,” Blake said.

Any new development would complement existing facilities that accommodate 26 retreats and events each year, such as an all-new golf clubhouse with food and beverage, 50-room, LEED-certified hotel and conference center, banquet and dining hall, fitness center, 2.5 miles of walking trails, fleet of GPS-enabled bicycles, a community garden and apple barn, and Starbuck’s on-campus coffee shop.

Blake’s vision is purely conceptual at this point. However, commercial development is already taking shape in the Summit Village development just south across Colbern Road at I-470 and 50 Highway, according to Mike VanBuskirk with Newmark Grubb Zimmer who is handling development of the project on behalf of Unity Realty. A new public road has been extended off the recently constructed Blue Parkway and Summit Eye Center has completed construction on the first phase of its new medical office building. At buildout, phase one of Summit Village will accommodate up to 500,000-square feet of office, medical office, hotel and other commercial users requiring between 5,000 to 50,000 square feet.

Preliminary approval is in place for an already constructed pad site adjacent to Summit Eye Center that will accommodate a 20,000-square foot building. In addition, sites in Summit Village are being offered for sale, or build-to-suits can be completed to accommodate specific needs of companies looking to locate or expand in Lee’s Summit.

Phases two and three of Summit Village include an additional 175 acres to accommodate over 1.5 million square feet of various mixed-use development. The second phase can accommodate major headquarter requirements of 20 to 135 acres while phase three can accommodate office/flex or light industrial uses with the potential of a rail served site. The newest area of Summit Village is currently in the planning stages for potential mixed-use development. The Summit Village North area consists of over 100 acres located at the north west corner of Colbern and Douglas extending north along the newly improved Lee’s Summit Road.

On-campus leasing continues to be robust, according to VanBuskirk. “We started rolling out on-campus leasing about a year ago, and right now there is 30,000 square feet of third-party tenants already occupying space,” he said.

Current tenants include Almeda Labs, Healthcare Solutions Team, JSC Engineering, Transit Pros, Gardens at Unity Village, Unity Village Chapel, as well as Unity Worldwide ministries. Multiple spaces are available for lease on the campus to accommodate general office and other creative uses.