Project building community legacy

Greg Mast
Lonnie King, owner of Image Resource Group, speaks to hundreds of residents, business owners and governement officials gathered at the event. King donated $2.3 million toward the construction of Legacy Park.

A local business owner seized an opportunity to make a difference in the Ottawa community.

Lonnie King, Image Resource Group, which is the parent company of Ottawa businesses Fashion Inc., and Universal Sign & Display, LLC, will build and donate all the structures for the new River Plaza project, which will be located along Walnut Street between First and Second streets. King said his company’s donation will be $2.3 million of the $4.3 million cost of the project.

Onward Ottawa, a group of residents that initiated the project, made the announcement Tuesday night during its kickoff celebration at The Bottle House, 204 S. Walnut St., Ottawa. So far, $3.6 million of the project’s total cost has been pledged by more than 100 investors, David Lee, campaign co-chair, said.

“We have a diverse group of stakeholders which includes individuals joining with large and small businesses in and around our area,” Lee said.

King said Ottawa has been good to his family and employees.

“I am at the age where it is time to give back,” King said. “My family is blessed. We had the ability [to do this]. Us and the employees want to contribute to making downtown to what it used to be. It involves what we do for a living. We make structures. We are excited to build structures that will last a long, long time. We are going to design, manufacture, erect and donate all the structures.”

King then announced the venue will be called “Legacy Square.”

“We wanted to create a legacy that the entire community could join in and leave their legacy as well,” King said. “The intent was to make something that lasts. Our employees will go and see their contribution over all the years. All our employees will have their names on this somewhere. They can tell their children and grandchildren they helped build something that is important. It is not about me. It is about the city and the people who will use it. It is about the legacy. I have a great-grandson now. My children work for me and live here. My grandchildren work for me and went to school here.”

King said Fashion Inc., which has been in the industrial park north of Ottawa since 1991, builds canopies.

“We were lucky to be in the right place at the right time,” King said. “We are proud to be a part of Legacy Square.”

Legacy Square will feature a green space of more than 20,000 square feet, covered canopies, and a large covered pavilion providing outdoor event space for all events, Onward Ottawa officials said. The project also will feature a children’s play area at the northwest corner of First and Walnut streets. Onward Ottawa officials announced Kalmar, which manufacturers terminal trucks, will donate one of their trucks which will be put at the head of the play area.

Gov. Jeff Colyer, who attended the kickoff event and later signed a bill designating nearby Flint Hills Nature Trail as a state park, said Ottawa is a happening place.

“Things are starting to happen because communities like Ottawa are deciding to put their best foot forward,” Colyer said. “Kansas can be on the move. There are communities taking a cue of what you are doing. What is going on here with the Legacy Square project is truly outstanding. This Legacy Square project, the name is fitting. It is a legacy we are leaving for our kids. It is one that we should be thankful for participating in this. I want to thank all the investors who are investing in their community. It is coming together right here. The ideas of Onward Ottawa is really what it is really about. You deserve a lot of credit of putting it all together. You are increasing the pride in your community. You really have a great vision for your community.”

Pam Harris, campaign co-chair, said the project came to fruition because of the work of many people.

“We have 70 volunteers working on four different committees to refine this project, promote it, and help raise the funds,” Harris said. “This has truly been a collaborative community effort.”

John Coen, Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce CEO and president, said local architect and builder Josh Walker, Loyd Builders, has been instrumental in organizing local contractors to donate money, time and services to the project.

“This is going to be built by local people,” Coen said.

Onward Ottawa officials said the project should be finished in 2019.