Lenexa Public Market is part of a nationwide trend toward something planners refer to as "placemaking."
lenexa public market
Credit: Courtesy of the City of Lenexa

Just across the state line from Kansas City, Missouri, the affluent suburb of Lenexa, Kansas has long been known as a good spot for a corporate office, or as a pleasant place to raise a family. What the city of just over 50,000 didn't have, until now, was a proper town center.

When it came time to build new civic offices, Lenexa, which had long ago outgrown its original, one-traffic-light-and-done Old Town, had an idea—why not build an entirely new downtown?

This week, inside a new, 200-acre complex that includes Lenexa's city hall, a new recreation center, housing and ample green space, locals are catching their first glimpse of the new Lenexa Public Market. Located on the first floor of city hall, the market is designed not merely to be a destination for food, but also a gathering spot for the community. (Though the food, from morning coffee at Kansas City-favorite The Roasterie to gyoza at Chewology, all the way up to liquid nitrogen ice cream at Mad Man's, will definitely make it a lot about the food.)

A year-round schedule of events, a demonstration kitchen, free wireless internet , and space for local makers of non-edible things will all be part of the package, all inside an 11,000 square-foot space (complimented by ample outdoor seating) just a few steps from where local residents will be making the trip to chat about their pending building permits.

Opening a public market is a move that city officials hope will give the sprawling suburb the heart it hasn't yet had. They're not alone—Lenexa is just one of many American towns and cities experimenting in recent years with what planners refer to as placemaking—quite simply, this means the creation of the type of public square that cities and towns once took for granted, something that fell out of favor as more and more cities and suburbs grew up with the automobile.

The Lenexa Public Market will have its grand opening tomorrow, September 1, at 6:00 a.m.