Social, Leisure, and Culture -- Challenges and Opportunities

This section examines the emphasis placed on culture, arts and downtown vibrancy in the community. While this is a broad category, some base level of access to cultural opportunities of varying degrees is highly important to many people.

Strong and thriving cultural and arts can have a positive impact in a community. They can act as a catalyst for economic development, promote educational awareness of heritage, and encourage historic preservation. They can also inspire others to act in creative and entrepreneurial ways.

Regarding the arts, culture and heritage attractions, residents and tourists are frequently interested in the same things: an accessible experience that is both fun and rewarding. Maintaining a large number of organizations and programs indicates a vibrant community capable of accommodating a variety of interests and talents. These organizations and programs provide opportunities for a diversity of individuals to create, learn, and work together around a common interest. Related to this is the provision of public spaces that can both accommodate arts and cultural events, as well as contribute to a vibrant and economically sustainable downtown core.

Specific indicators in this section include:

  • Libraries and Museums in the Vicinity
  • Historic Preservation and NRHP Designations
  • Arts Funding
  • Number of Major Civic Gathering Places
  • Downtown Vibrancy


The proximity of Olathe to Kansas City provides it with a high concentration of libraries and museums. There are approximately 48 libraries (15 miles) and museums (30 miles) available to residents of Olathe. This is similar, albeit slightly lower, than the other Kansas City area communities in this comparison. Olathe provides approximately $0.80 per person of state funds on the arts. This is a little lower than the national average of $1.00 per person, but similar to that of other Kansas City area communities. With respect to the provision of major programmed civic gathering spaces in the community (not including parks), Olathe provides 2: the R.R. Osborne Plaza at City Hall and the Johnson County public square. This is above the average of 1 per surveyed community. Several similar communities do not provide any major civic gathering areas; however, the most vibrant downtowns provide several major civic gathering spaces.

In general this element suggests that Olathe is a little behind other communities in its provision of social, leisure, and cultural places. Its proximity to Kansas City tempers this somewhat, however the community itself could do more to provide civic gathering spaces and improve upon the vibrancy of its downtown.

In the Future

PlanOlathe promotes opportunities for artistic and cultural expression.  A stronger arts program will integrate art into the public realm and into peoples’ daily experiences. Provision of public art will enhance beauty, provide visual interest, and be a source of community pride. It can also contribute to cultural expression and raises awareness of diversity in the community.

Along with the visual and performing arts, preservation and recognition of historical resources will also help give residents a stronger sense of place. Historic resource protection, recognition of sites, and educational programs will be the focus of preservation efforts in the future. A range of incentives will be provided to encourage the preservation of historic resources.

Since Downtown provides the cultural heart of the community, sustaining and re-energizing the Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods is a dominant theme within PlanOlathe (see Districts in Chapter 4).  Implementation of the Plan will help transform Downtown Olathe into a vibrant multi-functional district which builds on existing neighborhood and business strengths. One of the key recommendations call for additional community gathering spaces that can support celebrations and events, such as a farmer’s market pavilion and civic square.