Merriam Comprehensive Plan 2040

Aerial view of Merriam Drive

The City finalized the Merriam Comprehensive Plan 2040 in 2021. The new plan addresses the City's land use, housing, development, sustainability, transportation and mobility, parks and recreation, and facilities and services across our community for the next 20 years.

What is a comprehensive plan?

Comprehensive Plans are documents meant to guide decision-making for a city, county or region. Generally, comprehensive plans are future-oriented with horizon years of between ten and twenty years. Comprehensive plans analyze the existing conditions of a place and identify what is working well and what could be improved upon. 

A core responsibility of comprehensive plans are to create a unified vision for the future of a community. Public engagement is an important step in outlining a vision for Merriam in the year 2040. Community involvement also helps create community buy-in which makes plan implementation easier and more effective. The City used a mixture of public participation and feedback, research on best practices, and expert analysis to identify goals, priorities and action items to implement the community’s vision for 2040. 

Finally, a Comprehensive Plan is not meant to be a static, unchanging document. Rather, it is recommended that the City review the implementation plan annually to make sure action items are being accomplished and policies followed. Additionally, a full review of the Comprehensive Plan is recommended once every five years to ensure the plan still reflects the community vision. Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan should be made when there is a significant difference between the goals and recommendations of the plan and the existing conditions  of the present.

Plan Purpose

There are several common purposes of Comprehensive Plans including:

  • Focus future development & public investment
  • Encourage strong economic base
  • Serve as informational management tool
  • Analyze existing conditions
  • Establish goals
  • Guide and recommend
  • Encourage community engagement
  • Identify and build upon community character


Relationship to Zoning

Comprehensive Plans are not legal documents but the creation of a comprehensive plan is the legal justification for zoning ordinances and maps. Goals, priorities, policies and action items can all be used to defend zoning-related decisions and votes by the City and elected officials. The preferred community layout as identified in the future land use plan can also help justify decisions on zoning and rezoning applications. In short, comprehensive plans are not law but can be useful tools in decision-making for the City of Merriam as it plans for the future. Below is a chart outlining some key items considered when determining zoning-related decisions. These items are all matters addressed in a comprehensive plan.

Merriam Comprehensive Plan 2040

Plan Process

Phase 1: Project Kick-Off, Research & Analysis

During this phase, the consultant team hired by the City to assist with the plan collected relevant data and perform initial analyses for the existing conditions of Merriam.

Major milestones:

  • Kick-Off Meeting with Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC)
  • Data Collection & Analysis
  • Analysis Review CPAC Meeting
  • Analysis Review Joint Workshop


Phase 2: Vision, Input & Direction

This phase is where a majority of the public engagement took place. The engagement process includes a variety of different engagement meeting types designed to capture the thoughts and opinions of residents from different walks of life, ages, and experiences. 

Engagement exercises included:

  • Project Survey
  • Public Workshop
  • Key Stakeholder Interviews
  • Youth Workshop
  • Box City Kids Event
  • Special Event Booths
  • Input Goals & Review Joint Workshop
  • Input Goals & Review CPAC Meeting

Public Engagement Report(PDF, 5MB)

Phase 3: Draft Plan & Evaluation

This phase is when the actual composing of the draft comprehensive plan will be completed. Each chapter was completed from scratch incorporating pertinent information from past planning efforts and results of the public engagement and existing conditions analysis.

Major milestones:

  • Draft Plan
  • Draft Plan Presentation Review Session with Advisory Committee (4 meetings)
  • Draft Public Open House
  • Draft Review Joint Workshop


Phase 4: Final Draft Plan & Adoption

This phase is where the final review and edits of the new Comprehensive Plan are completed. After several months of review, the final draft plan will be presented to the CPAC committee. The final steps in Phase 4 are the public approval hearings. The new Merriam Comprehensive Plan 2040 wase presented to the Planning & Zoning Commission and then finally to City Council. 

Major milestones:

  • Final Draft Plan
  • Final Draft Plan Review with Advisory Committee
  • Plan & Zoning Commission Public Hearing
  • City Council Public Hearing

Introduction: Vision and Goals

Plan Purpose

The purpose of this comprehensive plan is to help guide growth and development for Merriam through the year 2040. This plan will assist the city in decision-making as it relates to issues including land use and zoning, housing, commercial and industrial development, sustainability and the environment, transportation and mobility, parks and recreation, and community facilities and services.

Vision Statement

Part of the Merriam Comprehensive Plan 2040 was updating the vision statement used in the 2001 Merriam Comprehensive Plan. Vision statements identify the overriding aspirations of the community in a way that distinguishes it from any other community. It is the overall aspiration for the City. Merriam's 2040 vision statement is below.

Merriam 2040 Comprehensive Plan Vision Statement

The City of Merriam embodies a dynamic, friendly, and family-oriented culture that celebrates our history as a hub of mobility. We are a linkage point for shared amenities, not just for our diverse residents, but also for our neighboring communities.

We recognize and embrace our unique history as an inclusive and well-maintained first-tier suburban community. The City of Merriam enjoys great visibility and convenient access along the I-35 Corridor through its strategic location between other metro communities and Downtown Kansas City.

Merriam offers convenient access to shopping and services, an eclectic downtown area, quality civic facilities, diverse and affordable neighborhoods, and an enhanced parks and trails network that attracts a wide range of ages and demographics.

Comprehensive Plan Goals

To help guide the planning process, a set of goals were updated for the Merriam Comprehensive Plan 2040. These goals were referenced throughout the plan and helped to guide the implementation plan and recommendations included in the report.

1. Housing Choice & Diversity

Merriam offers residents a variety of housing types and sizes that meet the needs of residents from different economic groups, ability levels, stages of life and age groups

2. Neighborhood Reinvestment

Merriam strategically targets neighborhoods for improvement by incentivizing investment and maintenance of the community's housing stock.

3. Quality Public Services

People are attracted to Merriam because of the continued investment in the quality of medical and social services, educational, recreation, public safety and infrastructure, all of which help improve the health and wellness of residents.

4. Identity & Character

Merriam, and its many neighborhoods, have distinct identities that create a sense of place to foster pride and belonging among residents and attract young families to settle and make their long-term home in Merriam.

5. Mixed-Use and Commercial Activity Centers

Merriam contains a thoughtful mix of commercial and mixed-use activity centers that are visually appealing, connected and of appropriate scale for the community with necessary transitional buffers to protect existing residential areas.

6. Sustainable Growth

Merriam uses future-oriented decision-making to support sustainable growth and development through a diversified tax and employment base to promote prosperity, sensible environmental regulation to protect natural resources and durable development made with quality materials and thoughtful design that allow for flexibility and resiliency.

7. Transportation Safety & Mobility

Merriam's transportation system is a safe space that supports various modes of transportation balancing access, parking, mobility and congestion minimization while expanding access to sidewalks, bike lanes, charging stations and public transit.

Existing Plans & Policies Overview

A thorough review of Merriam’s existing plans, policies and programs was completed as part of the planning process. Brief summaries of the plans and policies important to and referenced throughout the Merriam Comprehensive Plan 2040.


Community Character and Identity

Community Character & Identity are all those things that make Merriam unique and separates itself from other metro communities. A community’s character includes the outward message and marketing officially delivered by a community as well as built-in perceptions of the community from residents, visitors and outsiders. Regionally, Merriam is known as being an affordable suburb with excellent access to major roads and amenities. Merriam’s character is undoubtedly shaped by the strong commercial presence in the community, which provides many positive aspects to enhance and negative externalities to address. This chapter identifies the major opportunities and challenges facing Merriam’s character and identity and outlines a strategy to enhance and shape the long-term desired character and identity of Merriam.

Enhance and promote the eclectic homes & housing diversity found in Merriam

Major chapter themes: 

  • Market Merriam as an affordable community with high quality amenities
  • Highlight Merriam’s convenient location with access to jobs, retail & amenities
  • Work to improve Merriam's identity as a safe and family-friendly community
  • Celebrate Merriam’s history & diversity as a means of character development
  • Preserve and support Merriam neighborhoods, centers and downtown
  • Address issues and opportunities created by Interstate 35 & other major arterials


Amenities and Service Enhancements

The amenities and services available to residents and businessowners within Merriam have a significant impact on the quality of life in a community. Merriam has made substantial investment in itself as a community proving its commitment to improving the quality of the amenities and services available to residents. This chapter discusses the various strategies Merriam has and should continue to implement in regards to health and well-being, infrastructure, parks and recreation, trails, public safety and several other quality of life issues.

Major chapter themes: 

  • Continue to support medical & social services for Merriam residents
  • Support and promote Merriam's educational opportunities for all ages and backgrounds
  • Maintain a quality parks system that is responsive to Merriam residents
  • Expand Merriam's trail offerings to enhance connectivity and safety
  • Maintain a quality portfolio of city buildings and land
  • Support community health and wellness for Merriam residents
  • Provide community supported and efficient public safety for Merriam
  • Maintain Merriam's infrastructure and promote sustainable infrastructure solutions


Sub Area Plans

Sub Areas call attention to specific locations that represent important and potentially catalytic sites to the overall quality of life and vibrancy of the community. The sub areas in Merriam were selected through a collaborative process with the planning team, city officials and the steering committee.

Merriam Town Center

A major commercial property in the heart of the city, Merriam Town Center was selected as a sub-area because of its prominence in the community and the unknown future of brick and mortar retail. Following the departure of Hen House, Merriam’s only full-service grocery store, many in the community wondered what the future of the Town Center would be. It is the intent of this plan to provide a series of potential redevelopment options that will diversify and sustain Merriam Town Center well into the future.

Downtown Merriam

Downtown Merriam was selected because of long established challenges this district has experienced in terms of attracting investment. There is the general feeling that downtown buildings are underutilized, with many businesses geared towards automotive repair, and that downtown is not the vibrant, walkable and charming environment that is has the potential to be. Another major challenge in the downtown sub-area is the impact of potential flooding from Turkey Creek. Flooding events in the past have damaged properties repeatedly and with continued delays in flood mitigation efforts, investment in downtown has been hindered.

Former Lee Jean's Headquarters

Located on West 67th Street, the former headquarters for Lee Jean’s has been vacant since 2019. This site was selected as the third sub-area because it has the potential to be re-imagined to serve some of the many needs in Merriam including housing, offices or other services.


Transportation and Mobility

The transportation network of Merriam today is multimodal in nature with excellent access to amenities in the city as well as the greater Kansas City metro area. Interstate 35 provides many benefits to Merriam’s residents, businesses and daily visitors, but also presents several challenges to safe and connected mobility, essentially dividing the community in half from north to south. This section will briefly identify current conditions of the complete, multimodal transportation system in Merriam that includes roadways, trails, sidewalks, and public transit, and will identify challenges and opportunities that will shape recommendations and targeted goals for the improvement of mobility in Merriam in the decades to come. 

Major chapter themes: 

  • Improve traffic safety in Merriam
  • Improve pedestrian and bicycle mobility and safety in Merriam
  • Promote transit utilization and improve key transit corridors


Promoting Prosperity

What does it mean for a smaller, land-locked city in a major metropolitan area to be economically healthy? Increasingly prosperous residents, thriving local businesses, growing opportunity for quality jobs, and fiscal soundness are common economic goals for most municipalities – and all worth pursuing for Merriam. Promoting prosperity means creating the conditions and meeting standards for quality of life that allow residents and businesses to thrive. An economic development strategy in a community like Merriam should not just be “get more jobs” – Merriam’s prosperity strategy must be more holistic and address retail, office uses, housing, sustainability and other quality of life factors. This chapter details Merriam specific opportunities and challenges to achieving prosperity and outlines a set of strategies to address these areas.

Major chapter themes:

  • Promote small city economic vitality
  • Support and sustain quality mixed-use commercial activity centers
  • Continue to prioritize redevelopment sites throughout Merriam
  • Evolve and adapt to the changing retail landscape
  • Highlight and enhance Merriam's housing choice and diversity
  • Protect and preserve office employment as changes in demand and supply evolve


Sustainable Development

There are many definitions of sustainable development, but one of the most common ones comes from the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) which states, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Typically, sustainable development is framed within three lenses: the environment, the economy and equity. Sustainable growth and development should strike an overall balance between all three when decision-making. For instance, it may be best for the environment if all gas combustible engines were banned immediately. However, there is a high economic cost to such a sudden and unphased approach to change. Further, many low-income residents without adequate access to public transit may be left stranded and could lose their jobs. A more nuanced, holistic approach to decision-making is the most sustainable approach. This chapter identifies sustainable areas Merriam should consider.

Major chapter themes:

  • Implement strategies to promote harmony with nature in Merriam
  • Support an equitable quality of life for all Merriam residents
  • Partake in and promote regional cooperation and planning in Johnson County
  • Plan for a future-oriented mobility and transportation system
  • Strive for a livable built environment with a healthy and resilient mix of land uses


Creating Place

Creating Place deals with the livability and quality of life within Merriam through strategic and thoughtful land use decisions. Planning for the physical aspects of a community through policy results in a valuable return on investment in the form of long-term social, equitable and environmental benefits. The policies of this chapter focus on the lives of those who live, work, and visit Merriam, by creating a framework for high quality design, equal access to city services and amenities, and sustaining healthy and diverse neighborhoods. Creating Place touches on all of the 2040 goals and this chapter outlines the strategies that Merriam can implement to create unique, livable and vibrant places throughout the community. As the practical application of these ideas, this chapter will present strategic opportunities for creating places and defining future land use opportunities.

Major chapter themes:

  • Foster sustained community engagement and empowerment
  • Connect cultural amenities in Merriam
  • Provide equal access throughout Merriam
  • Encourage quality, active public spaces
  • Rethink how to organize and design spaces
  • Support diverse housing options in Merriam
  • Encourage high-quality architecture, design and materials
  • Existing Land Use + Future Land Use Maps


Future Land Use Plan

Future land use plans show the preferred future land uses of a community as determined by the comprehensive planning process and input from residents, steering committee members and city officials. This plan lays out a vision for the community and can assist the city making decisions regarding re-zoning efforts or proposed redevelopments. For a built out city like Merriam, the future land use plan will indicate what currently exists within an area but will also highlight areas where new developments or redevelopments should occur. A future land use plan does not replace zoning or make properties out of compliance. Rather, it indicates what could be if an area were to redevelop or develop for the first time.

Future Land Use Plan(PDF, 236KB)



Implementation provides a summary of all the goals and action items identified within Section 2 of the Merriam Comprehensive Plan 2040. The implementation goals are divided by the seven chapter headings under which they are listed.

Section items:

  • Goals can be defined as objectives or aims which may be broad or specific.
  • Action items can be defined as specific steps and activities the City should take.

Each year, Merriam should review the implementation section to evaluate what, if any, action items have been accomplished. Likewise, this annual review may also reveal action items that need to be amended or added due to previously unknown conditions or new opportunities. These action items should help inform decisions made in regards to Capital Improvement Plans and other initiatives taken by the City through the year 2040 and beyond.