The Overland Park Planning Commission voted 6-4 in favor of a proposal to scrape the dead Metcalf South Mall off the city’s map and replace it with a new retail center.
Monday’s vote is the first step for a proposal that would put a 165,000-square-foot Lowe’s Home Improvement store at the southeast corner of 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue, along with 14 other new buildings with unannounced tenants. All told, it would bring 305,090 square feet of new development.
The Sears store on the southern portion of the property remains open, but all other business at Metcalf South Mall shuttered.
Kansas City’s Lane4 Property Group, along with The Kroenke Group, bought the Metcalf South Mall site two years ago. A larger, mixed-use plan brought forth by the developers last year was withdrawn and never made it before the Overland Park City Council after the Planning Commission recommended its denial. That plan, which included an unidentified big-box retailer, couldn’t gather support.
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This one, however, has so far.
“I like this plan a lot better than the plan that was withdrawn,” said Michael Flanagan, a planning commissioner.
The preliminary site plan now goes before the City Council, which also will have to approve a final site plan and platting for the development before it can be built. The plan, with a rough cost estimate of $80 million, will not seek public incentives.
Monday’s discussion at Overland Park City Hall featured pulling and tugging about the relevancy of Vision Metcalf. Overland Park government and residents about 10 years ago discussed how the Metcalf corridor should redevelop over time, giving the city the Vision Metcalf planning document.
For the old Metcalf South Mall site, Vision Metcalf contemplated a regional shopping center that included mixed uses, structured parking and a development layout friendly to pedestrians, among other things.
Overland Park planning staffers, while acknowledging that the Lowe’s-anchored plan didn’t fit entirely with Vision Metcalf, recommended its approval. Some planning commission members thought the new plan represented a departure from that concept.
Jamie Thacker, a planning commissioner who recalled traveling from the Northland to shop at Metcalf South during its heyday, said the current proposal was “more of the same.”
“What I see today and what we saw last August isn’t really an experience,” Thacker said.
Owen Buckley, a principal with Lane4, said the economy and the marketplace for development has changed in the years since Vision Metcalf went into effect.
“Vision Metcalf started a decade ago,” Buckley said after the meeting. “So many things have changed since then.”
Korb Maxwell, a Polsinelli lawyer representing Lane4 and Kroenke, said the development team sought input from office, retail and multifamily brokers to determine interest in the old mall site.
“This is being done by and for the market,” Maxwell said.
Buckley’s plan had neighborhood support on its side. All the speakers at the public hearing, many of them nearby residents, welcomed the latest proposal.
“What we got now is nothing,” said Richard Tevis, who lives near Metcalf South. “Why are we not moving forward? Why is Vision Metcalf such a stumbling block? I like this plan.”
He went on: “It’s not perfect, it’s not Vision Metcalf, but to tell you the truth, Vision Metcalf is kind of a unicorn.”
That sentiment seemed to win the day on the Planning Commission.
“I’d rather have this,” said planning commissioner Bob Gadd, “than what’s there now.”