Doug Weltner has long wanted to develop a high-profile Westport parking lot he owns.
Now plans are in the works for two small retail buildings on the lot, in the heart of Westport between Pennsylvania Avenue and Mill Street. But the project will mean the loss of key parking spaces, much to the ire of some Westport merchants.
Weltner’s project calls for a 3,000-square-foot building — by Harry’s Bar and Tables — to be home for the city’s first Insomnia Cookies shop as well as a Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe. Another new 3,500-square-foot building, on the corner of Westport Road and Mill Street, will be for Qdoba Mexican Grill, Weltner said.
“We’re excited,” Weltner said. “Obviously Westport is on a big upswing and I think it is positive that we have three national restaurants that want to be in Westport. It’s a great location and we were waiting for the right fit.”
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Construction is scheduled to start later this week. Late summer/early fall openings are planned for the three establishments. Weltner said the project also calls for trash receptacles to be enclosed, the parking lot resurfaced and landscaping added.
The new tenants:
▪ Insomnia Cookies, according to the company’s website, was founded in a college dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003. It now has more than 50 locations, mostly on the east coast. But it is expanding into the Midwest, including one that recently opened in St. Louis.
The shops are open late and also deliver their products — warm cookies, brownies, cookie cakes, frozen desserts and cold milk to homes and offices. Catering services also are available.
Cookie flavors include double chocolate mint, Snickerdoodle, S’mores Deluxe, oatmeal raisin, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup and white chocolate macadamia.
Officials with Insomnia Cookies could not be reached for comment about the Westport location.
▪ Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe, a chain known for its toasted sandwiches, as well as pizzas, soups, salads and desserts, will open next to Insomnia Cookies.
“We are really successful in Columbia and Waldo with the late night crowd. So we will do a great lunch, great dinner and great late night,” said Jordan Starke, area franchise. “We are one of the few options open that late. I think it will be my busiest place in Kansas City.”
Starke owns four area restaurants and three in Columbia, Mo.
▪ Qdoba Mexican Grill returns to the Kansas City market with a freestanding building at 505 Westport Road. Qdoba, which was founded in Denver in 1995, specializes in customizable Mexican entrées. It now has more than 600 restaurants in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. It is a subsidiary of Jack in the Box Inc.
A franchise group had previously operated area locations, but closed their last operation in Lawrence in early 2007, according to Qdoba officials.
Qdoba is targeting an early fall opening in Westport. It also plans to open two or three other area locations around the same time but did not release information on those locations. It could have as many as 8 to 10 area restaurants by 2016, all company-owned.
Weltner has envisioned buildings on the parking lot before. A proposal in late 2002 called for ground-floor retail, two levels of parking and 14 condominiums.
While he has greatly scaled back those plans, some Westport merchants and property owners still have concerns. The two new buildings take away about 30 parking spaces, while the remaining 45 spaces in the lot will be mostly needed for the three new tenants.
The Westport Regional Business League, a group of local businesses and property owners, has been leasing the parking lot from Weltner for several years. A spokesman for the organization declined to comment on the parking situation.
However longtime Westport property and business owner Bill Nigro voiced his concerns. “Doug Weltner knows full well that parking has been a problem,” Nigro said. “If anyone takes parking away they should replace it. And they are going to be doing construction by some the oldest soft brick buildings in Kansas City.”
Weltner said: “There will not be any harm done to any of these buildings.”
Operations like Buzzard Beach and Eat Me Gourmet face the backside of the parking lot but currently can be seen from Westport Road. But the view to the establishments will be somewhat blocked when the new buildings go up, which could cut into their sales.
And while some Westport tenants said they welcome the additions to the neighborhood, others wish they were more in keeping with Westport’s tradition of mom-and-pop operators.
“I’m surprised he wants to put a couple of fast food chains in the oldest part of Kansas City, across the street from Kelly’s and by Harry’s, two of our flagship places,” Nigro said.
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