The Overland Park City Council supported a development plan and incentives Monday for a struggling shopping center at the northwest corner of 93rd and Metcalf Avenue, just east of the New Theatre Restaurant.
But the elected leaders also expressed frustrations that the cosmetic improvements don’t do enough to promote the city’s pedestrian- and bike-friendly agenda.
On its last meeting of the current term, the council unanimously supported plans for a multimillion-dollar facelift to the Regency Park Shopping Center.
The development, by an affiliate of Mission Peak Capital, calls for significant exterior renovations to the Michaels store at 9290 Metcalf, the Micro Center at 9294 Metcalf and the Natural Grocers at 9108 Metcalf, as well as smaller shops in the center.
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Plans also call for a 5,000-square-foot new building north of 93rd Street at Metcalf that would be suitable for a restaurant. The improvements are designed by BRR Architecture.
The development does not include the currently closed Macaroni Grill building, the School of Rock, or the New Theatre Restaurant at 9229 Foster St.
But the New Theatre’s owners are enthusiastic about the improvements to the aging center and think it will benefit the whole area, development attorney John Petersen told the council.
The Council approved creation of a community improvement district, with a 1-cent sales tax increase that takes effect April 1, 2018, intended to assist with the redevelopment.
The total estimated project cost is $30.4 million, with private investment estimated at $23 million. The maximum CID reimbursement would be $7.35 million over 22 years. The council also approved the issuance of $8.5 million in private activity bonds, with a sales tax exemption that would generate an estimated $770,000 savings in construction costs.
Supporters argued the improvements support the Vision Metcalf plan for a revitalized Metcalf Avenue corridor. They said the facade improvements, with more modern materials and finishes, are needed to make the retail offerings more appealing to retail tenants. Currently about 20 percent of the retail spaces are vacant.
The retail component is also intended to capitalize on 420 new apartment units going in at the Promontory development, from 89th to 91st streets just east of Metcalf.
But Overland Park resident Melissa Cheatham, who lives southeast of the proposed development and shops at the center, testified against the taxpayer support for the plan.
She said Vision Metcalf imagined “a series of unique destinations” and places “making walking easy, desirable and convenient.” The development does none of that, while making just cosmetic changes to the stores, she argued.
“Many Overland Park residents are growing wary of the use of public financing for private development,” she said, adding that such public financing should be used for “outstanding projects.”
“I hope the city will work with the developer to improve access to the place for pedestrians and bicyclists,” she told the council. “Let’s be sure that the hundreds of residents moving in to new apartments up and down Metcalf don’t have to drive in order to shop down the block.”
While Cheatham was the only resident to testify, several council members took her comments to heart. Councilman Curt Skoog wished for better sidewalks and pedestrian crossings and asked that the developer consider more of those amenities.
Councilman Paul Lyons, who lives in a neighborhood northwest of the New Theatre Restaurant, said he supported the project but agreed it would preferable to see more pedestrian access to the shops.
Petersen said if the retail center were being designed today, it would be much more pedestrian-friendly. But it was designed in the 1980s, he said, with a vast swath of parking spaces that constrain any redevelopment.
The proposal does include sidewalk improvements along Metcalf Avenue, connecting to a crosswalk for the existing Natural Grocers. It also includes more planters and landscaping, as well as seven more street trees along Metcalf Avenue and 16 additional trees along 93rd Street. Plus, 52 new shade trees would be provided in parking lot islands throughout the site, adding to 35 existing trees.
Councilman Richard Collins acknowledged that walkability was key to Vision Metcalf, but said that is difficult to achieve in this section of Metcalf.
In the end, the entire council supported the project and the tax incentives as necessary to halt further deterioration at the center. Construction is expected to begin in the spring and be completed within nine months.
In other action, the council scheduled a hearing for its meeting at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 22, to take public comment on a proposed tax increment financing plan for downtown Overland Park’s Edison OP mixed-use development proposal, which has drawn some neighborhood opposition.