A plan to redevelop the Metcalf South Shopping Center and former Kmart center in the heart of Overland Park is off the table.
Lane4 Property Group and the Kroenke Group said Wednesday that they “regretfully” withdrew their $324 million Central Square redevelopment plan from consideration by the city of Overland Park.
“The whole situation got very negative, and it was time to move on,” Lane4 co-developer Owen Buckley said.
The developers, who also co-own the property, had proposed a 60-acre redevelopment project for the site at 95th and Metcalf.
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The once-prime retail intersection for Johnson County, developed in 1967, has been fading for about two decades. It now is home to an empty mall on the south side of 95th Street and a vacant strip center on the north side.
The developers, who bought the properties in 2014, had proposed razing the mall and strip center and replacing them with a project that included about 530,000 square feet of retail space, 40,000 square feet of office space, and 575 multifamily residential units among outdoor gathering areas, walking trails and paths, and landscaping.
But the overall plan, which included one unspecified big-box store, didn’t fit with the vision preferred by city planners for Overland Park.
“We believe our views regarding this project, the process and the realities of today’s marketplace are too far apart from those of the city,” the developers said in a news release.
The project had not been voted on by the city’s Planning Commission or City Council. But Overland Park’s planning staff had recommended denying the plan because of what it described as a “predominantly suburban layout” that included a big-box store — the size of a Wal-Mart or Target store — and a large surface parking lot.
The last meeting on the project, held with the plan commission Aug. 10, ended with a request for continuance from the developers.
“I am very disappointed and sorry it did not work out,” said Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach. “This is a very large proposed redevelopment project, the largest along Metcalf Avenue. … It is always a challenge to balance the vision of a developer with city and public interests.”
Gerlach said he hoped that “in the future we can reconvene with the developer of Central Square and discuss various possibilities.”
The ownership group doesn’t know what its plans for the property will be, Buckley said.
“But we’re not going to promise something we know we can’t successfully deliver,” he said.
Lane4 representatives had held several neighborhood meetings, starting in 2014, and generally received backing to redevelop the sites. But, given the big-box sticking point, Buckley said the support wasn’t enough to proceed.
Some public discussion had centered on the possibility that the big retailer could be a Wal-Mart property. The speculation was fueled because property co-owner Stan Kroenke is part of the Wal-Mart founder’s family.
“Our policy is not to talk about retailers while we are working on a project,” Buckley said. “Now that it’s over, I can say we weren’t talking to Wal-Mart.”
Buckley had said in an interview in July that a big-box store was essential to draw the retail traffic necessary to support the rest of the redevelopment project. The big store was planned for 177,000 square feet on the current parking lot north of the former Macy’s store at Metcalf South Shopping Center.
Some neighbors said they opposed the kind of traffic a big-box retailer would draw, and city planners said it didn’t fit with the city’s Vision Metcalf ideas for less surface parking and more walkable projects.
The developers, operating under the name 95 Metcalf Properties Inc., had asked Overland Park for tax incentives to cover about 22 percent of the project cost through tax increment financing and a Community Improvement District sales tax within the Central Square boundaries.
In March, the City Council unanimously approved creating a redevelopment district for the Central Square project.
The developers said from the outset that they believed their project design married Vision Metcalf to financial realities. They had aimed to break ground in spring 2016 for what they called a “gathering place” and “a community center where people could shop, eat, and be with friends or clients.”
The Sears store, which remains open at the south end of the Metcalf South Shopping Center, is not a part of Central Square property.