November 25, 2013

Johnson County super-suburban developer has soft spot for foster kids

Darol Rodrock, who likes to boast that 30,000 people in Johnson County live in subdivisions he has developed over his almost 40 years in the business, continues to feed the appetite for big houses on the edge of suburban Johnson County, but he hasn’t forgotten his troubled roots shuffling through foster care.

Darol Rodrock likes to boast that 30,000 people in Johnson County live in subdivisions he has developed over his almost 40 years in the business.

And at a recent real estate event held by the Polsinelli law firm, he was a fish out of water on a residential panel whose other members were all about apartments. Rodrock, 69, is not a guy to preach the virtues of infill development or the growing renter-by-choice market.

“I still see a strong demand for single-family in Johnson County,” said Rodrock, whose gruff demeanor hearkens to his earlier career as a champion wrestling coach at Shawnee Mission West High School. “People still want four bedrooms, 31/2 baths and three-car garages.”

No, this man is all about pushing the suburban sprawl envelope.

He’s preparing to launch his final masterpiece next October, a 400-acre subdivision at 175th Street and Kenneth Road that will accommodate 1,000 houses. It’ll have his trademark “small-town” feel with clubhouses, pools and campgrounds — and homes worth $400,000 to $700,000.

“It’s the prettiest piece of ground to be developed in the Blue Valley and Overland Park area — one of the prettiest I’ve done,” Rodrock said.

“I still think there’s a tremendous demand in the Blue Valley School District and also Olathe. Johnson County schools are second to none in the U.S.”

But this bigger-than-life character — he also loves raising quarter horses and has won several awards — has a very soft spot tied to a very troubled childhood.

Rodrock, a native of Winfield, Kan., was raised, if you can call it that, bouncing between orphanages and foster homes. He and his two sisters and brother wound up in an orphanage after the state took them from their biological parents because of abuse.

“We were in and out of orphanages. It was an extremely dysfunctional childhood,” Rodrock said. “I lived with foster parents in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. I was kicked around quite a bit.”

He also said he was beaten.

Rodrock has moved on and wants to help what he estimates as 4,500 children in the metropolitan area who need foster care.

So he invited singer Kenny Loggins of “Footloose” fame to entertain at his 70th birthday party Jan. 17 at the Overland Park Convention Center. The purpose is to raise money for the vehicle he has established to benefit foster children, the Darol Rodrock Foundation.

Loggins will perform with the rest of the Blue Sky Riders, Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr. The $100-per-ticket event includes dinner and an auction. He hopes to raise $500,000. A foundation board has been established, but how the money will be allocated is yet to be decided.

Rodrock said his desire to help foster kids is a continuation of his own healing that allowed him to move beyond an awful childhood to success as an adult in business and beyond.

“I don’t carry any judgment,” he said. “My philosophy is, I’m grateful for this day.

“We can all live in the shadow of what our parents did to us or choose to live our own life.”

There’s more information about what’s being called the “I Can and I Will” fundraiser available at



Another part of Rodrock’s legacy will be the subdivision at 175th and Kenneth near State Line Road, which he said would be his last hurrah as a developer. He predicted Johnson County would continue growing southward because of the huge new Logistics Park Kansas City intermodal center developed by BNSF Railway in Edgerton.

The new distribution center, where BNSF trains will transfer containers from West Coast ports to warehouses and trucks at the 1,500-acre development, is expected to created thousands of jobs.

“The intermodal complex will be a phenomenal growth opportunity for this city,” he predicted.

On another note, some urban news came out of the real estate panel that Rodrock sat on.

Nick Benjamin, executive director of the Power Light District, said the latest timetable for the 25-story, 311-unit “One Light” apartment tower that the Cordish Co. plans for 13th and Walnut streets calls for a January start, and the renovation of the Midland building at 13th Street and Baltimore Avenue into 68 apartments is expected to begin in mid-2014.

Work on both projects, which were announced in 2012, had been expected to start several months ago but got pushed back.

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