In a move that’s bound to give fodder to those who think eminent domain is the devil’s development tool, little Mission Woods in northeast Johnson County wants to condemn an office building on Shawnee Mission Parkway to help out B.A. Karbank & Co.
How such a powerful development tool is held in the arsenal of a community so small (population 180) that its City Council borrows meeting space from nearby little Westwood is a subject for debate.
But this big swing at condemnation at the request of Karbank has the owners of the building at 1968 Shawnee Mission Parkway and the half acre it sits on pretty upset. They also say nobody informed them until they found out inadvertently while filing renovation plans for their building.
“We feel it’s un-American and corporate greed coming after us,” said Mary Ann McTigue, whose family has owned the land the building sets on for 50 years.
Spencer Thomson, the attorney representing the building owner, Pat Hayes, said, “We believe the City of Mission Woods is effectively violating Kansas law. They have no legitimate basis for taking it we intend to fight it.”
Regardless of what you think of eminent domain, this has got to be one of the more scratch-your-head “redevelopment plans” in the metropolitan area —tearing down one of your only four commercial buildings and removing it from the tax roll.
But it has intrigued Mission Woods officials enough to consider condemnation since at least last October. That’s when Steve Karbank, chairman of the real estate brokerage firm, pitched the idea at a council meeting, according to the minutes.
A little background:
Last summer I wrote about how Karbank had purchased a bland 1960s-era office building at 2000 Shawnee Mission Parkway with plans to rebuild it as a very contemporary glass showcase. It’s been renamed the Barney in honor of his late father, one of the greats of Kansas City real estate.
Karbank loved the location just up the hill from the Country Club Plaza where the parkway enters Kansas, and the project is almost finished. He liked the area so much that last fall the company purchased the former Layne Christensen building at 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, also of 1960s vintage, with a similar plan to remodel it.
Well, guess what building lies between the two new Karbank properties? Let’s go to the official minutes of the Mission Woods City Council’s October meeting:
“Between the 2000 and 1900 buildings is the 1968 building,” the minutes stated “The Karbanks are puzzled as to why ‘it is the way it is.’
“Karbank proposes to replace the building with something that would make the city and the Karbank’s proud,” the minutes went on to report. “Their belief is that if both sides of 1968 are renovated, to have a beat up building in the center would do a disservice for the city.”
And to sweeten the proposition, the Karbanks are offering to cover the cost of Mission Woods condemning and acquiring the supposed eyesore, starting with a $25,000 check to the city’s account as soon as the council approved, according to a proposed acquisition agreement.
What it would be replaced with is fuzzy, but it would be for a “public purpose” and owned by the city. The council has passed an ordinance calling for it to be a park.
Thomson said the Karbanks never made an offer privately to buy the property and the building from its owner.
“It’s clear he’s looking for free parking and wants to get rid of the competition,” Thomson said.
When asked whether his company had made an offer to buy the property, Steve Karbank replied Monday: “The city is not doing it for our benefit. The city is proposing this for its own public purpose. Not for us.”
Nobody is saying 1968 Shawnee Mission Parkway is in great shape. The 10,000-square-foot building has been empty for 10 years and has an assessed value of $640,000. In its acquisition agreement, the city described it as being in “ill repair.” Thomson said the owner has put together a redevelopment budget that calls for just under $1 million to be spent on fixing up the building.
Mission Woods Mayor Robert Tietze said the council planned to continue its consideration of the condemnation proposal at its regular meeting tonight.
“We entered into talks to acquire 1968 Shawnee Mission Parkway,” Tietze said. “At this point, I wouldn’t say it’s a done deal.”
By the way, the fourth office building in Mission Woods is Country Club Bank at 2001 Shawnee Mission Parkway. And thanks to the Prairie Village Post for originally reporting about this eminent domain plan.