A preliminary site plan for the latest of many Mission Gateway proposals earned the approval of the Mission Planning Commission on Monday night.
The suburb’s planning commission gave the Walmart-anchored mixed-use development at Johnson Drive and Shawnee Mission Parkway a unanimous recommendation for approval after nearly two hours of discussion. The preliminary site plan now moves to the Mission City Council for its decision.
The Cameron Group, a development firm out of Syracuse, N.Y., has owned the 16 acre site and sought to develop it for more than a decade. The current version envisions a 155,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter as the dominant retail presence at Mission Gateway.
The plan includes smaller retail outlets, some restaurants and an Aloft hotel concept that would include 150 boutique rooms and 50 extended-stay room.
One of the more unique aspects of the Cameron Group’s proposal is 74 studio and one-bedroom apartments planned to go on top of the Walmart store.
The idea isn’t entirely unprecedented. Fort Totten Square, a mixed-use development in Washington D.C., features apartments built atop of a smaller Walmart store than the one planned for Mission Gateway.
In all, Mission Gateway contemplates having 274 apartments, which Cameron Group principal Tom Valenti said would be market rate.
“They will hopefully compete with residential units at the Plaza,” Valenti told planning commissioners. “A price point a little less than the Plaza, but that kind of quality.”
The Mission Planning Commission had a few technical questions about Valenti’s plan, but generally found that it conformed with Mission’s zoning codes that govern mixed-use developments.
Mission leaders earlier in the year wondered whether the zoning for the Mission Gateway site allowed for as large a Walmart as Valenti proposed. Indeed, zoning codes suggest that big-box retailers shouldn’t exceed a 50,000-square-foot footprint in mixed-use developments like Mission Gateway.
But Pete Heaven, a Lathrop & Gage land use attorney who represents Mission, told the planning commission that it has the discretion to approve larger structures if they find such a store meets the intent and spirit of the city’s zoning codes.
Barbara Porro, a Mission resident, expressed reservations about Walmart planning to operate on a 24-hour basis at Mission Gateway.
“Way back when it was the Mission Mall, it was closed at 10:30,” Porro said at the planning commission meeting. “Now there’s going to be even more residential...The idea of a 24-hour Walmart is not very compatible with residential as far as I can see.”
Valenti responded that the matter was Walmart’s decision and not something he could control.
Walmart’s hours of operation did not fall under the planning commission’s purview. Generally, planning commissions make decisions based on whether development proposals meet zoning and land use codes. City councils don’t often deviate from planning commission recommendations.
Monday’s decision won’t mean that Mission Gateway has the go-ahead to start construction. If the Mission City Council approves Valenti’s preliminary site plan, he will return to the planning commission for a final site plan. It’s expected that Valenti may seek public financing to assist with the project, which will require another round of approval from the Mission City Council.