A plan to demolish the mostly empty Metcalf South mall and put in a Lowe’s home improvement store got unanimous approval from the Overland Park City Council on Monday night.
The decision puts the project on track for demolition of one of the area’s oldest shopping centers in November. The Lowe’s store would open in spring 2018.
The preliminary plan calls for the 600,000-square-foot mall to be razed. The Sears store, which abuts it on the south side, would remain and is not a part of the plan.
Lowe’s, with a 165,000-square-foot building and garden center, would be the largest store on the site. The $80 million development plan calls for eventually including 15 buildings with fast-food outlets and other retail.
The council’s action was on the preliminary plan. A more detailed final plan will be considered in October before clearing the site and construction can begin.
The 305,000 square feet of new development on 30 acres is about half of what existed before, but developers said the excitement of action would drive further redevelopment.
Council members and several nearby homeowners were generally enthusiastic about a plan to get something going at what has been termed a blighted area at the intersection of Metcalf Avenue and 95th Street.
However, there was some discussion about how a big-box retail outlet fits with the city’s Vision Metcalf, a set of development guidelines designed to encourage pedestrian access and mixed use. According to Vision Metcalf, the area would have structured parking, two-story buildings and an internal grid traffic pattern.
The object was to promote more walkable shopping areas and mixed use, and is part of a nationwide trend.
Council member Paul Lyons said he has heard from concerned residents. “I received emails and some calls from some who were very passionate about Vision Metcalf and felt we should deny this because it doesn’t sufficiently meet the whole Vision Metcalf plan,” Lyons said.
However, a number of things stacked up to make it difficult to impose Vision Metcalf guidelines in this case, he said. The redevelopment plan doesn’t call for a rezoning and does not ask for any public financing.
“So to me, the leverage that we would otherwise have in persuading development to meet certain Vision Metcalf guidelines kind of goes away when there’s not an incentive associated with it,” he said.
Council member Curt Skoog also mentioned Vision Metcalf, but said he would support the development plan because the layout, with its sidewalks to the stores, leaves the potential for the area to come more into line with Vision Metcalf in the future.
The development plan has the support of most of the nearest neighbors, however.
Mark Sutton, president of the Nall Hills Homeowners Association, testified in its favor as did several other neighbors. Richard Tevis said he prefers the latest plan because of its convenience for driving.
The property is being developed by 95 Metcalf Properties Inc., a partnership of Lane4 Property Group and the Kroenke Group, which bought the mall site two years ago. An earlier mixed-use plan with an unnamed big-box store was withdrawn after it failed to get a green light from the city planning commission.
In the interim, developers have done extensive research to see what type of plan could succeed, said Korb Maxwell, a lawyer representing the developers.
“We have turned over every single rock of the uses” for that site, he said. “This plan has a market and is ready to go.”
“This property has been for decades underutilized and for over a year and a half it has been vacant” except for the Sears store, he said. “We are working today to create a bright new future at this intersection to return it to the prominence it deserves in this city.”