Residents near the corner of Quivira Road and 75th Street in Shawnee have taken a closer look at the mostly empty Westbrooke Village Shopping Center. And they don’t like what they see lately.
Big broken panes of storefront window, glass all over the sidewalks and plywood-boarded windows dotting the streetscape. Add on tattered, rotting or missing awnings and graffiti.
No doubt about it, say neighbors and city officials. Westbrooke Village has become more than an eyesore. It’s now dangerous.
But would the city be willing to help finance redevelopment that puts retail and 508 apartments there? And would residents be willing to put up with all those new neighbors and their noise?
Those are questions the city council is considering, now that new proposal is being floated to revamp the beleaguered block.
The plan is only in its early stages, so few details have been made public. But developer MP Westbrooke North LLC has been in talks with the city Economic Development Council and staff to explore a mixed-use 101,300 square feet space of retail, restaurants and 508 apartment units, plus a parking structure.
Eventually, the developer plans to ask for tax increment financing and a community improvement taxing district to help pay for the costs of the project.
Council members approved the first step of that process when they agreed to accept $20,000 of the developer’s money to pay for the analysis and paperwork leading up to any tax-incentive proposal.
Some neighbors, however, were skeptical. Five who spoke out at the council meeting questioned the need for more apartments, which they feared would be low-quality for low-income tenants.
William Service said the city should concentrate on better housing akin to the new WaterSide residences down Quivira in Lenexa.
“We have enough lower quality apartments,” he said. He also said the city should exclude gun shops, tattoo parlors, payday loans and abortion clinics from the retail part of the center.
Mike Pezza said the development could “subtract value” from Shawnee. “I think this development will increase crime. I think it will increase traffic congestion near two school zones,” he said, while also urging a no vote on any tax incentives.
Others said they didn’t look forward to the noise of new retail and residents. The 90-percent-empty center has at least been quiet, they said.
But some council members argued that it’s unrealistic to expect the bedraggled center to be redeveloped without some taxpayer help. And there are already a lot of apartments in the general area, they said.
Mayor Michelle Distler said the city will work with police.
“The last thing we want to do is increase crime in this city,” she said. As for the property values, “If there’s anything hurting your property, it’s the current state.”
Lawyer Curtis Holland, representing the developer, said it’s still far too early to have worked out the details neighbors were asking for. The council’s action only allows the developer to begin planning.
“Doing nothing doesn’t seem to be what the community wants to do and we don’t want to continue to have (the property) fall into disrepair,” he said. “Our goal is to try to improve the area.”
The Westbrooke center has been a problem for years. It was built in the 1980s with a Dillon’s grocery as a major anchor. But that store closed in 2008, followed by several others in 2011.
There was talk of a deal with Menards in 2014, but that fell through. The property was put on the auction block and sold for $4.6 million near the end of last year. The new owner is Mission Peak Capital of Kansas City.
In other action, the council on Sept. 11 voted to extend the special use permit for one year for Deffenbaugh Industries to operate the landfill.
The permit extension has been the subject of ongoing talks because of odor complaints last year. There were 235 complaints in 2016, prompting stern warnings from the city, which ordered an independent study of the possible reasons for the odors.
Since then, Deffenbaugh has addressed many of the issues by stepping up installation of a system to collect gas from the decomposing matter and by purchasing a new grinder to deal with compost, said city staff.
But a spike of 43 complaints from Aug. 15 through Sept. 5 caused some debate over the length of the permit extension. Council member Stephanie Meyer, whose ward is close to the landfill, argued for a six-month extension, given the recent spike.
Her motion was voted down. But the one-year extension that was approved will include a report on odor control at six months.