Northeast Joco

July 17, 2014

Mission council OKs $9 million development plus taxing district

Mission, meet your newest retail development: Cornerstone Commons and its first tenants, Natural Grocers, Potbelly Sandwich Shop and Pie Five.

Mission, meet your newest retail development: Cornerstone Commons and its first tenants, Natural Grocers, Potbelly Sandwich Shop and Pie Five.

The Mission City Council on Wednesday night approved a plan put forward by Christie Development Associates of Overland Park for the $9 million development, which will contain about 33,000 square feet in three freestanding buildings on three acres at 6819 Johnson Drive.

The Keystone car dealership formerly occupied the site. Its two buildings will be razed.

The three signed tenants will occupy a total of about 20,000 square feet, said David Christie, managing member of Christie Development Associates LLC, the project’s developer.

Natural Grocers will be the development’s anchor tenant. It will occupy about 15,000 square feet and employ about 25 people. Potbelly and Pie Five will employ several dozen people combined and share a 4,500-square-foot building, Christie said.

Natural Grocers focuses on organic produce and other healthful food and products. It has three Kansas City-area stores, in Olathe, Overland Park and Shawnee.

Potbelly’s fare includes toasted sandwiches, salads, soups and side dishes, milkshakes and fresh-baked cookies. It has two area locations, in Overland Park and on the Country Club Plaza.

Pie Five makes customized personal pizzas in five minutes. It has two Kansas City-area locations, in Overland Park and Lenexa.

Christie said he is in talks with potential tenants to occupy the project’s remaining space. He plans to start construction immediately and have the tenants doing business by August 2015.

The council approved the creation of a community improvement district for the project, which will levy a 1 percent sales tax on all retail sales within the district. The council also approved $1.5 million in incentives for the developer, plus 7 percent annual interest for eligible project costs.

Such incentives and tax increases are necessary because “the state of Kansas is pushing these communities so hard with less funding,” Christie said. Mission has a daytime population of 43,000 but has 7,000 residents, he said, making economic development a logical focus area.

But retired Mission resident Bill Nichols opposes the creation of a CID for the project.

“I’m not happy with the CID — any CID — because the taxpayers usually don’t know they’re paying for it,” Nichols said. “But we need (some kind of retail development) there.”

The City Council also approved an amendment to Mission’s form-based code that waived the requirement of civic space — a park, in this case — as part of a development. Ward II Councilwoman Amy Miller said she thought it was in the city’s better interest to waive the requirement and have the development, which fronts on Johnson Drive, focus solely on economic activity.

Ward I Councilman Steven Lucas cast the lone vote against amending the code, which he said “sets a bad precedent.”

“We want to create a comprehensive plan that includes community involvement,” Lucas said. “We amended the form-based code tonight for the entire West Gateway district. I’m not against the project at all, but it’s important that the community planning process has some teeth.”

The council’s code amendment was rare, he said, and the council owes Mission’s residents transparency.

“We need to go back to the public and ask again, ‘This is what we did, and are you OK with it?’ It’s really important to update the comprehensive plan (from time to time),” he said, adding that the council may do that sometime next year.

Mission planning commission member Scott Babcock said the form-based code “has hurt the city because it requires things that the market won’t bear,” such as a requirement that at least 80 percent of new commercial buildings on sites as big as three acres must have multiple stories.

“The purpose was to give that urban feel to Mission,” Babcock said.

The city’s form-based code addresses visual, aesthetic elements of developments, Lucas said. It also addresses numerous other logistical elements, Babcock said.

Also Wednesday, the council approved charging the CID $25,000 as an administration fee on the project to fund installation of crossing signals on Johnson Drive at Woodson, Beverly and Reeds streets, and for other uses on the project.

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