Part of the aging Olathe Station shopping center on South Strang Line Road is getting a $25.8 million facelift.
Scott Taubin, senior vice president for the R.H. Johnson Co., told the Olathe City Council Tuesday night that a subsidiary of the company has purchased the section at the southeast corner of South Strang Line Road off 119th Street and South Strang Line Court and plans to add a 122-room hotel, replace some of the commercial buildings and generally freshen up the look of the late-1990s development.
“We are stoked about this project,” Taubin said.
The developers, operating as Holmes 111 LC, plan to demolish the former Cosmic Jump indoor trampoline park building at the northwest corner of the property to make way for a 10,000-square-foot restaurant and a 4,000-square-foot restaurant. They are already doing extensive renovations to the future site of a Chuy’s restaurant at the northeast corner.
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Workers have demolished a strip of storefronts along the western edge of the property to make way for the hotel, which developers said would be a “national flag.” Another group of commercial buildings on the eastern edge of the property will remain, albeit with updated facades and signs, and the overall site will get more trees and other green space.
“I think it’s safe to say that this property could seriously benefit from someone stepping in and re-envisioning it and trying to re-conceptualize what it is,” said Evan Fitts, an attorney with Polsinelli PC representing Holmes 111. “Certainly you could say the site itself is perhaps a little outdated, maybe the older model, not as much emphasis on design and landscaping as you would see in something more modern.”
The project does not include the AMC Studio 28 at the rear of the property or four commercial plots in the middle of the property, which Holmes 111 doesn’t own.
Fitts noted that the theater does very well, as do surrounding businesses like a nearby Target. He said that the Cosmic Jump building likely has stifled the center by hiding those stores from drivers on Strang Line Road and that removing it will increase traffic.
“With the movie theater, that’s something that people drive from outside the city to go visit on a very regular basis,” he said. “There’s really no reason that you would want people coming into a center like this in a part of the city that does extremely well and have this be the first thing they see.”
The developers plan to finance most of the $25.8 million project themselves. But they are asking Olathe officials to create a community improvement district covering the project. The CID would allow for a 1-cent sales tax for 20 years at the hotel, restaurants and stores to help offset some development costs.
Fitts said the developers have identified a little more than $2 million in covered CID expenses, such as demolition, facade renovation, landscaping, lighting and other site work. He said growth estimates for the project show the developers could potentially pay off the CID in 17 years.
Council members were largely positive about the project, although they still have to vote to create the CID and approve a development agreement for the project, likely later this summer.
Councilwoman Marge Vogt encouraged Taubin to consider adding fountains, fire pits or other features that would provide a “sense of place” for Olathe Station, rather than just creating another generic shopping center.
“That center is tired and it’s exciting that we’re going to give it a new face,” Vogt said. “I personally would like to see more than just a new face.”
Mayor Michael Copeland and Councilman John Bacon also asked that the development agreement include progress milestones for the project tied to receiving the CID funds and a requirement that the project’s parking lot be adequately maintained.
In other business:
▪ The council voted to approve a slate of park and recreation improvements around Lake Olathe and the construction of the Cedar Creek Trail, a 2.5-mile asphalt route connecting Lake Olathe and Cedar Lake.
The project is estimated to cost $19.5 million, with $10 million coming from general obligation bonds and the rest from a mix of the park sales tax, federal dollars, street and storm water funds and possibly help from the Johnson County Parks & Recreation District. Work on the lake and trail is expected to begin this fall and be completed by spring 2019.
▪ Council members voted unanimously to rezone 8.6 acres near 119th Street and Ridgeview Road within the Ridgeview Falls development for a 237-unit apartment complex with five four-story buildings.
Some council members expressed concern with the size of the project and that it will use land originally slated for commercial development. But developers and planning staff said the site is surrounded by similar commercial and multifamily development and there are still some unused commercial lots available.
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