Two major shopping areas in north Overland Park are inching closer to being redeveloped and receiving public financing.
At its meeting Monday night, the city council unanimously approved creating a redevelopment district for a mixed-use project at 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue, and then another one for a mixed-use project down the street at 91st Streets and Metcalf, making both projects now eligible for tax increment financing, otherwise known as a TIF.
At 95th and Metcalf, Lane4 Property Group is planning to tear down Metcalf South Mall, which sits on the southeast corner of the intersection, and also the K-Mart shopping center, which sits on the northeast side.
Where the vacant K-Mart strip stands, developers hope to build a community-focused neighborhood center, featuring boutique shops, creative office space and luxury multi-family apartments. It would also feature distinctive architecture and landscaping. In a town square aspect, developers are thinking of featuring a video screen, where people could watch sports or meet up with friends and family.
In place of the mostly empty shopping mall, they hope to build larger footprint stores. Sears, which owns its building, will remain and will not be part of the project.
Owen Buckley, the president of Lane4, said the development, called Central Square, could cost around $320 million.
“This is a pivotal piece of land in the heart of Overland Park and it has been in a descending mode for the past 25 years,” he said. “There are more and more vacancies popping up, which is something we all want fixed and turned around. We just have one shot to get it right.”
In the past year, the developers have worked closely with the surrounding community by organizing neighborhood meetings and corresponding with residents via e-mail.
They also have collaborated with industry experts, looked into retail and office possibilities, closely inspected the multi-family market, and looked at ways for the development to be flexible amidst changing markets.
The project does not have any retailers or businesses signed up yet because developers are still smoothing out the plan’s details.
During a public hearing for the project, many residents expressed their approval.
“This corner is an eyesore,” Mark Sutton, president of the Nall Hills Homeowners Association, said. “We’re excited about this opportunity. We hope the city can work with the developer to make an award-winning development at this site.”
Fellow resident Carol Kelly represented one of the dissenting voices, however.
She’s lived in the Kansas City area for 30 years and she watched Metcalf South decline. She’s not sure any type of retail could revitalize the area.
She’s also worried about the town square aspect with the large video screen. She pointed out that she avoids Oak Park Mall, saying crowds of teenagers clog the walkways. She’s leery the same thing will happen to Central Square.
“I don’t want people hanging out at this place,” Kelly said. “I live in walking distance and I’m worried about the safety of my neighborhood.”
In response to Kelly’s concerns, Buckley said he thinks people are anxious to see updated retail at the 95th and Metcalf area.
“Most retail has gone south of 435,” he pointed out. “North of 435, the retail isn’t as fancy. It’s time for north Overland Park to have some cool shops.”
He also added that Central Square is not going to be the next Power & Light District; it will be more family-oriented.
Although specific details about the project haven’t been released yet, many councilmembers said they were intrigued by the project and they readily agreed to move things forward.
On the northeast corner 91st and Metcalf, developers are proposing a $97 million redevelopment for the Gateway Plaza shopping center.
To be renamed The Promontory, the remodeled shopping area will feature mixed use, retail and residential buildings.
Current tenants include Half Price Books, J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks and Seafood, the Longbranch Saloon and IHOP, among many others.
Alaskan Fur, a stand-alone building, is not part of the project.
If all goes smoothly with the TIF and approval process, The Promontory could become a reality soon, said John Petersen, the legal representative for the developer. The project is shovel-ready for 2015.
No residents spoke out during the project’s public hearing.