In the face of heavy protest, Overland Park took a significant step forward in a process that could ultimately result in a massive $2.4 billion mixed-use development proposed for Antioch Road and Interstate 435.
After a three-hour discussion at its meeting Monday evening, the city council approved ordinances allowing the creation of a redevelopment district and a STAR Bond Project District for the area.
Curtin Property Co. intends to turn the former location of Brookridge Golf and Fitness into an urban-style development featuring office, retail, hotel and living space. It could also include a park with a lake and a state-of-the-art performance venue seating around 3,000 people. The developer estimates the project could draw around 3 million visitors per year.
According to preliminary cost estimates, Curtin Property, Co. could ask for $130 million in STAR bonds and $307 million from a tax-increment financing district.
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The action taken by the council on Monday night, however, does not approve any financial incentive or any specific amount. It simply deems the project eligible to move forward in the lengthy process toward that goal.
Overall, the developer is tentatively seeking about $610 million in public funding, which also includes a community improvement district, and $27 million in cash from Overland Park’s general fund between 2015 and 2017 for land and infrastructure.
The council approved the redevelopment district on a 6-4 vote, and approved the STAR bond district 7-3, but even council members voting in favor had their reservations.
Councilman Terry Goodman voted for approval because he said he thinks the area meets the requirements for the districts.
To meet the criteria for STAR bonds, the project should attract out-of-town visitors, make a significant economic impact, be unique and remain profitable, among several other factors.
For the TIF, where development costs are paid by the incremental increase in taxes that would be generated from the district’s redevelopment, the city considered additional criteria, such as whether the project is in competition or in collaboration with other projects and developments in Overland Park, and the timing of the economic impact of the project.
The scope of the public financing, however, worried Goodman.
“If this moves forward, the $600 million number — whether it’s a real number or not — is problematic,” Goodman said. “I’m opposed to the $27 million from Overland Park too.”
Councilman David White voted against both districts because he thought the process was being rushed.
“I’m not comfortable creating a district for incentives with the current proposals,” he said. “The project is interesting, but it must be done thoroughly. I don’t feel like I’ve had enough time, or had enough information, to come up with a reasonable decision. We’re talking about significant changes being made to the heart of Overland Park.”
Along with White, council members John Thompson, Paul Lyons and Curt Skoog opposed the redevelopment district. Skoog, however, voted in approval of the STAR bond project district.
At the public hearing, around 20 residents spoke out against the project.
Many of them saw the project as being out of character with the surrounding neighborhoods. They also expressed concerns about an increase in traffic, noise and light.
“I’m worried this project will downgrade our quality of life and the property values of nearby homes will go down,” said Jim Steiner, who lives nearby. “What will Overland Park look like if we take down all the green space and put up brick and mortar? We need to be able to hear the birds sing.”
Council members pointed out to the residents that the open space will no longer remain a golf course, since Curtin Property, Co. already purchased the property.
Many of the councilors also said they were anxious to see more details about the project. They also agreed on one thing: all decisions made in regards to the project needed to be carefully made in the best interest of the community.
“I’m intrigued by this project because 435 is a key commercial corridor for the city,” said Councilman Curt Skoog. “I think its important people realize that this land is going to be developed eventually. It’s just a matter of time. Over the past 10 years, I keep getting asked why all the investment is happening down south. Now we’re finally starting to see investment north of 435.”
At around midnight, the city council also tackled another controversial issue.
Despite opposition, it voted 10-1 to approve a revised plan submitted by Brad Vince, the founder and CEO of Vince & Associates Clinical Research, Inc., for a fourth floor to be added onto a new three-story building already under construction at the medical campus, located near 103rd Street and Metcalf Avenue.
Vince had been given two weeks since the last council meeting to make changes to his $5 million project.
Residents have protested the fourth-story addition, saying they were worried the large building would decrease property values for their homes, pour light into their backyards and violate their privacy. They also submitted a valid protest petition, which required at least 10 council members to vote for approval.
To alleviate their concerns, Vince removed the fourth floor window in the stairwell. The remaining three windows on west facade will be replaced with clear story windows at a minimum height of six feet. The building has been lowered by two feet. He will also plant more trees and create a more substantial buffer between his business and the adjacent homes.
Vince also agreed to provide a $3,000 credit per property for additional landscape to screen the proposed building, and he will provide three hours with a landscape director to work directly with each of the two property owners.
Kristen McClain, who spoke on behalf of the residents who signed the protest petition, told the council that while they are grateful for the changes, it still didn’t make a difference.
“The bottom line for us is that we’re still opposed to the fourth floor,” she said during the public hearing. “We’re not disgruntled homeowners who are opposing something just to oppose it. We’re homeowners who will have a different life with this fourth floor. We will see it every day.”