A parade of critics urged the Overland Park City Council on Monday night not to approve the Edison OP downtown office/entertainment development plan, arguing its large size and modern design don’t fit the neighborhood’s small town charm.
“It looks totally out of place to me,” Overland Park resident Ralph Beck told the Council. “It looks sort of like a puzzle.”
The Council did not reject the plan but did put off a decision at least until May 7. Some council members said they hope the main building’s first floor design can be modified for a more welcoming, pedestrian-friendly appearance.
“I think it needs more of a visual appeal,” Councilman Fred Spears said, noting that that’s a hallmark of urban buildings he’s seen in other cities.
Developer Tim Barton said the architectural design isn’t done and can certainly be improved.
“We’ll continue to work on the design,” he said. But he added that his project keeps what’s valuable historically in downtown while removing a blighted and deteriorating shopping center.
The proposal has sparked an intense debate over change in downtown Overland Park. Supporters say Edison OP brings much-needed vitality, activity and business to downtown. Detractors say it’s too much too soon, following four major apartment projects either finished or under construction downtown.
In early December, the Overland Park Planning Commission also heard from nearly a dozen opponents but unanimously endorsed the development plan for the five-story building with office space and restaurants, a two-story food court, outdoor plaza, a small surface lot and a four-story parking garage.
It would be built between West 80th and 81st streets and between Marty Street and Overland Park Drive, south of the farmer’s market. The proposal involves demolishing a strip shopping center on 80th Street and the newer portion of the closed Overland Park Presbyterian Church. The original 1920s church front and sanctuary would remain.
The project is intended to bring 400 office workers downtown during the day, while providing entertainment attractions, including an outdoor courtyard, on nights and weekends. The parking garage’s northern facade would feature a large TV screen, with seating for events and movies. The 329-space garage would provide free public parking in off-peak hours and could serve the farmer’s market, which needs more parking.
A chorus of complaints Monday night involved the office building’s five-story height; the modern architecture tucked among more low-slung traditional brick buildings; the potential for serious traffic congestion; and the noise and crowds from the entertainment complex.
City planners point out the five-story design is allowed and even recommended by code and the 2008 Vision Metcalf plan, which sought more density and a live-work-play environment for downtown. The project would comply with all noise and safety ordinances.
Development attorney John Petersen said the five stories is imperative to make the project work financially. He said the parking garage provides much needed public parking in non-business hours, and the intent of the food court and entertainment complex is to create a “friendly, wholesome and safe place” for families.
The Council on Monday night approved the boundaries of a tax-increment-financing district for the project but did not consider the final financing incentive details, which will be subject to more public hearings and approvals. The Council voted 10-2 for the TIF district. Two new city council members, Logan Heley, who represents the downtown area, and Gina Burke, were the two dissenters.