A massive mixed-use project intended to replace the Brookridge Golf & Fitness Club at the northeast corner of Interstate 435 and Antioch Road has taken a significant step forward.
At its meeting Monday evening, the Overland Park Planning Commission approved rezoning to allow the proposed redevelopment, despite city staff’s recommendation to deny the rezoning and strong neighbor opposition.
Overland Park developer Chris Curtin plans to transform 5.9 million square feet of the property into an upscale live-work-play environment.
The plan calls for 2.2 million square feet of office space along I-435. It also features more than 300,000 square feet of retail, around 2,000 multi-family units, a 650-seat movie theater, a 3,500-seat indoor performance venue and a 550-room hotel. The project also features a large park along Indian Creek.
It will take approximately 20 years to complete.
This is the third time the plan has come before the Planning Commission. It was continued twice before, with hopes the developer would create major changes. This time the plan came back before the commission with no changes. John Petersen, the legal representative for the developer, told the commission the action meant no disrespect but that his client stood by his plan.
Since the beginning, hundreds of residents living nearby have opposed the project, which they say is too dense for the neighborhood.
Dozens of them filled seats at Monday’s meeting, with several voicing their dissatisfaction at the public hearing.
“Good schools and good neighbors are what drive value in a community, not retail,” said Stephen Seat, who lives in the nearby Wycliff subdivision. “We have other mixed-use projects in the city, such as PrairieFire, which are in appropriate locations. I just don’t understand how you can place this project here.”
Fellow Wycliff resident and well-known local actor Jim Korinke agreed.
“This is a twenty-year construction project, so that is an entire generation who will grow up with the noise and filth and disturbance of construction around them,” he told the commission. “You have listened to countless people come up and express to you how this project will negatively impact their lives. You haven’t heard one citizen defend this plan. Listen to the people.”
Katherine Scorza, who lives behind Brookridge Elementary School, is worried about the impact two decades worth of construction will have on her children.
“If this gets approved, my family would most likely move,” she said. “It would be hard for me to subject my children to twenty years of loud, obnoxious construction noise. It would prevent us from enjoying our home.”
At the meeting, city staff recommended denial of the project, saying it relies on traffic improvements that require ownership of property along Antioch Road not yet under the developer’s control.
Petersen told the commission that if his client does not obtain all 12 properties necessary to make the traffic improvements on Antioch Road, the plan would be revised.
So far, six of the properties are under control. Petersen told the commission he is confident the rest of the properties will be acquired eventually as well.
Petersen also emphasized the developer has made an effort to create a comfortable transition between the project and the neighborhoods by agreeing to limit buildings along 103rd Street to three stories.
The project, Petersen told the commission, is perfectly suited for the area because it can help revive the north part of the city.
That quadrant of Overland Park, from I-435 to 103rd Street and Antioch Road to Metcalf Avenue, is in serious decline, he said, making upscale redevelopment critical.
“Housing stock in this quadrant is declining quickly and commercial stock at Metcalf is struggling to stay quality retail,” Petersen said. “Reinvestment in this quadrant needs to happen now. Wycliff, Pinehurst Estates, these neighborhoods are holding quality but decline is right across the street. If you don’t believe me, read the police reports.”
The Planning Commission agreed the north part of the city deserved revitalization and although many of them sympathized with the unhappy residents, several commissioners said a mixed-use project was suitable for the location.
But nearly every commissioner had concerns about the project’s details.
“It looks and feels dense, but it seems workable,” said Chairman Michael Flanagan. “I would like to see even more green space, but I can live with the density even if I’m not really comfortable with it.”
Other commissioners were concerned about parking garages being placed along Antioch and multi-family units along 103rd Street not offering the best transition.
“It’s just a constant mass of building after building,” said Commissioner Rob Krewson. “The project has a good amount of green space by the creek, but I think there should be views into the development from the street.”
Commissioner Robert Gadd wasn’t impressed with the proposed green space near Indian Creek.
“This will be a beautiful park with a smelly creek running through it,” he said. “And with all the apartments, I could easily see the space quickly turning into a dog park.’
At past public hearings, dozens of residents expressed concern and disbelief when they learned from the city the project would bring an estimated 49,000 additional vehicles a day.
“When this project came across my desk, I wasn’t sure we could make the traffic work,” said Jack Messer, director of planning and development services. “We put the applicant through an intense process and we hired an independent traffic consultant to help out. I’m now very comfortable with the traffic analysis. To make traffic work there, infrastructural changes will have to be made.”
A few commissioners said they didn’t really understand the logistics behind the traffic report, but said they put their faith in the professionals and city staff, who said traffic was not why they recommended denial.
In the vote, commissioners Krewson, Gadd, and Tom Lance opposed the rezoning.
The city council will review the rezoning request Aug. 17.