Was it the big box store that killed — at least for now — the Metcalf South redevelopment?
No, it was the ugliness of the sea of parking that went with the big box store.
Talking to Overland Park officials, I am convinced that approval was possible for the big-box “Wal-Mart” at 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue. I put quotes around Wal-Mart because the developers say they were not in negotiations with Wal-Mart. (It would be too early to enter into negotiations.) Yet, the overwhelming belief is that, inasmuch as the money behind the $324 million mixed-use development was part of the Wal-Mart family, they were not likely to pass up the opportunity to put a Wal-Mart at that key intersection.
No matter. If the 177,000-square-foot box store were approved by the City Council, it would be up to the discretion of the developers as to what store they selected.
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The real bone of contention is the 615-space parking lot that would front Metcalf, on the side near the former Macy’s store.
Overland Park has been roundly criticized for the sea of parking at 119th and Metcalf, a not-so-attractive testament to suburban sprawl.
Vision Metcalf, a guideline for development along the corridor, was created eight years ago. It envisioned a more urban lifestyle along the Metcalf corridor.
City staffers asked the redevelopers of Metcalf South to consider building structured parking to go with the big box store. That likely would have meant a multistory garage, preferably beneath the store. The developers have said that would have been “inconvenient” for shoppers. Nordstrom at Oak Park Mall has structured parking, and the store has been very successful.
There are three steps for approval in Overland Park, like most cities. The staff weighs in. Then, the planning commission has its say. And, finally, the ones with the big picture — the City Council — either put their stamp of approval on the project or deny it.
What we know is city staffers recommended denial of the Central Square development at 95th and Metcalf, currently called Metcalf South. Compromises are usually not made at the city staff level.
The developers never made it to the planning commission, and, certainly, never made their case before the council.
It’s too bad the developers short-changed the process.
Just down the street, at 103rd and Antioch, home to the former Brookridge Country Club, the Overland Park staff recommended denial of a massive redevelopment of the property. After some changes, the planning commission overturned the staff and approved it. Now, it goes before the City Council.
Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach has said he is disappointed the Metcalf South project was stopped in the middle of the process. He also said he looks forward to restarting discussions.
“Vision Metcalf is just a vision, not a hard fast rule,” Gerlach said.
No one wants to see Metcalf South remain vacant, an eyesore to the city.
Yet, at the same time, the city does not want to make a mockery of a vision that is grounded in sound planning.
Two major Overland Park projects — at 80th and Metcalf and 91st and Metcalf — have already been approved for mixed-use developments including apartments, office, and retail, as well as walking paths and other outdoor accoutrements. And no seas of parking. They fit Vision Metcalf nearly perfectly.
There is no reason to deny a big box store to go along with the exciting mixed-use development pictured in the renderings presented by the developers.
But there is plenty of reason to avoid the 119th and Metcalf appearance. (Could that be solved by buffering the parking lot with lots of greenery and landscaping?)
The developers, Lane4 Property Group and Kroenke Group, should bring their plans back to Overland Park and complete the process.
They have a point of view that needs to be expressed. They need a real opportunity to argue their case.
They might be pleasantly surprised by the reception, if they are willing to compromise just a bit.
To reach Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.