The idea of building a satellite location of the popular Hutchinson, Kan., space and science museum in Overland Park took a small step closer to reality Thursday.
Cosmosphere Inc. announced it reached an operating agreement for a proposed Cosmosphere Innovation Space at BluHawk, a 300-acre Price Brothers development at 159th Street and U.S. Highway 69 in south Overland Park.
The Price Brothers and Cosmosphere established a nonprofit entity that will manage the Overland Park location. The proposed 60,000-square-foot Cosmosphere building in Overland Park is expected to include space artifacts, replicas and interactive exhibits.
“Since the project began, we have wanted to bring the Cosmosphere experience to the people of Overland Park,” Price Brothers chief executive Doug Price said in a written statement. “With the relevance of (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-centric learning and the Cosmosphere’s reputation for science education and space history, this is a huge win.”
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Work on BluHawk has already started. Various elements of the mixed-use plan exist now, including a hospital, a grocery store and a single-family housing subdivision developed by Rodrock Homes. Other development proposals include hotels, retail and apartments.
The BluHawk concept calls for more development, including a plan for a hockey arena that would host a junior league hockey club and the Cosmosphere.
Those elements are said to be destination-type attractions that could bring in tourists from outside the area. Tourism-based development projects in Kansas can qualify for sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds, which provide money upfront to pay for development costs. The bonds are repaid over time by local and state sales taxes generated by the project.
Last year, the Overland Park City Council approved a STAR bond taxing district, which is an early step toward receiving STAR bonds. But the project faced questions from council members and state officials about the feasibility of the plan.
Overland Park officials raised concerns about the financial risk of the project. Antonio Soave, secretary of the Kansas Commerce Department, said he had concerns about the project size and location asked the city to consider lower-cost alternatives.
Tracy Mandel McHugh, vice president of Price Brothers, said the developers continue to work with Overland Park on next steps in the process of obtaining STAR bonds.
Sean Reilly, a spokesman for Overland Park, said no STAR bond plan had yet been submitted to the city. Nicole Randall, spokeswoman for the Commerce Department, also said there was nothing pending from BluHawk yet.