$305 million plan for Olathe Great Mall site envisions a mixed-use sports destination

Demolition begins at Olathe's Great Mall of the Great Plains

Starting with the movie theaters, demolition of the Great Mall of the Great Plains began in July 2016.
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Starting with the movie theaters, demolition of the Great Mall of the Great Plains began in July 2016.

Developers envision a $305 million plan for the site of the razed Great Mall of the Great Plains in Olathe.

An application to use Kansas STAR bonds to finance the project proposes a mixed-use project with a heavy emphasis on sports and fitness.

It would also incorporate entertainment venues, restaurants, retail space, office and medical office space, hotels, residential units, and public spaces that could draw nearly 1.8 million visitors a year to the underused site at Interstate 35 and 151st Street.

The redevelopment could include a 4,000-5,000 seat arena and a community ice sheet for youth hockey tournaments and practice, interactive golf, and rock climbing.

great mall plan
The proposed mixed-use redevelopment plan for the former Great Mall of the Great Plains site in Olathe. VanTrust Real Estate LLC

A spokesman for the city of Olathe on Tuesday cautioned that the proposal is very preliminary and that much due diligence is required.

The application for STAR bond financing was submitted in December by VanTrust Real Estate LLC, whose development partners include the family-owned Woodbury Corp. of Salt Lake City and Loretto Properties, which owns the minor-league hockey team the Mavericks.

“Woodbury Corporation has been vested in Kansas City for years, and we are excited about this potential opportunity to work with the City of Olathe,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. “We are working with the current land owners of the Great Mall site about a redevelopment solution. However, as we are in the early stages of this project it would be premature and irresponsible of us to talk about any more details at this point.”

A spokeswoman for Woodbury said the overall plan is for 150,000 square feet of multipurpose facilities; 250,000 square feet of entertainment, retail and restaurant space; 150,000 square feet of office space; 300,000 square feet of apartments; and two hotels.

Loretto also issued a statement: “Since Loretto Sports Ventures purchased the KC Mavericks three years ago, the primary goal has been to expand the hockey footprint in Kansas City for youth hockey and hockey fans,” it said. “We are excited at the possibility of this development and believe it is a great location for growing the sport in the Kansas City area.”

STAR bonds allow a developer to use sales taxes generated by a project to repay half of the debt incurred. But the project must promote tourism. The bonds were used in the creation of the Kansas Speedway and Village West in Wyandotte County.

The project on the former Great Mall site “will promote, stimulate and develop the general and economic welfare of the State of Kansas and its communities, and assist in the development and redevelopment of an eligible area within the City, thereby promoting the general welfare of the citizens of this State,” said a cover letter from Olathe City Manager J. Michael Wilkes to the Kansas Department of Commerce. “... The STAR bond project will create substantial tourism opportunities.”

The Great Mall of the Great Plains opened in 1997 and closed in 2015. It was razed in 2016.

In December 2016 the Olathe City Council created a 270.5-acre STAR bonds district on the site.

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC