Mission Gateway construction to resume; luxury entertainment center up first

Less than a month after the announcement of a huge entertainment complex coming to the long-stalled Mission Gateway project, construction is slated to begin again.

“We anticipate there will be some work (this) week and a lot more the week after,” Andy Ashwal, of co-developer GFI Development, recently told The Star.

By next week, site workers are expected to start work on a building pad for Dallas-based Cinergy Entertainment’s 90,000-square foot entertainment center. Plans call for 10 luxury movie theaters, a bowling alley, a game floor, ax throwing and other amenities at the company’s sixth location. The goal is to open next summer.

“The first thing that people are really going to see is Cinergy,” Ashwal said, adding that by the end of this summer, developers will start on a parking garage.

Then developers will focus on street-level retail shops before constructing 170 market rate apartments. A Marriott Element hotel, an office building and a 40,000-square-foot food hall curated by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio are expected to follow.

Mission City Administrator Laura Smith confirmed that the city expects the entertainment center, parking garage and retail shops to be completed first but said “the specific order of those buildings has not be discussed with the developer in any detail.”

While a development agreement calls for the project to be done by December 2022, Smith said the city has not yet received developers’ most recent estimate for the $200 million project’s completion. The project’s next hard construction deadline is April 30, 2020.

The 16-acre parcel at Johnson Drive and Roe Avenue has been vacant since 2005, when Mission Mall was demolished after it was purchased by Cameron Group LLC, the other co-developer of the site.

Several variations of a mixed-use development — including plans for multiple hotels, an aquarium, offices, condos and, at one point, a Walmart — languished for more than a decade before finding traction in the past two years.

Preliminary construction for a development plan approved in late 2017 started in September, allowing developers to make a city-imposed deadline to start work by Oct. 31, 2018. But construction came to a halt in December after Ashwal said developers signed a lease with Cinergy Entertainment.

“With the signing of Cinergy, we knew we had to focus,” Ashwal said. “It gave us a chance to pause over the winter and focus on design.”

Smith also said the developer needed to find additional financing for the project.

“And the winter weather conditions were not conducive to the work,” she said.

Last month, developers secured a $20 million intermediary loan from Metropolitan Commercial Bank. They’ll need a much larger construction loan for building costs before revenue from a special sales tax district and property tax incentives kick in.

The developers also have addressed the issue of delinquent property taxes. At one point last year, they owed $2.1 million.

“All taxes are current on the property at this time,” Smith said.

Ashwal said while the site has been absent of physical activity, there’s been “a lot of work taking place in the background.”

“I think people have the right to be skeptical,” Ashwal said. “But what we are hoping is that when the site comes alive and everything is open, the residents of Mission will be able to enjoy it ... their patience will have paid off.”

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Katy Bergen covers Johnson County for The Kansas City Star. She is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.