Latest Mission Gateway plan shot down, putting project in limbo

Mission Gateway developer Tom Valenti has suffered another setback.
Mission Gateway developer Tom Valenti has suffered another setback.

The long-stalled Mission Gateway development project sustained another blow Wednesday night as the Mission City Council turned away the developer’s latest plan.

A majority of the council followed the sentiment of Mission residents who said they did not want New York developer Tom Valenti’s vision for the 16-acre site of the former Mission Mall at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Johnson Drive.

“This fiasco he started 10 years ago — look at all the projects that have been done in a year,” said Kim Donaway, a Mission resident unhappy with Valenti’s plan. “This man does not know what he’s doing.”

Valenti last month had received unanimous approval by the Mission Planning Commission for his latest idea, which includes a Wal-Mart store with apartments around and on top of it, an Aloft Hotel and other retail tenants.

Votes on preliminary site plans typically follow planning commission recommendations, which evaluate development projects in terms of whether they square with zoning codes.

But Mission elected officials didn’t follow the suggestion for Mission Gateway in separate votes. In the first vote, a 6-2 majority voted not to accept the planning commission’s recommendation in favor of Valenti’s preliminary site plan. Council members Suzie Gibbs and Pat Quinn were the two yes votes in favor of the site plan. In a second vote, which was mostly a formality, a 7-1 majority then rejected the site plan, with Gibbs voting against.

Most residents who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting opposed Valenti’s plan.

Barbara Porro, a Mission resident, objected to a 24-hour operation at Wal-Mart. Residents cited an article published Wednesday in Bloomberg that described public safety issues at Wal-Mart stores under the headline “Walmart’s out-of-control crime problem is driving police crazy” to support their misgivings about the retailer coming to Mission.

Wednesday’s vote leaves Valenti in a quandary after years of failed plans at Mission Gateway. He told the Shawnee Mission Post, an online news site, that he will not “go away quietly into the night.”

Mission Gateway had become a campaign issue in Mission’s council elections in April when a slate of challengers opposed to the Wal-Mart plan won seats on the council. In one race, an incumbent who supported the Mission Gateway plan lost her seat to a challenger who openly opposed it.

It seemed to be a sign that Valenti would have a difficult time gaining approval for his project without significant changes to it, perhaps including dropping Wal-Mart for another retailer.

Valenti and his development firm, The Cameron Group, has owned the site since the Mission Mall came down. They have floated various proposals — offices, condos, hotels of various size and at one point, a massive aquarium — with none of them coming to pass.

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt