South Kansas City’s Watts Mill Shopping Center starts $1.73 million renovation

The Watts Mill Shopping Center renovation is expected to be completed by mid-September.
The Watts Mill Shopping Center renovation is expected to be completed by mid-September.

South Kansas City’s Watts Mill Shopping Center is getting a facelift.

Jasper Mirabile Jr. said the center, on the southeast corner of 103rd Street and State Line Road, has lost one-third of its tenants and needed an upgrade to attract new tenants and customers. The Mirabile family’s Mirason Properties LLC will spend about $1.73 million in capital improvements on the 40,000-square-foot center, including a new facade, new LED lighting, new landscaping, a new pylon sign on State Line Road listing the tenants, and a resurfaced and re-striped parking lot.

The family relocated their Jasper’s Italian Restaurant to the site in 1998 and also opened Marco Polo’s Italian Market. They petitioned for the Watts Mill Community Improvement District, and it was approved in September. Starting July 1, the CID imposed a 1-cent sales tax to finance the improvements. The taxing district has a 20-year lifetime.

The family’s ownership does not include the freestanding Taco Bell or Royal Liquors buildings, and they are not part of the CID.

Watts Mill Shopping Center opened in 1971. It takes its name from the historic Fitzhugh-Watts Mill that was erected on the site in 1832 and used Indian Creek as its power source. Both Native Americans and settlers brought their grain to the mill, leaving one-fifth of the grist as payment. The mill could grind three barrels of flour and two barrels of corn meal in an hour.

A branch of the Santa Fe Trail passed nearby, and wagon trains often used the site as campgrounds and for its supply of corn meal, flour and water. The mill also was a favorite subject for area artists.

According to the Historical Society of New Santa Fe, 9 tons of cast iron and steel from the mill were donated as scrap for the war effort in 1942, and in 1949, the old mill — an eyesore and safety hazard — was torn down.

The Watts Mill Shopping Center is currently at 66 percent occupancy and includes such tenants as Ugly Joe’s Sports Bar & Grille, Jerry’s Cafe and Goodyear Tires. The businesses are open during the remodeling, and the project is expected to be completed by mid-September.

There are currently four consecutive spaces available — 1,400, 2,000, 4,000, and 5,933 square feet; or it can be combined and converted into an up-to-11,933-square-foot space for one tenant. Block & Co. Inc. Realtors is the broker for the center.

Matthew Connolly, owner of MDC Architecture Inc. of Overland Park, which specializes in hospitality design, is the architect of record for the renovation. Connolly also was the architect of record for Jasper’s and Marco Polo’s.

Joyce Smith: 816-234-4692, @JoyceKC