It’s long overdue, but demolition of the old grocery store at Linwood Boulevard and Prospect Avenue is slated to begin Monday, heralding the start of new development for the struggling shopping center.
Kansas City officials hope the new grocery in the restored strip mall can reopen by the end of March 2018.
The demolition only affects the grocery store, which has been vacant since 2007. The two retail wings at the north and south ends of the property, bracketing the store, will be renovated.
Mayor Sly James and other dignitaries announced plans for the shopping center’s revival with great fanfare in May 2015. They hoped a new Sun Fresh food market and other retail tenants would be serving the surrounding neighborhoods by mid-2016.
But property acquisition took much longer than expected and wasn’t completed until May 2016. At that time, Kansas City municipal government bought the moribund Linwood Shopping Center for $950,000 from an entity established by developer Don Maxwell, who had owned the property since 2014.
It then took even longer to finalize the financing details to make the new development a reality. Kansas City government is investing an additional $13 million in construction, through a bond sale. The debt service, expected to be $1 million per year for about 20 years, will be partly paid back with new tax revenue from the development, along with a special 1-cent sales tax collected at the stores. But city officials acknowledge that the tax-increment-financing plan and sales tax may need to be supplemented by general taxpayer dollars.
City leaders have said this investment is worth it to transform a strip mall that has languished for years on one of the urban core’s most prominent corners.
Earlier this month, the City Council authorized a 20-year lease agreement with Lipari Brothers, an experienced grocery operator, to run the 38,000-square-foot, full-service Sun Fresh grocery store that the city will build. John Lipari is best known for operating the popular Lipari Brothers Thriftway in Kansas City, Kan., which closed in 2014.