Flex-tech business park proposal for former Indian Springs mall stalls

A plan to redevelop the former Indian Springs mall site in Kansas City, Kan., has stalled. In March 2016, workers from the Kaw Valley Companies were piling up metal for recycling at the site.
A plan to redevelop the former Indian Springs mall site in Kansas City, Kan., has stalled. In March 2016, workers from the Kaw Valley Companies were piling up metal for recycling at the site.

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., has indicated that a flex-tech business park proposal offered up for part of the former Indian Springs mall site isn’t the right idea.

The UG announced that it scrapped plans to hold a public hearing Thursday to discuss a 26-acre flex-tech proposal — essentially a combination office space and light industrial development — because the “proposal is not right for this location at this time.”

Community meetings were held earlier this month to discuss the idea, which was brought forth by an affiliate of Kansas City real estate firm Lane4 Property Group a month ago. The proposal asked for the issuance of $25 million in industrial revenue bonds to support 350,000 square feet of new development that Lane4 said would support 350 jobs when it was fully built. Reaction to the idea was mixed.

“As we went out to the community and public hearings, it was clear the public was not of one mind about whether or not this was the highest and best use for this site,” said UG Mayor Mark Holland in a video statement.

A UG committee evaluated the proposal a month ago and advanced it despite expressing some skepticism about it.

While the UG said Lane4 had withdrawn its proposal for a flex-tech park, Lane4 principal Hunter Harris characterized the firm’s decision with less finality.

“I think what you see happening now is us pressing the pause button so we can make sure we’ve exhausted opportunities for the community to give their opinions about what should happen here,” Harris said.

Harris thought the flex-tech plan enjoyed support from business owners and residents.

“We’re committed to moving this project forward,” he said. “The community meeting tomorrow night, it was clear to us that it was not the best time to use it.”

Putting the ground where the Indian Springs mall once stood back to productive use has been a challenge for the UG since it bought the dead mall at Interstate 635 and State Avenue in 2007 for $8.4 million. The UG then spent nearly the same amount trying to improve the property before demolishing it last year.

The UG hired Lane4 in 2014 as the broker to find interested developers to work on the site. At that time, the UG was hoping to find someone who would try their hand at a mixed-use development that would involve some combination of retail, office space and multifamily housing.

But retail projects are tough to pull off, particularly large ones. That’s when Lane4 put forth the flex-tech idea.

“We advised them specifically about what the market is and the reluctance from retailers to locate at this site,” Harris said. “We were very open and transparent about what its challenges are. It still has a lot of attributes that are worth our time to keep working on. They asked us to help them generate ideas and proposals for this project.”

The Lane4 proposal would cover only a portion of the 100-acre Indian Springs Mall site. Harris suggested that starting with a development that would put jobs at the Indian Springs site might help attract retailers for future phases.

Holland said that the Mid-America Regional Council would discuss with the UG Commission strategies for bringing Indian Springs back to life while also conducting a 90-day process to get community feedback about what they want to see developed at the site.

“I believe … that Indian Springs needs to be a transformative development for KCK,” he said.

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt