New City Place project continues College Boulevard momentum

One of the biggest chunks of undeveloped real estate along Overland Park’s popular College Boulevard office corridor will soon make its $350 million debut — 30 years late.

City Place is a 90-acre project southwest of U.S. 69 and College that will include 600,000 square feet of office space, 1,400 apartments and limited retail interwoven to create what developers envision as a live-work-play environment. After several months of deliberation, it just received a green light from the city.

The project is being viewed as an important extension west of the College Boulevard office corridor that is one of the metropolitan area’s biggest employment zones.

“We’re excited about this project and are looking forward to the opportunity it provides for new Class A office space that we’re lacking,” said Beth Johnson of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce. “College Boulevard is Corporate America Boulevard for Overland Park.

“This helps us extend College Boulevard farther and gives professional service companies an address on the boulevard that’s well served by I-435 and 69 Highway.”

Work on City Place, being developed by BK Properties, is expected to begin this summer with the first apartment construction underway by the end of the year. It will occupy a site originally envisioned in 1984 for a 1.6 million-square-foot project called the Galleria, which included office towers, a hotel and cultural center.

That ambitious development failed to gel. The land remained fallow and Overland Park continued growing miles to the south. Now, the land left behind at the strategic intersection of U.S. 69 and Interstate 435 is very much an in-fill site.

“We began our development history along I-435 in the mid-1970s with Corporate Woods and built offices well into the 1990s,” said Jack Messer, Overland Park planning director. “This site, for whatever reason, hadn’t been done.

“It is a big project and we’re very happy to have it.”

Ken Block, managing principal of Block Real Estate Services, had his eye on the property before the Galleria development was pitched, and several times over the years asked the owner, B.F. Saul Co. of Bethesda, Md., about selling the land.

Last summer, B.F. Saul finally dropped the idea of developing the land and offered to sell it to BK Properties, an entity sponsored by Block Real Estate Services. The opportunity came at what the firm believes is a great time for both the office and multi-family residential market in Overland Park and southern Johnson County.

Greg Galvin, a Block senior vice president charged with developing apartments, said the combination of young adults seeking their first place and the growth of the renter-by-choice market of older peopleis creating a strong demand in Johnson County.

Kansas City is coming off a year where apartment construction surged 62 percent from 2012 and experts project at least 7,000 more units will be built over the next couple of years. Overland Park is particularly popular, with an estimated 40 percent of its residences being multi-family.

Block thinks the apartments at City Place, which will be in four-story buildings, should be particularly appealing. Residents will have a large pool, fitness center, clubhouse, concierge and other services. The development also has access to the county trail system.

“The style we’re building now are not just places to live, but include amenities you wouldn’t have with a single-family home,” he said.

The intent is to create a “village-style” landscaped environment that is friendly to pedestrians. The development is bounded generally by College on the north; U.S. 69 to the east; Nieman Road on the west, and by neighborhoods along 115th Street and Indian Creek Parkway on the south.

NSPJ Architects is designing the apartments, and Hoefer Wysocki Architecture will design the office buildings. Olsson Associates is the engineering firm.

The first apartment project is expected to be a 325-unit complex in the southwest corner of the project. Work should be underway by the end of the year. City Place also includes a 140-unit senior housing project in the southeast corner to be built by a separate developer, yet to be determined.

The project also will feature a four-story building along College Boulevard that wraps around a 525-space parking garage. The upper floors will be 400 apartments and the lower level will be retail. Four other separate retail sites also are planned, for a total of 40,000 square feet.

The retail at City Place will be geared toward residents, office users and the neighborhood. It’s not intended to compete with other big destination mixed-use projects recently developed in south Johnson County, including Park Place in Leawood and Prairiefire in Overland Park.

City Place will be going after major office tenants, however.

Four office buildings ranging from three to six stories are proposed for the east side facing U.S. 69. Now, the developer says, there is no opportunity for companies seeking to locate or expand in Johnson County who want 25,000 square feet or more of premium space.

“Globally speaking, our market is basically out of Class A office space,” Block said.

Messer said Overland Park considers College Boulevard, which is parallel to I-435, as its main business corridor. He estimated there are more jobs along the stretch between U.S. 69 and State Line Road than downtown Kansas City.

“It’s a primary job-generator for the metro and it’s critical to Overland Park,” he said. “We see City Place as an extension of that.”

Block said a couple of larger companies are considering space and the construction would begin when a large lease is lined up, perhaps as early as this fall.

The first major work will involve streets and other infrastructure. The plan calls for Switzer Road to be redirected into the heart of the project. Switzer will connect with an extension of 113th Street at a traffic circle at the center of City Place before continuing north to College Boulevard.

Overland Park is paying $8.3 million to fund the Switzer project. And $13 million will be generated by a special 1 percent tax on retail sales, and a special assessment on property values granted to the developer. The money will go toward paying for the garage, other infrastructure and channel improvements to a creek.

Block said $100 million in private equity will be invested in the plan, with the rest coming from debt financing. The entire development is expected to be completed in seven to 10 years.

BK Properties also wants to develop another 44-acre tract northeast of College and Nieman Road with an additional 335 apartments, but that proposal is on hold.

“Right now, we’re trying to figure out what we want to do with that,” Block said.