Co-owner Mark Abbott expressed relief after his Jimmy John’s restaurant won approval last week after an intense debate over what new businesses are appropriate for historic areas of downtown Kansas City.
“I’m just thankful the way everything turned out,” he said.
Abbott hopes construction of the drive-through deli at 923 Broadway can be finished by summer.
For a while late last year, it didn’t look as if things would turn out for the ownership group.
Abbott said he had consulted city staff more than a year ago and had been told the zoning would allow a drive-through restaurant. The Downtown Council endorsed the plan. He got the necessary park board approval and invested more than $600,000 in an abandoned building on the site.
But when the owners began demolishing the old building, neighbors complained that they were never consulted.
They said a suburban-style drive-through wasn’t appropriate or desirable. Some City Council members said the city adopted a Downtown Area Plan more than five years ago that recommended a zoning that would have required more review. But somehow that zoning never became city code.
Still, supporters said that if the Jimmy John’s were denied approval, it would send a terrible message to other potential developers that they couldn’t trust City Hall’s word.
The issue was resolved last week when the Kansas City Plan Commission voted 4-0 in favor of the business site plan, saying the developer had jumped through all the necessary hoops and halting the project now wouldn’t be right.
“I sympathize with an owner who followed all the rules,” commission chair Babette Macy said. “This case, sadly, has been very politicized.”
One criticism involved traffic congestion, and the city staff report says the initial site plan did have some problems. The report cited potential conflicts between parked cars trying to exit the property and vehicles trying to enter the site from Broadway.
Mike Burke, attorney for business owners, said the site plan was revised and the parking was moved to the north to eliminate that concern. The business also will have signs prohibiting left turns out of the site onto Broadway during the busy evening rush hour.