The Overland Park City Council is not, as a rule, a huge fan of oversized signs on buildings. Sign variance requests that come before them typically are examined closely and skeptically.
But council members were willing to make an exception this week when it came to the Kansas City Royals. After a short discussion, they approved a circular window sticker with a 40-foot diameter to be displayed on the side of the Teva Pharmaceuticals building at College Boulevard and Nall Avenue. The temporary sticker displays a crown at its center and says “Raised Royal.”
The distinctive sign was to be put up as soon as possible and run through the end of the regular season Oct. 31, or no later than Nov. 10 if the Royals go to post-season play. It will be installed with the same type of rope rig equipment used to wash windows.
The window building wrap is part of a partnership between Teva and the Royals, said Greg Westbrook, Teva spokesman. Several other big Royals signs will go up elsewhere in the metro area, but the Teva sign is the only one planned for the south Kansas City area.
Despite the Royals’ popularity after winning the 2015 World Series, not every council member was on board with the sign.
Council member David Stock opposed it because it’s still an outsized sign promoting a private entity. Slapping the Royals sticker on the Teva building paves the way for more signs from the Chiefs or Sporting KC, he said.
“They will know exactly what they need to do to get more billboards up. It’s a billboard,” Stock said.
But Council Member David White likened the sign to the American flag in that it brings the community together.
In the end the council gave its permission 8-3, with members Stock, Rick Collins and Fred Spears voting against. Council member John Skubal was absent.
Avenue 81 proposal revived
Later at the same meeting, a sales tax break for the Avenue 81 development near downtown Overland Park got a resuscitating breath. Council member Dave Janson revived a proposal for revenue bonds that would exempt the $47 million project from sales tax on the purchase of construction equipment and furnishings. That proposal failed on a split vote when it came before the council in January.
Avenue 81 is a mixed-use development on the northeast corner of 81st Street and Metcalf Avenue. It would be a predominantly four-story building, with retail and residential apartments. The developer plans 11,078 square feet of retail and 157 residential units, which would be a mixture of independent senior living and assisted living spaces.
Developer EPC Real Estate had asked for bonds that would have saved it $1.5 million on the approximately $17 million in construction equipment and furnishings it would buy. About $190,000 of its tax savings would have gone to the city.
The project could go ahead without those tax breaks, but the developer had said they might look at changes in the types of building materials that would be used.
At the time, some council member argued that the tax exemption does not fit the profile of a redevelopment project to “seed” an otherwise unpopular area. They also wanted the developer to pay some of the costs of a pedestrian crossing through a planned median on Metcalf Avenue.
Janson pointed out that the development would provide public benefits such as much-needed parking spaces and that the developer did not ask for any other types of tax incentives.
“While the discussion on the 23rd of January made a number of good points both for and against the (incentives), what we really said that evening was that Overland Park is closed for business,” Janson said.
He asked the council to reconsider his proposal that the developer pay for part of the pedestrian crossing. All voted to direct city staff to begin negotiating partial payment for about a third of the crossing’s cost, which would be capped at $1 million.
The question will come back to the council May 1.
Five duplexes no longer designated “dangerous”
Also at the meeting, the council withdrew its “dangerous and unsafe” designation of five duplexes that had drawn the ire of the council in past meetings.
The 10 units are in the Milburn Place subdivision, at about the 6900 block of Floyd Street and the 7100 block of West 69th Street, just east of the Milburn Golf and Country Club.
At previous meetings, council members blasted the owner, John Diehl Bier Trust of Dayton, Nev., for the condition of the homes. Those meetings detailed unlivable conditions at the mostly vacant units, with bathrooms cluttered with debris and holes in the building exteriors. At a meeting in December, the council gave the owner until March 31 to make the buildings habitable or they would be declared unsafe and possibly razed. Representatives of the owner said he was working with a new property manager to make things right.
Much work has been done since then, and city inspections show the buildings in improved conditions, with new wiring and hardwood floors, kitchen cabinets, for example. As a result, the city staff recommended the council not go through with the unsafe designation.
Lawyer Mark Bodine, representing the trust, said the owner did not want to lose his investment and plans for continued improvements to the exterior of the buildings as well.
“It is our desire to get quality high-paying rent tenants in there, get these properties up and running and make them hopefully a jewel instead of the eyesore that they’ve been,” he said.
However Janson put the owner on notice that progress will be closely watched.
“I would hope you would remind your client that we are not going to deal with this again,” he said. “If these properties fall into disrepair like they were, expect trouble.”
He also admonished the owner to pay his taxes on time and offered police department help in providing background checks on potential tenants. The area was the source of police calls in the past, he said.
“Clean it up and keep it clean because I personally am watching it. I live in that neighborhood and I’m not going to have it,” Janson said.