The proposed public park at the former Meadowbrook Golf and Country Club is shrinking, but Johnson County and Prairie Village officials at least have a better idea of what it will look like.
Developers for VanTrust Real Estate on Monday gave members of the Johnson County Commission, the Johnson County Park and Recreation District Board and the Prairie Village City Council an update on the project bordered by 91st and 95th streets and Nall and Roe avenues.
VanTrust plans to develop the southern part of the property with a senior living center and a mix of single-family homes, luxury apartments, townhomes and a boutique inn. Executive vice president Richard Muller said the company would sell the remaining 83.85 acres of open space to Prairie Village, which will in turn give that land to Johnson County to develop and maintain as a park.
Earlier estimates had pegged the parkland at 88.9 acres. Muller said those estimates likely included land set aside for roads, parking and other public right of way. Also, he said the developers have had to widen the single-family lots to make them more attractive to potential buyers, cutting into available open space.
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Some of the officials questioned the continued shrinking of what has been highlighted as a rare opportunity to preserve a large swath of green space in the county’s intensely developed northeast corner.
Muller said the developers won’t take more open space than in necessary.
“Our goal from the very beginning was to be able to come up with a plan that involved a signature park that could be delivered by developing the least possible space,” he said.
Also, Prairie Village plans to buy the park land with bonds paid for through tax increment financing — which hinges on future property tax growth — so any reduction in the value of the development will make it harder to pay off the bonds, Muller said.
“Any erosion that happens on either (the public or private) side is going to be detrimental,” he said.
The city estimates it will spend slightly more than $21 million in bonds buying the land and paying for its development into a park, as well as constructing roads and other infrastructure. Tax increment financing allows the city to pledge future property tax gains on a piece of land to help pay for its development. City officials estimate they’ll raise $19.3 million in tax increment financing over 20 years to pay off the bonds with the remaining cost paid through sales tax savings the developers would realize through the sale of industrial revenue bonds.
City officials still have to approve VanTrust’s final development and rezoning plans for the property as well as the tax increment financing agreement, a process that is expected to take until the end of the year.
Following Muller, a landscape architect unveiled preliminary master plans for the park.
Kelly VanElders, director of landscape architecture for Olathe-based Landworks Studio, said the plans were developed with the help of around 400 people attending a public open house earlier this year and meetings of a county advisory group.
VanElders said the top priority that planners heard from residents was for walking trails, and he said the plans provide several miles of trails snaking through both the park and the privately developed sections of the property.
Drawing on models like Kansas City’s Loose Park, most of the remaining park land would be left undeveloped with open lawns, shady groves and event spaces. What areas that would be developed would include a destination playground, natural play areas, a splash park, and a trio of “iconic” gardens with public art.
The Meadowbrook clubhouse would likely still remain although VanElders said planners are trying to decide how it would be used. The park would also retain some of its existing tennis courts and renovate the others for pickleball courts.
One thing the park will not have is dedicated athletic fields, although pickup soccer or softball games could be held in the park’s open areas, VanElders said.
“By and large, all the constituents really want to see passive use-type elements for this park,” he said. “Some people said, ‘We don’t want it over-programmed. We don’t want this to look like First Friday in the Crossroads with a million people here.’ ”
Many parts of the plan are still sketchy, such as potential uses around a lake in the center of the property and how to ensure adequate parking, especially during major events at the park.
VanElders said planners will hold a second open house between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Meadowbrook clubhouse, 9101 Nall Ave., to get additional public comments on the park master plan.
Jill Geller, executive director for the Johnson County Park and Recreation District, said the park plan is on a fast track with the various governments scheduled to approve the master plan in December. So any concerns residents or officials have with the master plan need to be raised quickly.
“One reason why we thought it would be good to bring the whole group together was so we’re all on the same page and everybody likes the direction we’re going,” Geller said.
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The public is invited to an open house between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Meadowbrook clubhouse, 9101 Nall Ave., to get additional public comments on the park master plan.