The developer of the Mission Gateway project has submitted a revised plan that puts apartments atop the Wal-Mart at the heart of the development. But recent changes on the City Council cloud the project’s outlook.
Tom Valenti’s New York-based Cameron Group submitted the latest plan to Mission’s Planning Commission in May. The developer reportedly was here in June to meet with city officials.
The plan could be brought up when the Planning Commission is scheduled to meet July 25. If the commission approves, the revised plan would still require the council to sign off. The council would also need to approve any financial incentives similar to the $29 million that the developer has sought for past plans.
The previous Gateway plan narrowly passed the City Council in January, when Mayor Steve Schowengerdt broke a tie to approve a preliminary site plan . That was just the latest episode in a decade-long saga that began when Valenti’s group purchased 16-plus acres on which the old Mission Mall stood.
The site bordered by Roe Avenue, Shawnee Mission Parkway and Johnson Drive has been vacant since the mall was razed.
Previous proposals from the Cameron Group have included additional retail and a rooftop garden atop the Wal-Mart.
Many neighbors have opposed Valenti’s plan to make a Wal-Mart the center of the project. Wal -Mart would reportedly close its nearby, older Roeland Park store and open at Gateway. But some Mission residents fear the competitive effect of a Wal Mart on smaller Johnson Drive merchants, while others believe the size of the proposed Wal-Mart exceeds the limits of Mission’s mixed-use zoning.
Count among the likely opponents two new members of the Mission City Council, elected in April.
Kristin Inman defeated incumbent Ward 3 Council member Jennifer Cowdry while Nick Schlossmacher replaced Ward 2’s Amy Miller, who did not seek reelection. Cowdry voted for the latest version of the Gateway plan, while both of the newcomers have expressed skepticism.
Earlier this month, retired physician Tom Geraghty was named to fill the unexpired term of Jason Vaughn, who had previously supported the project. Geraghty could not be reached for comment on his views of the project.
Inman made opposition to any plan to bring Wal- Mart to Johnson Drive a centerpiece of her campaign. She said she told Valenti of her position during a recent meeting at the Sylvester Powell Jr. Community Center.
“I explained my position on mixed-use zoning,” Inman said. “I still don’t want a Wal -Mart, and I won’t be voting for any financial incentives from the city.”
Valenti did not respond to repeated requests for comment on his latest version of the Gateway plan.
“I don’t believe it’s in line with the mixed-use zoning,” Schlossmacher said, adding that he told Valenti as much during a recent meeting.
“If you read the minutes of the Planning Commission meetings in December and January, they are granting exceptions to the zoning,” Schlossmacher said. “OK, why do you have a Planning Commission, and why do you have zoning, if you are granting exceptions? We need to bring things more in line with what the people of the city want. … They didn’t want a big box in that corridor.”
This latest version of the Gateway plan differs from the most recent one in that it includes apartments on top of the Wal -Mart building and not just adjacent to it. The parking structure is shielded from the street by buildings, as opposed to a surface lot surrounding buildings.
Other facets of the design include a 200-room hotel, other retail space and an office building.
Mayor Schowengerdt said Valenti could withdraw the latest plan and proceed with the previous, council-approved version. In any case, he would need council approval of a development agreement if he wants to receive Tax Increment Financing and Community Improvement District tax funding.