Overland Park leaders readily acknowledge that a big shortcoming for their city is lack of sufficient nightlife and entertainment venues for locals and visitors.
But Kansas City-based Block Real Estate Services and a Dallas-based company hope to change that. They aim to break ground next year on a $184 million development that includes entertainment amenities aimed at residents, plus the visitors to Overland Park Convention Center.
It would also cater to workers at the Sprint office campus and the other large corporate offices in the vicinity of 115th Street and Nall Avenue. It calls for up to 548 apartment units in two buildings and up to 240,000 square feet of retail, high-end specialty grocery, entertainment, restaurant and office space.
The Overland Park City Council gave approval Monday night to the rezoning and development agreement for a vacant 36-acre tract of land from 113th to 115th streets along Nall. But several council members worried that the development is too suburban and not pedestrian-friendly.
Block Real Estate Services and The Retail Connection formed a joint venture to buy the long-undeveloped property, currently owned by Sprint, just to the east of the Sprint campus.
“It’s a special piece of land. It’s an irreplaceable opportunity,” said Chad Bradshaw, with The Retail Connection. He said his company mostly does developments in Oklahoma and Texas, and this would be its first venture in Kansas.
He said the company was attracted to the area because of the city’s educated, affluent community and the nearby high-end daytime employers such as Sprint, Quintiles and Black & Veatch.
Several council members pointed out that the land has been bare since 1999 and said this is the best opportunity to finally get it built out and generating sales and property taxes.
But not everyone was excited. While Councilman David White voted for the rezoning and development agreement, he said the layout, with lots of surface parking near the retail, looked like typical suburbia to him.
“I have some real problems with the layout of it. I don’t think we’re getting anything special here,” he said.
“I see just an ordinary parking field surrounded by buildings, which we have everywhere.”
White said he hoped for some improvements and evidence of more walkability before the final plan comes back to the council.
But development attorney John Petersen said this development hopes to attract the same type of high-end restaurants and nightlife venues that have made Leawood’s Town Center Crossing, at 119th Street and Roe Avenue, “the hottest leisure, entertainment, go-to place after hours, lets-go-hang shopping center in all of Johnson County.”
It features Trader Joe’s, Apple, LL Bean, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, Dean and DeLuca and many other stores and restaurants.
“That’s the idea of a successful district,” Petersen told the council. “That’s where people go. And that is a goal that Chad Bradshaw and the Block Company have taken as a base and to improve upon.”
He said it’s intended to have wide sidewalks and significant green space for outdoor seating, outside gathering spots and entertainment around a “restaurant village.”
The apartment buildings would be toward the property’s west side, closer to the Sprint campus and the retail would be in the middle and closer to Nall Avenue.
Petersen also said that in this tough retail environment, with the “Amazon effect,” this developer believes a mixed-use project, with both apartments and retail, will succeed because of the proximity to Overland Park’s “Class A historical corporate headquarters office corridor.”
“You have to bring residential and immediate amenities to the office...that’s how you attract your workforce,” he said. “Workforce living, workforce entertaining....in a walkable fashion.”
He pointed out the project is also designed to give Overland Park’s conventioneers a better option than hopping in their cars after they leave the convention center a few blocks north on College Boulevard. He pointed out the developer is contributing $650,000 to build a pedestrian pathway from the development to the convention center.
The Council voted unanimously to rezone the property from office to a planned apartment district and 9-1 for the development agreement, which includes a community improvement district and a 1-cent sales tax for 22 years to help with up to $22 million of the financing.
Councilman Curt Skoog was the lone dissenter, saying he couldn’t support a CID for what looked to him like “another suburban strip center.”
The agreement also calls for the issuance of up to $52 million in economic development revenue bonds to help with financing, but those bonds do not represent any risk to the city’s general fund.
The plan calls for the project to be done in three phases, with the first phase consisting of one 253-unit apartment building and 140,000 square feet of retail, including a specialty grocery store and at least 15,000 square feet of entertainment space, plus the pedestrian connector.
Preparation of the land is expected to begin next spring. Actual construction is expected to begin in September 2018 and be finished in July 2021.
The second phase, with the other apartment building and more retail, could be completed by July 2022 and a third retail phase by July 2024.