An attempt to finally start a small portion of the huge Brookridge Golf Course redevelopment project suffered a major setback Monday.
By a 7-4 vote, the Overland Park City Council rejected a plan that would have begun the development with a boutique grocery store and three other retail buildings. The plan would have also allowed the developer to phase in the street improvements along Antioch Road just west of the project.
“I want to get it all done at once,” Councilman Fred Spears said about the stages of road work, echoing concerns of the council majority and reflecting the concerns about traffic of neighborhood residents attending the meeting.
The Curtin Property Co. was hoping for a rezoning of a new 5-acre parcel to be incorporated into the previously approved mixed-use redevelopment of the 135-acre Brookridge Golf Course northeast of Interstate 435 and Antioch Road.
The entire Brookridge project, which has been on the drawing boards for about four years, is envisioned as a $1.8 billion development with 5 million square feet of mixed uses, including 1.8 million square feet of office space, about 2,000 apartment units, 242,805 square feet of retail, a 3,500-seat indoor performance venue and 550 hotel rooms.
The latest rezoning called for a 45,000-square-foot specialty grocery, several other retail buildings and a two-level parking garage at the southeast corner of 103rd Street and Antioch Road. The development’s first phase would also have 625 apartment units.
The developer had agreed to stipulations for initial road improvements along 103rd Street, at the intersection of 103rd and Antioch, and for a new temporary signal at 104th Street and Antioch. Further road improvements south on Antioch would occur as the development proceeds.
Those voting in favor of the rezoning were council members Curt Skoog, Richard Collins, Paul Lyons and Chris Newlin. They said they like the overall mixed-use redevelopment plan and they wanted it to move forward.
Those against were Jim Kite, Logan Heley, Faris Farassati, Gina Burke, John Thompson, Terry Happer Scheier and Spears. Dave White was absent and Mayor Carl Gerlach didn’t vote.
City Planning Director Jack Messer agreed it’s not uncommon for Overland Park developments to occur in phases, over time. But city staff had recommended denial of the rezoning, saying the phased traffic improvements “do not represent an acceptable, long-term solution for traffic management for the community.”
Council opponents said traffic congestion on Antioch is already a big problem and they didn’t want to prolong the inconvenience stretched out over several years with phased road improvements. Some also objected to the fact that the first new buildings would have front doors facing inward toward the golf course, with their backs to the streets and nearby residential neighborhoods.
City staff said they didn’t yet know what the backs of the buildings would look like, but they wouldn’t just be blank walls.
After the 7-4 vote to deny the rezoning, the council then opted to give the developer and city planning staff until June 18 to see whether they can hammer out a new approach that might be more acceptable. But if the rezoning stipulations are changed, any new approval would require nine votes from the city council, which has 12 members, not including the mayor.
Development attorney John Petersen conceded “redevelopment is hard” and this project has been through a torturous planning process for nearly four years. But he said the developer fervently wants to get shovels in the ground this year. He predicted the preliminary activity would be the catalyst for Brookridge to take off.
“We’re asking the privilege to start,” he said.
Petersen acknowledged some Class A office was originally planned for early in the project, and that’s been one reason many council members have supported the concept as a “live/work/play” development.
But Petersen said office tenants want to see some retail and residential activity first before they’ll commit, as has happened at CityPlace and other large mixed-use developments in Overland Park and Lenexa.
“This sets the table for the office building,” he said. “That’s the way the market trend is. You can’t always predict it.”
Petersen said the city would still get much-needed upgrades from the private developer in the vicinity of 103rd and Antioch as the construction unfolds, and that intersection will function better than it does today. He said requiring all the improvements up front for the initial retail would cost at least $11 million and make financing the project difficult.
“Let us get a couple of bite-sized chunks before we get into full production,” he said.
No specific timeline was provided for when construction might start or how traffic improvements would dovetail with that construction.
Several residents of the nearby Pinehurst Estates and Wycliff neighborhoods urged the council to deny the rezoning, protesting the traffic impact, the way the retail is configured and the fact that they’ll have to look at the backs of the buildings.
Bob Miller, who lives in the Wycliff neighborhood west of the proposed development, had this to say: “This has gone from the point of being ridiculous to now asinine.”