Since 1963, the sprawling French Market building and steeples have been a distinctive presence on one of Overland Park’s most prominent corners, first housing a European-themed superstore and later a Kmart.
But the parcel northeast of 95th and Metcalf Avenue has been vacant since 2014, a victim of changing retail patterns. To avoid further deterioration and blight, the Overland Park City Council voted unanimously Monday night for tax incentives to help turn the site into an office campus for the fast-growing Shamrock Trading Corp’s. expansion.
Shamrock, a freight brokerage and transportation logistics firm, moved in 2012 from Lenexa into two vacant Sprint towers at 9300 Metcalf Ave. Then last July, the company bought the parcel east of Metcalf from Lane4 Property Group. Demolition on the market started Feb. 2 and is expected to take about two months.
Monday’s council vote allows the financing and development plan for Shamrock to build up to three office buildings, plus parking garages and other amenities, creating space for up to 1,000 new jobs, with a median salary of $50,000 annually.
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The new office park, between 93rd and 95th streets just east of Metcalf, would be across from Shamrock’s existing headquarters buildings that house about 700 employees on Metcalf’s west side.
“We’re very excited about it,” Shamrock CEO Bill Ryan said of the development to support his company’s growth. “It was either moving somewhere else into another state or another city. So we looked at the shopping center. It’s about 30 acres. It was the perfect parcel.”
As part of the development agreement with the city, construction on the first phase, an eight-story office tower plus 1,000 parking spots, must begin by the end of this year and be completed by late 2021. Future plans include a 12-story building and a seven-story building, plus additional parking structures.
The site is just north of the new Lowe’s Home Improvement store. The existing Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants on Metcalf are not part of the development and will remain in their current locations.
If Shamrock completes the entire office complex, at a projected cost of $262 million, it would eligible for about $40 million in tax increment financing over 20 years. The incremental property taxes generated by the project would reimburse the company for costs related to land acquisition, site preparation, demolition and parking garages.
Ryan said the company fully expects to build the entire campus, which is why it needed the 30 acres. But if it completes only the first building the TIF reimbursement would be capped at $23 million. If it only completes the second building, the TIF cap is $35 million.
The company pledges to create 400 jobs within four years, 800 jobs within eight years and 1,000 jobs within 12 years. If those targets aren’t met, the total TIF reimbursements are somewhat reduced.
Councilman Curt Skoog pointed out that an estimated $14 million in incremental property taxes from the project are not eligible for TIF and would go to the Shawnee Mission School District and the state of Kansas over those 20 years.
City Manager Bill Ebel also noted that if the project gets fully built, it has the potential to generate about $7 million in new tax increment that the city can use for Metcalf Avenue improvements from 91st to 97th streets.
The city is not obligated to make those improvements, but Ebel said city officials contemplate using that money for raised medians, curbs, and landscaping to beautify Metcalf and make it more of a boulevard.
Council members Gina Burke and Faris Farassati, who frequently object to tax incentives for private development in the prosperous city, said they supported this incentive for Shamrock because it creates space for additional good-paying jobs in the city and will revitalize a long-vacant property at risk for further decay.
But not everyone was thrilled with this development proposal.
Overland Park resident Melissa Cheatham reminded the City Council that the “Vision Metcalf” plan calls for more mixed-uses that are easily walkable and inviting to the public.
She applauded the Shamrock development for “removal of an eyesore at the heart of the city, road improvements on Metcalf, and creation of 1,000 jobs that pay a living wage.”
But she lamented that the development as proposed doesn’t have restaurants, coffee shops or a community green space for public gatherings, games and concerts.
“This is what I thought Vision Metcalf was about,” she told the council. “I feel this is a missed opportunity, not only for the city of Overland Park in general, but truly a missed opportunity for the 1,000 people who will work at the development.”
After the meeting, Ryan responded that he has told council members, “I don’t know anything about running a restaurant.”
The company’s existing headquarters has a 7-acre lake, expansive lawn and wide diversity of trees. Ryan said the new campus will be just as beautiful and welcoming.
Councilman Dave White agreed with Cheatham that the project isn’t a perfect match for “Vision Metcalf,” but said it’s the city’s best chance to reclaim that high profile corner of the city.
“We need something built,” he said. “This is a great project.”