The architectural landscape of downtown Overland Park is taking a modern turn.
A sleek four-story mixed-use building, named InterUrban Lofts, is set to be built at the southwest corner of 79th and Conser streets, on the cusp of a quiet neighborhood featuring older homes.
InterUrban Lofts, developed by Real Property LLC, will feature 41 residential units with 8,500 square feet of first-floor office space. It will also have a 53-space underground parking garage and an open space area for its residents to relax and mingle.
At its meeting Monday evening, the city council voted 9-2 to approve a “DFD Certificate of Conformity,” a type of zoning application, to allow the $9.3 million project.
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It also approved $1.89 million in tax increment financing, otherwise known as a TIF, and $3.9 million in Federally Taxable Private Activity Revenue Bonds, to finance the acquisition, construction, equipping and furnishing of the mixed-use commercial development.
The council’s support of the project was disappointing to numerous residents who have been protesting the project for months. Many of them argue the four-story building doesn’t fit in with the nearby historical homes.
The city’s downtown form-based code, however, which specifies building standards for a specific area, allows for four-story buildings in the area. The code was created in September 2011 to set guidelines for downtown revitalization.
The developer is requesting 12 deviations from the code, many of them architectural.
“It’s my view that residential density is absolutely essential to stabilizing and facilitating the future growth of downtown Overland Park,” said Councilman Terry Goodman. “In my view, this project conforms to the expectations of the city. The regulation plan allows for four-story buildings, so building height is not an appropriate reason for declining this application.”
Not all council members agreed, however.
Councilman Dave Janson voted against the project because he was frustrated the developer didn’t make any major changes, as several council members had suggested at their Aug. 31 meeting when they reviewed the item for the first time.
After expressing concerns about the height and mass of the building, the location of the required open space, landscaping and the location of the trash dumpster, the council sent the item back to the Planning Commission, hoping the developer would make changes in the meantime.
The developer’s subsequent changes include additional landscaping, wooden screening around the open space, and landscaped and walled shielding of the trash services area.
But the building remains four stories.
Satisfied with the changes, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the project to the city council on Sept. 28.
Terry Happer Scheier was the second council member unimpressed with the project. She said she sympathized with the neighbors and she wouldn’t want to live near the massive building herself.
At the public hearing, residents had one last chance to voice their unhappiness.
“This project might meet the form-based code but it’s not a full-hearted effort in trying to be something we can all have as an improvement to the area,” said Kevin Cowan, an architect who owns a historical home close to the site. “Overland Park is a premier city in Kansas, without a doubt, and the projects we have should be equal to that, especially if we give them TIF and bonds and everything else.”
His wife, Pam, agreed.
She was appalled that the developer offered no significant change to the project when the council had expressed concern with the building’s height on Aug. 31.
“If this was a good project, all of us would be supporting it tonight,” she said. “But there’s so much question around this project. We’re not against development, we want correct development. This is the same building you sent back.”
Not all of the feedback was negative, however.
Gordon Kauffman, who has lived in Overland Park for around 70 years, expressed interest in moving to the new apartment complex. He thinks other people his age will move there as well.
“I’m getting older and I want public transportation, I want to walk to amenities,” he said. “This project appeals to me because it’s in a good location. I’d like to see a supermarket and other shops open nearby too.”
Dale Griffin, a business owner in downtown Overland Park, said the city should be focusing on change.
“I want to remind everyone that Vision Metcalf and the form-based code has been long-standing in place,” he said. “It’s about the changes we want to see. The whole process is about making the area better and making it the jewel of Overland Park.”
The majority of the council agreed.
“The biggest challenge we have is that it’s the first project on the west side (of downtown) and that’s a little surprising to us,” said Councilman Curt Skoog. “But from my point of view, the form-based code envisions this structure and I’m comfortable with it.”
InterUrban Lofts is just one of several new residential options popping up in downtown Overland Park.
The Vue, a $39 million mixed-use development is planned for the southeast corner of 80th and Marty streets. It will feature 216 apartments, 10,000 square feet of retail and a 324-space parking garage.
Also in the works is Market Lofts, an $8.9 million mixed-use building to be constructed on 80th and Marty Streets. It will feature 36 apartment units.
Jennifer Bhargava: firstname.lastname@example.org.