Metcalf South is a site wrapped in history and nostalgia. Along with the old French Market across the street, it was a landmark in the Overland Park of yesteryear.
But what is currently standing at 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue is a failed development rooted in planning and retail trends of the mid 1900’s. As development reached south, the activity at these retail centers slowly dwindled to a stop. The centers no longer offer a competitive retail advantage for their north Overland Park location.
That being said, Lane4 unveiled plans for a new center which replaces the existing buildings but in effect re-creates the same outdated format.
The proposed “Central Square” plans show strip mall retail with large and mid-size box stores. Parking dominates the plan, providing the same quick in-and-out shopping experience as virtually every other retail development in Johnson County.
This format does not contribute to creating a sense of place; it is not the type of environment a shopper would wander through and experience, lingering and maybe buying an un-planned cup of coffee.
To thrive in a market that is already overbuilt for retail, “Central Square” must offer something more than what is currently proposed. The demolition of the existing buildings creates a fantastic opportunity to create a unique destination.
The Glenwood Arts Theater recently moved out of the shopping center. Instead of watching it relocate elsewhere, why not celebrate that cultural institution and give it a new home on this site? It would be a nice fit alongside retail, residential and office development.
Johnson County residents have few choices for a dense, walkable destination with a mix of entertainment, dining and shopping. Coupled with the provision of public space, this destination could be a true neighborhood hub.
This intersection was a significant area of study in the citizen-led Vision Metcalf plan commissioned by Overland Park. It prescribed public green space surrounded by civic uses, dense residential, retail, and office use with parking accommodated in garages.
The city should demand that development be based upon and reflect Vision Metcalf. The green space currently shown in Lane4’s plan should be greatly expanded and better integrated into the overall plan, giving meaning to the “Central Square” name.
I can understand a developer’s reluctance to go for dense mixed use in Johnson County, where a minimal investment (surface parking) can yield a profitable development.
But we must take the long view. Even if the initial development does not have the full level of density, it should be planned to accommodate future density, with parking garages, multi-story residential and infill retail.
This development is extremely important for Overland Park to get right. It will have a large impact moving forward as more and more aging properties are deemed obsolete and slated for redevelopment.
“Central Square” should be a model of future development as we move past the mentality of simply creating ‘retail centers’ and on to a mindset of thoughtful place-making in Johnson County.
P.S. As an interested party, I have created a website advocating the re-thinking of the proposed development.
Please visit, and let’s continue the conversation.
Andrew Barnes grew up in Overland Park, attending Shawnee Mission South High School. He currently resides and practices architecture in Dallas, Texas.