Residents express concerns about Village Shops renovations’ impact on parking

LANE4 president Owen Buckley addressing the crowd Thursday.

Parking and traffic were the top concerns expressed by attendees at LANE4’s presentation Thursday about major planned redevelopments at the Village Shops.

During the presentation, LANE4 president Owen Buckley walked the crowd through the company’s plans to completely revamp Mission Lane and build a new 6,000 square foot retail space to replace the current Waid’s building, which it will demolish. The company will also manage the expansion of the Hen House market from its current 18,000 square feet to what Buckley said would be a more competitive 32,000 square feet. These projects will be funded in part by the CID tax passed by the Prairie Village city council in September 2010.

Buckley acknowledged that many of the design elements in the site plan — including the limitation of turn-in parking to the west side of the street outside the grocery store and the retention of a large parking lot to the grocery store’s east — were dictated by the needs of Hen House.

“From our experience in the business, we know that grocery-anchored centers tend to be the strongest,” Buckley said. “So we know we want to keep Hen House here and keep them in good shape. And we look to the expertise of the Ball family on what they need to be competitive here. They feel they are losing business at the current size, and this expansion will help them be competitive.”

Buckley said Hen House was still debating whether it would close the store during the expansion, or try to keep it open. The renovation to Mission Lane would be largely determined by the need to keep access open to the Hen House. The company plans to begin some work at the shops — likely the demolition of the Waid’s building – in October. Scheduling for the extensive renovations to the Mission Lane streetscape and the Hen House expansion are presently up in the air, though Buckley suggested work could begin in Spring 2013.

News of the improvements seemed to generally please the majority of attendees, though many questioned whether the improvements would making parking at the center more difficult. Buckley said the renovations would reduce the total number of parking spaces at the center by 50 — but that there should still be enough space to accommodate patrons across the center. An engineering studies by George Butler and Associates had determined that, at peak time, barely 50 percent of the center’s 1,200 parking spaces are in use.

“Will it be more difficult to find a parking space?” Buckley said. “We hope so. Because we think that’s what the tenants want. It means more people are coming to shop here.”

One crowd member also expressed reservations about plans to include a drive-thru window on the north side of the proposed new retail space — which many are suggesting may be occupied by a tenant like Starbucks. The worry, he said, was that a “non-premium” tenant like McDonald’s or Burger King could come into the space years down the road if LANE4 were to sell the property.

“Someday, maybe, down the road, I guess you never know,” Buckley said. “But that is not at all where we are going with this center. That’s not the direction we’re moving at all.”

Details from the site plan for the new retail space on the site of the Waid’s building show a drive thru lane on the north side.