When the Mission Gateway project is completed at Johnson Drive and Roe Avenue, it is expected to radically change the complexion of that area. But what is likely to happen to the properties that border the development site is a question swirling around the project.
To the west of the Gateway plot are the old Wild Oats building, long vacant, and an active Wendy’s. To the northeast are the two intersection green spaces located in Roeland Park, one of which has been sold to Commerce Bank. But the most prominent string of property that may be influenced by the Gateway is across Johnson Drive to the north.
Though the buildings appear from the outside to be residential, albeit with paved over yard space, a string of businesses operate along the street. Those businesses are in Roeland Park and have some unusual restrictions attached to them, believed to date back decades.
Gateway developer Tom Valenti said last month that he has leased two of the houses with options and will be using them to house construction offices during the project. Documents uncovered by a homeowners’ committee and the city seem to indicate that while the buildings may be used for business purposes, they must still look residential. A commercial Realtor with property along the strip also says the restriction applies.
The house businesses are part of the Roe Manor Heights subdivision. The somewhat unusual restriction appears to date from a 1963 court decision. The subdivision restrictions limit property to residential use, but in the late 1950s, as Johnson Drive began to change, the houses began turning into businesses. In 1958, the city zoned them as an “office building district.”
At some point in the early 1960s, some of the business owners filed suit asking to be relieved of the subdivision restrictions. The judge said most of the restrictions could stand, but that the residential-only restriction should be modified to allow office use because the character of the street and the building use had already changed.
The subdivision does not have an active homeowners association, according to Jim Grebe, who heads an ad hoc committee in the subdivision largely west of Roe Avenue and south of 55th Street. His committee has not been active for years, he said.
The method of changing the restrictions through the association is rumored to be cumbersome. The narrow rear lots for most of the buildings also present redevelopment challenges. The age and appearance of many of the buildings have added to the speculation that they will be prime targets for the ripple effect of redevelopment. But the subdivision rules and the long-standing court case add a complicating dimension to the speculation even as the bulldozers are rolling across the street.
A copy of the relevant 1963 court ruling is embedded below: