Saying “we have no alternative but to get going,” Mission Gateway developer Tom Valenti revealed a radically different plan for the site Wednesday. The Walmart anchor is still part of the proposal – in fact it gets bigger – but most other aspects of the original proposal are gone. A small hotel is added to the plan. Valenti is still asking for city support in financing the project.
“This is not what we first talked about,” Valenti told a joint city council-planning commission meeting. “Quite frankly, we have no choice.” The new plan is scaled back to a $100 million project from the original $170 million proposal that yielded construction estimates well over $200 million.
Eliminated in the new proposal is a Sprouts Farmers Market grocery, a Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, a fitness center, a multi-deck parking garage and most of the other retail components. Also gone are plans for 300 market-rate apartments that would have occupied about 310,000 square feet on the property in a multi-story residential component with retail on the first floor.
What is left in the new proposal is a more conventional Walmart store that grows from 150,000 square feet in the original plans to 175,000 square feet with an additional 4,000 square foot garden center. The Walmart would have a grocery, but would be a one-story building much like a traditional Walmart. Valenti showed pictures of a Walmart near 159th and Metcalf as an example of the prospect for the new building. “This is just an example to show you that a Walmart does not have to look like a big box,” he said.
The original plans called for a new Walmart concept with other retail located above it. In the new proposal the Walmart store entrance would face the west – the large surface parking lot – with the rear of the store facing Roe Avenue. Valenti said it would be screened from view.
A hotel is planned for the southwest corner along Shawnee Mission Parkway. Valenti said it will be a national brand “boutique” hotel with 150 rooms with about four stories with a restaurant possibly added to the bottom floor. “There is another one in Johnson County south of here,” Valenti said. The hotel has signed a letter of intent. The hotel is about 75,000 square feet.
A small one-story retail strip would be located in the northwest corner at Johnson Drive and Roeland Drive, providing about 8,000 square feet of retail space. The original concept had about 280,000 square feet of retail space in addition to the Walmart. The original multi-use proposal also was multiple story with a multi-story parking structure. Except for the hotel, the new proposal is all one story with surface parking instead of a structure.
The project would still involve a Tax Increment Financing district (TIF) and a Community Improvement District (CID) that would finance bonds to support the development. The new proposal is for $25 million in special obligation bonds that would be paid from the TIF and CID proceeds. Valenti indicated the project is dependent on the public financing.
“We believe we have the construction financing lined up,” he said, adding the banks want to know that the city will authorize the bonds. “I want to know that this is not dead on arrival,” he asked the council and commission. Although several members asked questions, none of them gave Valenti a direct response to his question.
The new plan will require a new development agreement and public hearings on the financing proposal. It also would require a zoning change from the current multi-use designation and amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning text. Currently, the city prohibits any retail building of more than 50,000 square feet from being single-story.