Mission Gateway developer gets earful of suggestions at public meeting

Developer Tom Valenti discussed the future of the Mission Gateway project at a public meeting Thursday night.
Developer Tom Valenti discussed the future of the Mission Gateway project at a public meeting Thursday night.

People gathered for a public session hosted by Tom Valenti, developer of the planned Mission Gateway project, heard plenty Thursday night about the retailers that got away.

But the audience of about 75 reserved their biggest reaction to the one they were happy to let go, Walmart.

“We’ve been at it for a long time as you know,” Valenti said. “Our plan is to replace Walmart with several smaller retailers.”

The room at Sylvester Powell Community Center erupted in applause.

Walmart announced at the beginning of the month it was dropping out the development. Valenti, who has been pursuing the project since 2005, had seen the retail giant as the economic engine to power the rest of the development.

But despite his attempts to make the 155,000 square-foot Walmart store fit in with the original mixed-use plan envisioned for Mission Gateway, it faced stiff public opposition in Mission.

“I got the message in April when it was clear the voters did not want Walmart,” Valenti said, referring to the Mission election that shifted the City Council against the retail giant.

Later in the meeting however, Valenti listed retailers he has tried to line up to replace Walmart who’ve said no including Costco, J.C. Penney, Trader Joe’s, Crate and Barrel, Macy’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Kohl’s and Steinmart.

Valenti, who has developed other shopping centers around the country, said the current retail market is in flux, with many stores no longer expanding or contracting.

He declined to identify the potential tenants he’s negotiating with, except to say one would definitely be a grocer, the others are computer-related, sporting goods “and a few other things as well.”

The only definite ingredient in the $180 million project at this point is a 150-room Aloft hotel and 50-room Element extended stay hotel planned for the corner of Roeland Drive and Shawnee Mission Parkway. The hotels would have two fine dining restaurants on the first floor.

Valenti also is confident about 200 apartments will be developed along Roeland Drive and Johnson Drive in three-level buildings with first floor retail or restaurants.

“The market for the apartments will be people who want to be in the area and near the Plaza but not as expensive as the Plaza,” he said.

A swimming pool planned for the hotels also will be available to the apartment dwellers.

And Valenti said if he could line up a tenant, he would still like to build an approximately 50,000 square-foot office building east of the hotel.

That led to another one-that-got-away moment.

“In 2012, we were 24 hours away from signing a letter of intent from AMC,” he said, referring to the movie chain’s headquarters. “As the last minute, they decided to go to Park Place.”

The audience was there to listen and recommend what they wanted to see at the development. Valenti said he’d tried almost all the retailers suggested, but promised to continue working them.

“If you’re anxious to get this going, I’m a thousand times more anxious,” he said. “My hope is for a spring start.”