Hotel developer, zip line company send letters of intent to Roeland Park for old pool site projects

Limestone rock formations and caves are being crushed to make way for development at the old pool site in Roeland Park
Limestone rock formations and caves are being crushed to make way for development at the old pool site in Roeland Park

By Holly Cook

Roeland Park has received two non-binding letters of intent from developers interested in the old pool site. The Sunflower Development Group wants to purchase the upper portion of the site and build a hotel and Zip KC is interested in leasing the lower level for an extreme sports venue.

The hotel is expected to be four to five stories high and cost $13 to $14 million. The Kansas City-based Sunflower Development Group has renovated 16 properties in downtown Kansas City and works closely with Hilton and Marriott.

Zip KC is conducting a feasibility study on the site and creating a course plan for the ad-hoc economic development committee’s review.

Councilor Erin Thompson said Twin Peaks Restaurant, a Texas-based chain best known for its waitresses’ skimpy uniforms, had also shown interest in the site but that economic development committee members did not think the restaurant “would be a good fit for Roeland Park.”

During an early December meeting councilors generally agreed they would be open to selling the upper portion of the land and leasing the lower level. Councilors discussed using funds from the sale for a new public works building.

The committee is considering using community improvement district (CID) funds and a hotel tax to construct a road connecting the upper and lower portion of the site, build an access road to Roe Boulevard and relocate utilities. These improvements are expected to cost around $600,000.

Councilor Becky Fast said she wanted the council to consider how they could leverage CID funds to make the best profit possible for Roeland Park and referenced Prairie Village using CID funds to construct buildings at the Village Shops and Corinth Square. The ownership group that sold the Village Shops and Corinth Square earned $47 million more from the transaction than they had paid in 2009.

“Why shouldn’t the residents of Roeland Park get the benefits of the CID and then we can sell it at another time?” Fast asked.

City Administrator Keith Moody said Roeland Park would need to act as the developer and pay to construct the buildings in order to be the beneficiary of the CID funds. This would come with risk, as the city would have to borrow money for the development and then find tenants for the site. While Zip KC was expecting to lease the hotel group was interested in purchasing land, Moody said.
Mayor Joel Marquardt questioned if the hotel group would consider leasing.

Councilor Sheri McNeil said she would like the discussion brought to a council workshop.

“I think that’s where the city got in trouble to begin with, was with selling our land,” McNeil said.

Fast said she would like councilmembers to further discuss the benefits of leasing versus selling the land. Fast voiced concerns the city had sold too much land in the past.

“We have very few pieces of land left,” Fast said. “That hotel could go bankrupt in five years and we would have little control.”

Councilors agreed to put the discussion on the next council workshop agenda.