Mission staff address concerns about ‘credibility’ with Mission Gateway project a month ahead of council vote

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A month ahead of the Oct. 18 meeting where the city council will be asked to consider approval for developer Tom Valenti’s latest Mission Gateway proposal, Mission’s administration and financial counsel sought to address head-on concerns about Valenti’s credibility and the risks to the city on the project.

Noting that there was a good deal of skepticism from Mission residents as well as council members as a result of the project’s fits-and-starts over the past decade, City Administrator Laura Smith told the council during a meeting of the Finance and Administration Committee on Wednesday that despite all the setbacks, the city still had a common goal with the developer in seeing the project break ground.

The current proposal before the city, which includes offices and two hotels along Shawnee Mission Parkway, retail and apartments along Roeland Parkway and Johnson Drive, and two large, presently unnamed tenants near the intersection of Roe Avenue and Johnson Drive, includes little financial risk for Mission, Smith and financial consultant Bruce Kimmel told the council.

Even if Valenti were only able to complete the first phase of the project, which would include the retail and apartments, the city would still come out ahead financially with new, taxable development on its rolls.

“If just Phase I happens, those would be setbacks and disappointments, but there’s very little risk to the city,” Kimmel said.

Smith also acknowledged that staff and council members were likely to continue to get questions about approving the project without the two large tenants at the northeast corner of the parcel having been revealed. She said that the developer would not be able to apply for or receive general obligation bonds until those tenants have been revealed, so, again, the city was at little financial risk.

Councilman Pat Quinn agreed that questions about trustworthiness hung over the project, but suggested that the council would be taking an objective look at the specifics of the latest proposal when making its decision.

“There’s definitely a perception…as far as trust and credibility of the developer,” Quinn said. “Doesn’t matter whether it’s warranted or not, it’s there and we’ve got to deal with it.”

Valenti and his attorney were in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting.