Despite tepid response to design, OP council advances plans for $182 million retail and apartment project near Town Center Plaza

A rendering of the apartment portion of the proposed complex.
A rendering of the apartment portion of the proposed complex.

By Roxie Hammill

With hopes of adding some pizzazz to the entertainment offerings near its convention center, the Overland Park City Council Monday night approved land use and development agreements for a $182 million retail and high-rise apartment project near the Jewish Community Center.

The council also voted to create a community improvement district that could eventually raise $22.1 million to help pay for the project through additional sales taxes charged at the development.

The project, a joint venture by Retail Connection LP and Block Real Estate Services LLC, would put two five-story apartment buildings plus about 241,000 square feet of retail in the area around the northwest corner of 115th Street and Nall Avenue that is owned by the Sprint Corp. The land has been vacant since 1999 and is the site of a landscaping nursery owned by Sprint.

When finished in 2024, the 37-acre project will have 548 luxury apartment units along with the retail, specialty grocery and mix of retail tenants.

Although an entertainment venue of 15,000 square feet was a relatively small part of the package, it is the reason some on the council backed a project whose layout they considered lackluster.

“It’s been the better part of a decade we’ve been talking about having an entertainment district in the city,” said council member Dan Stock. “If we weren’t doing this, what other opportunity would we have as a city to provide the one thing we keep hearing our convention center lacks?”

The 115th and Nall project’s northern edge is about a half mile from the convention center, but developers have agreed to pay $650,000 toward a walkway connecting it. However the developers and city dropped the idea to allow the developer to recoup some of that cost through credits to offset the expense of permits.

No specific plans have been made for the entertainment site, although a recreation concept like Dave and Buster’s was mentioned during a committee meeting as an example the kind of attraction that could be included.

The city planning staff gave the plan only a tepid review, saying it was “a pretty typical style suburban center without much creativity.” Some council members expressed reservations about the plan because of that, but were told another option for an entertainment district at northeast corner of College Boulevard and Metcalf Avenue is still years off.

“This is the only thing imminent that might add to the charisma of that area,” said council member Terry Goodman during a committee meeting.

Lawyer John Petersen, representing the developers, argued that people visiting the stores don’t like parking garages and that it would be more successful as planned with the surface parking for the stores.

The design was a big reason council member Curt Skoog voted against the special taxing district. “It’s another suburban strip center. We have lots of those,” he said. “I think it’s important that when we’re going to make an investment for our community that the project is more than just a traditional strip center,” Skoog’s no vote was the only one on the project items.

The plan got some opposition during the public hearing from Earl Long of Overland Park. Long said the public shouldn’t be expected to help finance a project that was not in a blighted area and undeveloped land. He added the project will get competition from Town Center Plaza just across Nall Avenue in Leawood.

A rendering of part of the retail component of the project.
A preliminary site plan.