By Roxie Hammill
Despite some last-minute hesitation over walkability, Overland Park’s city council decided to go ahead with plans to help developer Mission Peak Capital renovate the Regency Park shopping center at 93rd Street and Metcalf Avenue.
The council voted unanimously on four items allowing the $30 million project to go forward despite concerns that the facelift won’t do enough to improve life for pedestrians and bicyclists. A walkable and bikeable environment is one of the key components of Vision Metcalf, the planning guideline for the corridor.
Overland Park resident Melissa Cheatham raised the issue first during a public hearing over a special taxing district for the area. She noted that the rest of the corridor is filling with projects that will bring more apartments.
“Let’s be sure that the hundreds of residents moving into new apartments up and down Metcalf don’t have to drive in order to shop down a block,” she said.
Cheatham said taxpayers should expect more than a facelift for their support of the project. Developers could use $7.3 million from the proceeds of a 1 percent sales tax charged in the area to help with some development costs. The city also will issue Economic Development Revenue Bonds of up to $8.5 million for financing certain construction and renovation costs.
Regency Park is an L-shaped center of shops where Micro Center and Natural Grocers are located. The plan calls for more modern facades and the addition of a 4,500-square-foot building along Metcalf Ave. The plan also calls for new sidewalk striping and a new sidewalk and crosswalk near the Natural Grocers store, 9108 Metcalf Ave.
The developer faced some closer questioning by the council after the public hearing. Curt Skoog asked whether the developer would be willing to make some changes to make it more walkable. “I think we could have done better on this project,” he said.
Council member Paul Lyons also said he’d like to see some bicycle access for people living in the neighborhood to the west. “What’s there today is pretty darn minimal,” he said.
But attorney John Petersen, representing the developer, said the options for pedestrian improvements are limited because of the way the parking lot is configured. Removing some parking spots to make way for sidewalks and bicycle access could violate leases that call for a certain number of spaces per store, he said.
Ultimately council members said it was more important to revitalize a struggling center to attract more tenants. “We do expect things above and beyond a normal refresh when we put these public monies into it,” said Council member David White, adding that the internal area is difficult for walkers to navigate.
That said, though, White supported the plan because he said it would help businesses in the area.