Behind schedule construction projects exacerbating parking issues in downtown Overland Park

Overland Park has seen a wave of new projects over the past couple years, which have stressed already tight downtown parking.

When it comes to downtown construction, there can be too much of a good thing, Overland Park leaders are finding out. The numerous building projects downtown – some of which are significantly behind schedule – have now begun to overlap each other, continuing a parking shortage that has irritated nearby residents.

The sheer number of ongoing projects has also caused a shortage of subcontractors, making it even more difficult for things to get completed on time, city council members said Monday.

The Overland Park City Council moved forward with what will be a small fix to the parking situation Monday when it accepted a bid to demolish the Dyna-Jet car wash at 7910 Marty Street in order to create about 24 more parking spaces. But the council also ended up extending construction deadlines on some other downtown work, even as the new Edison project is about to get up and running.

The council extended the timelines for The Vue and Market Lofts, both within a stone’s throw of Edison and the Farmers Market. A deadline on the Promontory project farther south was also extended. The extensions were all in the five- and six-month range.

The Market Lofts project is more than a year behind schedule, causing frustration among the Overland Park City Council.

The extension for Market Lofts was unexpected and further complicates parking problems downtown, council member said. Market Lofts, an apartment project that began before the recession, is now a year behind its previous July 31 deadline.

Some council members were taken aback this month because they said the developer did not let them know what was going on until after the deadline had passed. Their approval of a deadline extension Monday came with a few stern warnings.

“This has been a very, very disruptive project,” said Councilmember David White. The construction materials and staging have taken parking spaces, especially on market days, and the council is unhappy with the delays, he said. “I don’t want to say we’re frustrated, but we’re dismayed, I’ll put it that way.”

Councilmember Richard Collins put it a different way during a recent council committee meeting: “It took less time to build the transcontinental railroad than to put this building up in downtown Overland Park.”

Market Lofts developer Paul Goehausen has already lost 10 percent of the revenue he would have received from tax increment financing, and now stands to lose even more if the building is not done by the end of the year. He could lose another 15 percent if work isn’t done by year’s end, reducing TIF money for the $10.8 million project from the original $1.1 million to around $907,000. Another 15 percent would be docked if it goes past February of next year.

“We’ve set a line in the sand,” White said. “This project needs to be done and ready to go in December and the areas around it vacated.”

Councilmember Paul Lyons supports a harsher penalty. If the building isn’t done by February, he said, all tax increment money should be off.

“It is causing tremendous disruption to the businesses on 80th Street,” he said.

Council members have been under intense pressure to do something about the parking situation. It has been a top subject any time people meet to discuss downtown. Neighbors have been leery of plans to upgrade Santa Fe Commons Park in part because they fear it will create parking problems on their streets if the market is moved there. The problem also creates stress for downtown business owners who worry about getting customers through their doors.

The space shortage will ease a bit once some of the projects are complete and remove their construction equipment. The Edison project also comes with a surface parking lot and garage with some shared use for public parking.

In the meantime, the city will begin regular bi-weekly meetings with contractors involved in downtown projects to avoid any issues with overlapping projects, said Jack Messer, director of planning and development services.

And demolition will begin on the car wash, which the city purchased last spring, will begin in a week or two. Paving of the car wash lot, the Farmers Market lot and Overland Park Drive will begin in mid September and should be done well before Fall Festival Sept. 29, said City Manager Bill Ebel. No paving will be done on market days.