Overland Park OKs plans for 4-story office building on Gabler’s Nursery site off downtown

A rendering of the building approved by the Overland Park council.

A four-story office building planned for the site of Gabler’s Nursery may become the first new office space to open in downtown Overland Park, now that the city has given its final approval to the redevelopment plan.

The council voted 10-2 Monday to approve the Avenue 82 project on the northeast corner of Metcalf Avenue and West 82nd Street. With that done, the project is on track to beat the much larger Edison development to be open and ready for business, said Bob Johnson, lawyer representing the developer, Avenue 82 LLC.

“Your project is a very, very good one and exactly what we need in downtown Overland Park,” said Councilmember Dave White. City officials have often called for more top-quality office space in Overland Park, and Avenue 82 will be the first to be built on the east side of Metcalf, White noted.

The project, which includes the office space with some retail plus parking, will cost $18.6 million. The developer will get $4.7 million for development costs like site preparation and demolition, from tax increment financing. That amounts to 75 percent of the amount of increased property taxes the project is expected to cause – less than the 90 percent the developer originally asked for. The city also will allow a sales tax break amounting to $500,000 to $680,000 on development-related equipment purchases.

At a brief public hearing before the vote, former mayoral candidate Charlotte O’Hara objected to the public financing as “corporate welfare,” that should be reconsidered. “At some point the business community has to be self-sufficient,” she said.

Her comments were echoed by Councilmembers Gina Burke and Faris Farassati, who both voted no on the measures. Farassati said the council should consider whether the downtown is now flourishing enough that development would happen without the tax breaks.

Councilmember Curt Skoog took issue with that, though, saying the tax incentives are necessary to get developers to incur the extra costs of rebuilding in the older part of town. “We have fifty years of history in downtown Overland Park that tells us that when we don’t participate in development, development doesn’t happen,” Skoog said.

Councilmember Jim Kite said if the development happened without the oversight that goes with public financing, “we’d get a few shops along Metcalf and a big sea of asphalt.” Without the city’s partnership, the developer probably would not be able to afford the structured parking that improves the looks and walkability of the area, he said.

The financing comes with a requirement to maintain at least 130 jobs each year with minimum annual salary of $45,000. Johnson said 160 jobs will be located in the 70,000-square-foot building.

Avenue 82’s first tenant will be BRR Architecture, which will relocate from Merriam. BRR will be the anchor tenant, occupying two floors. Reach Healthcare Foundation also plans an office at Avenue 82, he said.

Construction is expected to be mostly completed by December 2019.