Developer seeks tax incentives for Novel Place senior living due to unexpected expenses

A rendering of the proposed Novel Place senior living community.

Developers of the proposed Novel Place senior living apartments at 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue have asked Overland Park for a $500,000 break on sales tax for building materials costs.

The tax break, through a vehicle known as economic development revenue bonds, would cost the city itself about $50,000 in sales tax. The idea got preliminary approval on a 4-2 vote in the council’s Finance, Administration and Economic Development Committee this week and will go on to the full council, which is scheduled to decide on rezoning for the project March 4.

The $20 million project by LANE4 Property Group will consist of a three-story, 134-unit independent senior living facility at the southeast corner of that intersection.

If it gets built, it will be the first residential site in an area that has primarily been retail. It is in an area that has been occupied for years by the Metcalf South Mall and the former French Market. Plans are in the works for an office tower complex in that area, and a Lowe’s home improvement store has already been built nearby.

Although the development is not considered mixed-use, the addition of apartments amongst office and retail would be the beginning of an eventual transformation of the area to a more varied use, said lawyer Korb Maxwell, representing the developer. “This is the beginning to a change in all this concept of the whole Metcalf South site,” he said.

LANE4 is asking for the tax break because of unexpected expenses of realigning the building and street, he said. The three-story complex is near an existing neighborhood of single-family homes, and the developer has been trying to work with neighbors, he said. So far, they have not objected.

“Some would ask, well, you built a Lowe’s and you didn’t need any incentives,” Maxwell said. “We do not relish this. There is no interest from (the development team) to come in front of this committee and ask for incentives.” But they are needed for the “little extra oomph to push it over the top,” he added.

However some on the committee were skeptical. Councilmember Fred Spears said the developer could have predicted those costs. “The implication that the added cost is unexpected, I’m not buying into that,” he said.

But others noted that the residential development is welcome and that no tax increment financing has been requested.

Councilmembers were, “shocked when they built the Lowe’s and asked for no incentives,” said committee chairman Dave White. Many expected an application for tax increment financing at the time, he said.

But the Novel Place is not asking for a full package of incentives, he said. “They’re only asking for (economic development revenue bonds). For me, that’s a little bit different.”

It would have been better if the entire area had been redeveloped under one master plan, he said. As it is, the Lowe’s, office towers and senior living are being considered separately. But those developers still have to deal with relocating roads and utilities, which are not usually a problem on undeveloped green field, he said.

When the Novel Place is finished, apartments will start at $1,800 to $1,900 a month, which includes meals and transportation. There will also be a home healthcare agency in the building, said Hunter Harris, partner at LANE4.