Overland Park officials sour on plans for Metcalf site once touted as textbook case for tax incentives

Overland Park officials have been eager to see the dilapidated hotels at Metcalf and Shawnee Mission Parkway torn down — but plans for a replacement project on the site have been hung up for months.

The Metcalf Crossing project that was once touted by Overland Park leaders as a textbook example of how tax incentives can be used to remove blight was delayed again Monday, after the city council balked at plans to replace retail pad sites with a car wash.

Instead of approving a revised plan and special use permit, council members said they’d take up the matter at their Oct. 7 meeting. Delaying action would give them a chance to take a second look the tax incentive package they approved for the project.

Metcalf Crossing was joyfully embraced by council members a year ago as a way to bulldoze two derelict hotels at the northwest corner of Shawnee Mission Parkway and Metcalf Avenue and replace them with new businesses. The hotels, now shuttered, had become a constant destination for police calls and complaints.

The original plan was for developer Wes Grammer to build a self-storage facility, retail pad sites and a smaller, quality hotel. But a year later, hotel buildings are still standing, as the development plans have continued to change.

In the interim the self-storage facility has grown to 114,000 square feet, with a larger office building at 14,250 square feet.

The latest iteration, which calls for a five-stall Charlie’s Car Wash, appeared to be a final straw for some council members, who have become, as Councilmember Fred Spears put it, “significantly less than enthusiastic.”

“I’m very, very, very disappointed,” said Councilmember David White. “I have absolutely no confidence the office will ever get built. I think you’re going to dumb it down and essentially going to put an industrial area right next to a residential area. That’s not what we promised those people.”

Councilmember Paul Lyons also expressed doubts that the office would ever get built. “I just can’t see an office tenant moving into a building that’s next to a storage facility and a car wash. Had I known that this was going to go down this path I would not have supported the (tax increment financing).”

Councilmember John Thompson took it a step further by asking development lawyer Curtis Holland how likely it is that the office building would become reality. Holland said there were “no guarantees,” but that the office is still part of the plan and that the developer would market it.

Councilmember Richard Collins likened the latest request to water swirling in the kitchen drain. He and other council members said they were not in love with the idea of a self-storage business, but were convinced the other aspects of the development would be an improvement for a corner that is considered a gateway to Overland Park from Interstate 635.

The $39 million project comes with $2.6 million in tax increment financing and $3.1 million from a special sales tax. Demolition was to have begun at the end of this month, but council members were told by staff that now looks unlikely.

Councilmember Logan Heley questioned whether the car wash and self storage fit in with the Vision Metcalf plan of pedestrian friendly, walkable areas. “I’m worried the gateway entrance to our city is going to say self storage and $8 car washes, welcome to Overland Park. That’s not what I want to see especially entering ward one of Overland Park,” he said.