Two derelict hotels that became an eyesore and crime magnet near Shawnee Mission Parkway and Metcalf Avenue are back on track to be torn down, this time with a hard deadline of Nov. 30.
Actions by the Overland Park City Council put the Metcalf Crossing project – which will bring a self storage building, car wash and office space to the site – back on track Monday. The developer, Wes Grammer, also has until Feb. 1, 2020 to begin construction.
Council members were excited about the development and the prospect of bulldozing the hotels when the development was first brought forward more than a year ago. But in the months that have passed and as the development plans have changed, their enthusiasm has morphed into resignation. A few expressed regret Monday that the city did not prepare a vision plan for the Shawnee Mission Parkway corridor at Metcalf, a northern gateway to the city.
“This is one of those corners that you could dream up big things for,” said Councilmember Curt Skoog. But when the council approved the original plan, he said, “We limited what the corner can be for the next generation.”
Councilmember Logan Heley said he held his nose for the storage facility in the interest of getting the hotels removed. But the businesses proposed don’t fit with the character of the neighborhood or with the planning ideals of Vision Metcalf or Forward OP, he said. “The site deserves more.”
However Councilmember Dave White reminded members that the hotels were shuttered at the end of 2017 and sat empty before a developer came forward. He and Councilmember Paul Lyons noted that the nearby stretch of Shawnee Mission Parkway is filled with car dealerships, making a car wash a decent fit for the area.
“(The corner) is a gateway, there is no doubt about it,” White said. “But at the same time Shawnee Mission Parkway from Metcalf to I-35 is not a garden spot folks, I’m sorry.” He said perhaps the upgrade would spark some other investment in the area.
The council approved both revised land use plan and permit and a new tax incentive agreement that offers substantially less money for development costs.
Because of frustrations with delays, council members had earlier sent the public financing of the over $30 million project back to the drawing board. The new deal approved Monday slashes available funds from a special sales tax in the area by 44.3%, bringing the cap of the community improvement district down to $1.7 million from the previous $3 million.
Tax increment financing, which designates a share of future property tax increases to development costs, also was cut, from the original $2.9 million to $2.5 million.
The new agreement also sets some tighter terms for the developer. Missing the demolition deadline, for instance, will result in immediate default, without another chance for the developer to take his case for the delay back to the council. And if crews don’t meet the construction deadlines or leave the site incompletely built, they will be required to remove the rubble and take the ground back to seeded dirt.
The agreement also makes sale or transfer of the land contingent upon demolition of the hotels. The developer has plans to sell the storage facility and lease the car wash.
Council members unanimously approved the new financing package, pointing out that the money doesn’t go directly into building the car wash and that the developer has an incentive to complete the project because the businesses there will generate the incentive money.
Attorney Korb Maxwell said the developer is confident the new deadlines can be met. The site has been fully fenced to keep out squatters, he said, and crews are continuing work on removal of asbestos from part of the hotels.