After more than two hours of public comment and discussion with the developer, the Shawnee planning commission on Monday approved a rezoning and site plan for Stag’s Spring, a multi-family residential project downtown.
The proposed plan includes a three- to four-story U-shaped building of 67 luxury apartments on about 2.7 acres just east of Old Shawnee Pizza between Roger Road and Ballentine Avenue.
Shawnee developer Kevin Tubbesing, who led the Stag’s Creek development down the street, has proposed the $16.1 million multi-family luxury apartment complex.
During the planning commission meeting, Tubbesing said the project was two years in the making, with the bulk of time being spent on consolidation of the property from multiple owners.
“When we finally got the properties under contract in the beginning of the year, to say the least, it was kind of a mad rush to get to this point,” he said. “With that said, we have spent an enormous amount of time and money and thought to bring an extremely high quality project to the city. I hope my reputation for bringing nothing but high-quality projects precedes me a bit.”
The planning commissioners posed many questions and were concerned about adequate parking for the proposed apartment complex, minimal disruption to neighboring single-family homes (such as spillover from lighting off parking lots and the apartment complex) and aesthetic elements of landscaping, especially along the north side of the project.
Nonetheless, commissioners ultimately voiced their support for the project, adding that they will keep an eye on their concerns as the project develops.
“You are setting the tone for Nieman,” said Planning Commissioner Randy Braley. “That’s a big responsibility and I appreciate you stepping up to take that on. That’s why we made the investment in Nieman Road: To support the local businesses, to get the density down here so that they thrive.”
Tubbesing said the design of the apartment complex is intended to attract the eye from the southwest corner, visible from the Nieman Road corridor, while drawing less attention on the north and east sides that face single-family homes.
Planning commission approves multiple deviations from development guidelines
The planning commission approved the project site plan with multiple deviations from city regulations related to parking, landscaping, design and apartment unit size in the town square district.
For instance, the studio units in the project are under the 800 square foot requirement for residential units in the town square district — Tubbesing noted that the 600 square foot studios exceed the standard set by other projects in the Kansas City area, such as those being built in Westport that are less than 400 square feet. The dwelling units will be a combination of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments ranging from about 600 to about 1,300 square feet.
Another deviation is the addition of hardscaping of boulders along the north side of the property instead of landscaping, which would provide protection to the carports from the parking lot along its northern border. There is also a retaining wall along the north border, which would “capture” headlights of traffic from shining into neighboring homes, Tubbesing added. In turn, the project includes an inner courtyard with greenery.
Commissioners, developer talk parking concerns downtown
The project deviates from parking requirements, as well. Normally, a project this size requires 134 on-site parking spaces, according to city documents. Stag’s Spring calls for providing 89 on-site parking spaces as well as 26 on-street parking spaces. The developer also accounted the use of 10 public spaces near Old Shawnee Pizza for overflow parking. This is a total of 125 parking spaces.
Doug Allmon, community development director for Shawnee, said city staff was comfortable with the number of parking spaces being built on or near the site because the public spaces will be built very close to the apartment complex. City staff also accounted for the type of apartment dwellers who may not have greater parking needs.
Parking issues historically have been a hot topic for residents and business owners downtown. The subject of adequate parking was broached in August by neighboring business owners with concerns about McLain’s Market.
Mark Zielsdorf, Shawnee planning staff, said city staff is “very supportive of the high-density residential proposal and the impact that it would have on Shawnee’s redeveloping downtown core,” especially because it provides homes for people to live downtown and support local businesses in the town square district.
“The applicant has shown a willingness to take risk as the first major residential redevelopment effort in Shawnee’s downtown core, which would be a vital part of the downtown’s future,” Zielsdorf added.
Before Monday’s meeting, the site was split between two zoning parcels: residential and town square district. The whole site is now zoned as town square district.
Tubbesing is also requesting $3.1 million in tax increment financing to assist with project costs. The city council will consider TIF funds for the project Oct. 28. Ten million dollars of the remaining $13 million for the project would come from a conventional loan, according to city documents.
Resident concerns with parking, safety, aesthetics
About nine neighbors cited concerns with parking, walkability and aesthetics of the project.
David Morris, neighboring resident who supports the project, cited concerns with adequate parking, pedestrian safety and building materials of the project. He stressed that development downtown should follow the guidelines the city has established. Morris added that he appreciates Tubbesing inviting neighboring homeowners to share input early in the process.
Alexandra Smith, another neighboring resident, said she was also concerned with issues of safety and parking, but also her property value.
Nonetheless, a few neighbors shared their support for the project too.
“It is exciting to think that we could get new ideas, new development, along the Nieman corridor, the downtown area,” said Deborah Martin, a neighboring resident, adding that she wanted to ensure parking and walkability issues are prioritized in redevelopment of downtown Shawnee. “Change is hard. It seems to be happening really fast with Mr. Tubbesing’s ideas and development, and it takes awhile to assimilate them and get used to them. But I think it can be good, the commerce, the people, the activities can be good for the neighborhood and for the business corridor.”
The planning commission voted 9-0 to approve both the rezoning and site plan items. Commissioners Bruce Bienhoff and Steven Wise were absent.