When it was proposed a year and a half ago, the Galleria project at 115th Street and Nall Avenue was expected to be the beginning of new life on Overland Park’s College Boulevard corridor. Now it appears that may not be happening any time soon.
A city council committee has approved a two-year delay before work begins on the apartments that will be the first buildings to go up. That, plus delays on the later phases, means the project wouldn’t be completely built out until Halloween of 2027.
Developer Ken Block missed April and October deadlines this year to start building the multi-family units and the first retail space improvements. On Wednesday, attorney John Petersen told the Finance, Administration and Economic Development committee Block still intends to put restaurants and entertainment into the development, but a series of problems have brought about delays.
“It doesn’t roll out perfectly,” he said of best-laid development projects.
In particular, securing the promised grocery store has been slow going, Petersen said, adding that it isn’t a certainty that a grocery will end up in the mix.
Restaurants and entertainment were key elements of the Galleria project. City leaders hoped adding some night life and living space, along with slowing down traffic, would make College Boulevard more appealing and also help existing businesses in the area. The project is also thought of as a link to the convention center. Council members have said they want to make it easier for convention goers to choose Overland Park rather than Leawood for evenings out.
But the project has been beset with problems since its inception. First there were issues about buying the Sprint-owned land, then one of the original developers pulled out. The rocky terrain also resulted in higher-than-expected costs.
The city approved a special sales tax within the development area of 1.5 percent to help with some $35.6 million of costs. Getting that money is conditioned on meeting the building deadlines.
Petersen noted that the market has been tough lately for retail and entertainment projects, but pledged to keep on the track the council wants. “We’re not backing away from the entertainment piece. It’s still on the table. We will bring in the restaurants. We just need more time to do it,” he said.
However his comments about the retail/entertainment market made some council members uneasy. Councilmember John Thompson said he is concerned that market forces could morph the project into something different from what was originally sold to the council when the tax incentive was approved.
Committee chairman Dave White agreed, saying the entertainment and apartments are needed to get the “live-work-play” concept going on a stretch of road that has largely been an office locale that empties out in the evenings. If the entertainment uses aren’t viable, “we need to find out sooner rather than later.”
White also wanted reassurance the project could get done within the new timeline. “Are these dates good dates?” he asked.
Other council members were reassured by Block’s reputation and solid track record of other projects, they said. Councilmember Rick Collins said he was comfortable voting for the deadline extension because it wouldn’t harm neighboring properties and businesses, as some delayed downtown projects have done.