Mission Gateway developers say 2020 goals ‘remain unchanged’ despite COVID-19 shutdowns

Mission Gateway work will resume only when the Johnson County stay-at-home order is lifted, said Andy Ashwal, vice president of GFI Development Company citing the "health and safety" of those working on the project. Photo courtesy of Heartland Drone Company, credit Andrew Patch. 

Developers of the Mission Gateway project say that, despite coronavirus delays, they are confident they will still achieve the goals they had initially established for 2020, which include completing the construction of and opening the Cinergy Entertainment center and beginning construction of the Tom Colicchio food hall. 

“Our main goals for Mission Gateway in 2020 remain unchanged,” wrote Andy Ashwal, vice president and senior asset manager of GFI Development Company, one of the two developers working on Mission Gateway. Other major milestones the developers are working toward in 2020 include beginning construction on a hotel, erecting the parking garage, and continuing construction of the residential and small shop retail.

Cinergy Cinemas and Entertainment, which was initially supposed to be completed by late summer 2020, will now have a fall completion date, Ashwal added.

The coronavirus halted a welcome period of construction at the Mission Gateway site, where development has failed to materialize for the past 15 years.

As of January, vertical construction was underway, a significant milestone for a site that has been vacant for so long. But construction progress was halted in late March, when the city of Mission announced that construction at the site would pause for 30 days due to coronavirus concerns. Though the 30 days have ended, construction has not yet resumed. 

Ashwal said that they will begin construction again only when the Johnson County stay-at-home order is lifted, despite the fact that construction is considered an essential business and can continue to operate throughout the stay-at-home order.

“Once work resumes, GFI Development and our contracting partners are committed to following the Associated Builders and Contractors Heart of America recommendations to ensure a safe environment at Mission Gateway,” Ashwal wrote. These include social distancing guidelines

Project financing to go on as planned

Ashwal noted another key goal for the developers in 2020 is closing on permanent construction financing, an objective he still aims to meet despite economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ashwal noted another key goal for the developers in 2020 is closing on permanent construction financing, an objective he still aims to meet despite economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Photo credit city of Mission.

“There is definitely stress in the capital markets that will be impacting real estate,” Ashwal wrote. “We are fortunate that our capital market partners are working alongside us to finalize the construction financing for Mission Gateway.” 

“Our capital partners continue to view GFI Development and Cameron Group as quality sponsors and Mission Gateway as a quality project,” he added. 

The development is also receiving tax finance incentives from the City of Mission, including all proceeds from a 1 percent community improvement district sales tax. In 2018, developer Tom Valenti asked the city to delay the start date for this sales tax until July 1, 2020 to align with the completion of the development and the beginning of retail activity. 

Despite this, Ashwal wrote that the coronavirus pandemic currently poses no major impact to the established tax finance incentives.

Return to Normalcy

Even if the construction timeline stays on track, concerns remain around how and if businesses that depend on gathering of people, such as the Cinergy complex, will be able to operate. Cinergy Entertainment’s main features include movie theaters, an elevated rope course and zip lines and a 16 lane bowling alley.

“We are just waiting to hear from our state representatives as far as what the restrictions will be when we do reopen, as far as if they’re limiting capacity,” said Traci Hoey, Vice President of Marketing at Cinergy Entertainment. “But before we closed, we were already starting to reduce auditorium seat count and allow for blocks of seats, so unless you wanted to sit next to your family, you had the option to be separated. We were doing every other bowling lane, every other axe-throwing lane.”

Concerns about future threats from viruses is even having an impact on the design of the Tom Colicchio food hall, which was originally planned as a social space that would integrate food, drink and entertainment

Design updates are also being made to the Tom Colicchio food hall, so vendors can easily shift to pick-up services. The hall (pictured here in a rendering) is planned as a social space that would integrate food, drink and entertainment.

“For the food hall, we are starting to incorporate design changes to address future instances of virus spread so that vendors can easily shift to pick-up services,” Ashwal wrote. 

But Hoey and the Mission Gateway developers have high hopes that the social isolation caused by the stay-at-home orders will drive people to Cinergy Entertainment and other amenities at Mission Gateway once they’re able to open. 

“I believe we’re such a unique social playground that people are going to be eager for this social entity, to get back to being able to share these social experiences with their friends and family instead of having to do it virtually from their home,” Hoey said.