Plans to remake the former Sprint campus into a vast multi-use development for offices, living spaces and shops may involve tearing out a substantial number of trees, and that left Overland Park planning staff and a few planning commissioners concerned Monday.
But the developer’s representatives said they will work with the city forester to preserve trees while planting more than required by code.
The Overland Park Planning Commission didn’t make a decision on the request by Wichita-based Occidental Management to rezone the area to allow mixed use. Instead, it will be continued to March 8 so city staff can have time to look at the details of some other traffic-related changes the developer is asking for.
‘Brookridge-ish in size and scope’
The 207-acre site at the northwest corner of 119th Street and Nall Avenue was envisioned about 30 years ago as the home of a single user – Sprint. But it was never fully built out and about 60 acres of it remains undeveloped.
The site has now been rebranded as Aspiria. The development would all but surround the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th Street, encompassing an area from 115th to 119th Streets between Glenwood Street and Nall Avenue.
In addition to using some 4 million square feet of existing office space, the plan discussed Monday calls for:
- 1.1 million square feet of new office space, which has been reduced by about 340,000 from the first proposal;
- roughly 383,000 square feet of retail;
- 600 multi-family living units;
- and 120 hotel units for a total of 5 million square feet.
It could take from 5-10 years to build and will have the capacity for 41,000 people on the site at one time, according to developers.
Planning Commissioner Michael Flanagan characterized it as “a gigantic project, sort of Brookridge-ish in size and scope.”
Concerns over trees
If fully built out, Aspiria would redevelop not only the one-time Sprint building sites but also much of the green space and undeveloped areas nearby. That includes the removal of many of the established trees.
The potential loss of trees was one of the staff concerns that was discussed at length Monday.
According to city documents, the majority of trees along 119th Street and Sprint Parkway would be removed. Developers also would likely remove a section of hedges along the part of the proposal’s northern boundary on 115th Street.
Commissioner Janie Thacker questioned removing significant trees when staff has noted there will be excess parking spaces on the site. The proposal calls for parking garages as well as surface parking, and includes 7,350 more parking spaces than is required by code, according to the staff comments on file.
She also asked whether provisions would be made for other modes of transportation like bikes and public transit.
Greg Musil, the developer’s representative, said nature and interactive trails will be a big attraction of the area because of two large ponds. The developer’s goal is to make it as multi-modal as possible, Musil said, with perhaps driverless car service in the future.
The development will provide a place for waterfront recreation and gathering space, an overall “dynamic waterfront experience,” said Chad Stafford, Occidental’s president.
‘Trying to make this visible’
Musil said that although trees will have to be removed, it’s necessary to remake the site from its 1990’s self into a more welcoming place. The original landscaping was intended to screen the Sprint campus and its office workers. The result is a forbidding and inward-facing area that many residents hesitate to visit, he said.
“We’re trying to make this visible, accessible, open and welcoming, which is what you have to have today not just for an office campus but for any successful environment,” he said.
The developer plans to plant more trees than required, and the development will have about 42.5% open space, he said. The surface parking is necessary because some tenants, such as those serving elderly clients, will need more parking closer to their buildings, he said.
The plan also addresses ideals of Forward OP visioning, he said, noting that five acres will be made into space for gatherings like farmer’s or art markets.
Two people spoke at the public hearing, both in support. One was Scott Slabotsky, who said the Jewish Community Center is working with the developer to make sure traffic patterns and access points will work for patrons. Otherwise, though, he said it would be good to see the area developed.
Commissioner Michael Flanagan echoed that.
“I support this application. I’m excited that we’re doing something proactive to take care of this campus before it changes too much and becomes a ghost town in the middle of our city,” he said.