After standing vacant for nearly a decade, the former Kmart site in Merriam could be transformed into a new mixed-use development.
What you need to know:
• An Overland Park-based developer has proposed a $136 million mixed-use redevelopment for the one-time Kmart site in Merriam.
• It’s not finalized yet, and developers still need to get several approvals from the planning commission and city council before moving forward on the project.
• The Kmart property has been vacant for nearly a decade. The last major project for the site fell through in 2015.
Overland Park-based Drake Development wants to bring more than 300 apartments, restaurants and retail space to the former big box retail store located at the prominent corner of Shawnee Mission Parkway and Antioch Road.
This is the latest development envisioned for the site, which has seen prospective plans come and go over the years, most notably when home improvement chain Menards briefly eyed the spot for a new store before pulling the plug in 2015.
This newest $136 million proposal is far from being set in stone. Iterations of it, in fact, have already changed.
For instance, an earlier version of the plan filed with the city earlier this year included a grocery story, but that’s no longer part of developers’ designs.
The Merriam Planning Commission will consider development applications at its June 1 meeting. If approved, those items will then go to the city council for approval on June 27.
That that meeting, the council would also take up a proposed redevelopment agreement and consider also setting a public hearing for a tax increment financing application.
In the meantime, here’s a breakdown of the Kmart property’s history and how we got here:
- The department store closed in January 2013.
- Home improvement retailer Menards announced plans to build a new store at the site in December 2014 — at which time Merriam residents shared concerns about the height and noise of the proposed redevelopment.
- In February 2015, Menards pulled out of the planning process and instructed Merriam city staff to cease all work on it.
- Later that year, in November 2015, Merriam started to look at ways to jump start redevelopment at the 13-acre property, including, at the time, a potential extension into the nearby tax increment financing district prior to another proposal being submitted.
- After more than a year of silence on the property, Kansas City-based Block and Co. announced in January 2017 the purchase of the Kmart site — with plans to purchase surrounding parcels and investing about $85 million in construction and development of a mixed-use project.
- That same month, the Winstead’s on the site closed. Block and Co. told the Post in February 2017 that the company planned to present a redevelopment plan for the long vacant Kmart site by midyear.
- No movement occurred on the property from 2017 to 2021. Merriam City Administrator Chris Engel said Block worked through legal issues and marketing the property for two years before coming to the city council in March 2020 with an informal proposal. COVID-19 shutdowns put city business on pause, Engel said, and the city didn’t hear anything about the site until Drake Development entered the picture in November 2020.
- In May 2021, city staff confirmed Overland Park-based Drake Development was likely to submit a TIF application to redevelop the site. Merriam approved a funding agreement with Drake and set a public hearing to expand the Interstate 35 TIF District to include the Kmart site.
- In June 2021, the city approved the expansion of the I-35 TIF district to officially allow for possible TIF incentives for developers interested in the Kmart site.
- Drake told the Post in December 2021 it planned to submit a redevelopment project proposal to the city as early as January 2022. That cane soon after city staff told the planning commission that conversations with Drake had “tapered off.”
- Later the same month, during conversations about a Taco Bell redevelopment across Shawnee Mission Parkway, Merriam city officials pressed Block and Co. about nearly $130,000 worth of unpaid taxes on the Kmart site.
- In February, Drake submitted a TIF application for the former Kmart site detailing a 40,000-square-foot grocery store and 180,000 square feet of multi-family residential.
- About a week later, city staff told the Post in a statement that the city had “been unable to strike an appropriate balance with the current proposal.” The city cited its priority to protect the long term financial interests for taxpayers. Drake told the Post at the time that the company would submit a revised TIF application “to strike a better balance where all parties are happy.”
- In April 2022, city staff shared developers’ $136 million concept detailing restaurants, retail and residential pieces . No grocery store was included in the plans. Merriam also removed a portion of the property from the I-35 TIF district in order to qualify for industrial revenue bonds on apartment construction materials.
- Finally on May 10, 2022, city councilmembers and planning commissioners pressed Drake to detail how the plan features ample green space and emphasizes sustainability — two amenities boasted in the presentation Drake shared the same day.