Plans for mixed-use development on Metcalf Sears site back on track with rezoning approval

Roxie Hammill - October 15, 2019 9:00 am
A rendering of the current plans for the proposed development on the former Sears site on Metcalf.

A development that would put apartments, restaurants and retail in the block around the former Sears building is back on track, now that the Overland Park Planning Commission has approved rezoning for the project.

Redevelopment of the 18.8 acres at the southeast corner of 97th Street and Metcalf Avenue was proposed by Seritage Growth Properties a year ago. But the rezoning has been delayed time and again, first because of city concerns about the height of the apartment building and later because of the loss of a major retail anchor tenant in July.

The former Sears building has been vacant since 2017.

Jeff Martin of Seritage said the company is considering a variety of possible uses for the old Sears building, though he declined to give any examples. He said the plan is still to reuse the existing two-story building, with an updated façade. There would also be a 5,000-square-foot expansion on the southeast corner of the building.

The newest concept for the property is for seven buildings on the site, including a 300-unit apartment building that is split between four and five stores and four smaller buildings along Metcalf ranging in size from 6,000 to 12,000 square feet. Three of the smaller buildings are proposed as restaurants, one of which has a drive-through lane. The southernmost building is planned as a gas station. The development also would have an 18,000-square-foot retail market on the southeast side, giving it a total of 192,275 square feet of commercial use.

Changes to apartment building plans

The biggest changes were proposed for the apartment building. The developer dropped the original E shape in favor of a structure that wraps around a courtyard and includes a parking garage. This was to minimize the length of the eastern façade, according to city documents.

A rendering of the proposed multi-family building from the east property boundary looking south.

But a couple of residents pushed back on the plan during the public hearing. Stephan Glentzer, a candidate for the Ward 3 city council seat, said the project is too dense and too close to neighboring single-family homes. “We need to quit building such large apartments,” he said.

Carmen Linderman-Vanbooven, who lives in the single-family neighborhood nearby, said she was dismayed to hear the apartments would be four and five stories tall after being promised by developers that nothing would be higher than three stories.

That’s as tall as the tallest trees behind it, she said. “I know that part of the vision for Overland Park is to increase density but one of the reasons people buy a single-family home is to have a little more breathing room,” she said. “It just feels like somebody didn’t listen.”

Martin said that when gables of other buildings and topography are taken into account, the apartment building is not strikingly higher than its surroundings.

Some commissioners asked about better pedestrian walkways within the development and whether the development will eventually have right-turn lanes off Metcalf. But since the plan is still in formative stages, Martin said those details can be worked out. The commission only considered the zoning Monday.

Commissioner Janie Thacker said she continues to have concerns about the size of the residential buildings next to single-family homes. “It doesn’t give you that neighborhood feeling.”

Commissioner Michael Flanagan said he liked that the developers will do something with the former Sears building. “It was an eyesore when it was a viable business and it’s only gotten worse.”

The plan goes to the City Council on Nov. 4.

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