by Murrel Bland
It was a crowded hall with standing room only. The temperature was quite warm as a fuse for the air conditioning had blown. But some of the comments directed at Unified Government officials elevated the humid atmosphere even more.
The scene was a meeting room with more than 100 persons Wednesday night, April 12, at the Unified Government’s Neighborhood Resource Center, 4953 State Ave. The controversial subject was the redevelopment that Lane 4 Property Group is proposing for Indian Springs. Two Unified commissioners, Melissa Bynum (First Dist.-At Large ) and Jane Winkler Philbrook (Eighth Dist.) , along with the county administrator’s office, arranged for the meeting. Indian Springs is in the two commissioners’ districts. The Unified Government purchased the failed center in 2007.
Hunter Harris of Lane 4, who lives in Mission Hills, outlined a proposal that would call for the redevelopment of about 26 acres of the south end of the former Indian Springs mall. That proposal calls for a “flex-tech” light industrial and office use. Harris said Lane 4 would develop buildings with 350,000 square feet of floor space at a cost of $25 million. Industrial revenue bonds, which would need approval from the Unified Commission, would help finance the project.
A typical building might have limited office space in the front with most of the building being used for warehouse space and internet sales. Harris estimated the development would employ about 350 persons. He said it could be operational later this year.
Harris cited several successful projects that Lane 4 has developed including those in the Rosedale and Argentine communities and the Children’s Mercy Park in Village West. Lane 4 will be the master developer for the Village South project in Edwardsville. Lane 4 has its offices on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo.
Harris said that Lane 4 decided to submit a proposal after a call for developers yielded no takers. He said he is been working on the project for three years at the request of the Unified Government. He said it would not be possible for traditional retailers to be attracted to Indian Springs.
Gordon Criswell, an assistant county administrator, asked members to tell what their dream and vision would be for Indian Springs. Bynum said she could see Indian Springs as a place where successful local restaurants could develop a second location.
One person said that it would be an ideal location for affordable housing for older adults. Dave Hurrelbrink, whose family owns an industrial supply business, said there is a demand for similar businesses like his. Joe Vaught said the purchase price that Lane 4 would pay
— $750,000 — is too low and wouldn’t help reduce high property taxes.
Janice Witt, a candidate for Kansas City, Kansas, mayor, said that not enough information has been shared with the public. After the meeting, Witt handed out flier urging voters to elect her mayor. She alleged there was corruption, greed and favoritism in the Unified Government. She was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor in 2013.
One woman called for walking trails and youth athletic fields.
Mark Wiebe, a former reporter and columnist for The Kansas City Star and now a political adviser for Mayor Mark Holland, said the Indian Springs proposal was not the first choice for the mayor.
The Unified Government will hold an informal meeting about the proposal from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, at the Neighborhood Resource Center. An additional informational meeting will be held at 6 p.m. that day in the Conference Room of the Kansas City, Kansas, Public School District Office, 2010 N. 59th St.
The Unified Government Commission is scheduled to vote on the project at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 27, in the Commission Chambers at City Hall, 701 N. Seventh St. The Board of Directors of Business West has endorsed the project. Philbrook and Bynum are members of the Business West board; however, both abstained from voting on the resolution of support.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.