by Mary Rupert
About 200 residents participated in a town hall meeting on Indian Springs tonight, sharing their vision for the future of the former mall. They also heard a new unsolicited proposal for Indian Springs from a developer.
During the first part of the town hall meeting, residents met in small groups to talk about their vision for Indian Springs, ranking their priorities for its use.
Among the priorities mentioned by residents: a full-service grocery store, retail stores, cultural center, destination site, mixed-use entertainment, something that would create more jobs, sustainable development, affordable senior housing, multi-use facility, something that addresses food needs and everyday needs, a facility for youth and teens, something that would generate revenue and bring jobs, a health and wellness center, general housing, a unique high-quality development, green space, something with less than 40 percent public money in it, a development attractive to millennials, and a Village East development.
During the second half of the meeting, the residents shared their reactions to a new proposal that would place a grocery store, convenience store, office building, four to six restaurants, a national headquarters, and a solar field-nature trail at the Indian Springs site. There was mixed reaction to it.
The town hall meeting was held at the Central Office of the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools, 2010 N. 59th St.
Mayor Mark Holland told the gathering that he wanted to hear their dreams of what should be at Indian Springs, and what they think about a new proposal.
A flex-tech proposal, with a light industrial building, on the site was rejected this spring after public opposition.
Jon Stephens, the UG’s acting economic development director, told the audience that retail stores in America are currently in the midst of great changes, with thousands closing and others changing. The changes are largely due to the rise of online shopping. Last year, $400 billion was spent nationally on online retail, Stephens said. He said while retail stores are in general declining, new entertainment and restaurant areas are growing, particularly local restaurants.
A developer earlier told the UG that it was difficult to get any retail stores to locate at Indian Springs.
Stephens did not reveal the name of the developer who submitted a preliminary development idea to the UG, nor the total amount that the development would cost. He said it was a Kansas City developer in the food distribution and manufacturing industry.
“They’re interested in working to build the community,” Stephens said.
Stephens said although there is still an active tax-increment financing district at Indian Springs, with several years left, that it wasn’t a factor in moving these projects along. He said each project will be evaluated individually and financing would most likely be redone on a new project.
According to Stephens, the retail square footage in the new proposal ranges from 75,000 to 85,000 square feet. It would be about a third of the size of the former retail shops at Indian Springs. The proposal does not have any big retail stores similar to department stores. Instead, it has food stores.
Officials explained that the solar field and green space was planned on the west side of the 110-acre Indian Springs property. That area is undermined and a former medical building on that site had to be closed after the ground shifted, according to officials.
The audience reaction to the new proposal tonight included comments that they liked green space and job creation, and they wanted more information on the financial aspect of the project; the proposal needs fine tuning to capture their vision; more information was needed, more retail is needed; they are concerned about pollution; one group was split with six for, six against, and four indifferent; another group wanted to know the history of the developer; another group wanted housing and more community inclusion; another group was for it 10 to 4; another group liked the overall concept, was disappointed there was not a tourism aspect, and wanted to know more of the financial plans and if bonds would be used.
Lou Braswell of the Leavenworth Road Association, who was attending the meeting, offered her personal opinion that she disagreed with some residents who thought a grocery store should be at Indian Springs. She said the grocery store should be at 10th and Quindaro, as there is a greater need in that area for one. She thought residents who lived near 47th and State Avenue were probably closer to other grocery stores than residents who lived at 10th and Quindaro.
Joe Vaught, a former city councilmember who had worked on behalf of the former owners of Indian Springs before it was declared blighted and condemned, attended the meeting and participated. He said it was necessary to know how much the new proposal would cost.
“I would support that concept, but what is it going to cost?” Vaught asked.
Indian Springs could be financially successful if it was developed into what he wanted to do with it in the first place – make it into a hub for trucking, he said.
Vaught said although it was said by officials that there was $18 million spent by the UG already on Indian Springs, he believes the figure is probably closer to $25 million when lost sales tax, lost property tax, attorney fees and other expenses are figured in. The project that is selected should generate enough money to cover the costs.
Stephens said the community comments tonight would be valuable input to him, as well as the UG staff and the developer.
Mayor Holland asked the crowd if they were willing to wait five or 10 years for a development at Indian Springs, and most were not – instead, they preferred something in two to three years. He said it would have to be a balance of getting as much as they can of what the community wants in this limited time. He also complimented people for giving an evening of their time to this effort.
The UG staff plans to tabulate tonight’s comments and present the totals at a future date.
Those who did not attend tonight’s meeting may fill out an online survey on Indian Springs at http://www.wycokck.org/Home/News-Slider-Data/Large-Set-One/Indian-Springs-Vision-Survey.aspx. Already, 200 persons have filled out the survey, according to officials.
For an earlier story, see http://wyandottedaily.com/ug-schedules-community-meeting-on-indian-springs/.