by Mary Rupert
Two mayoral candidates questioned a proposed Indian Springs flex-tech light industrial building at the 4 p.m. meeting tonight at the Neighborhood Resource Center near 49th and State Avenue.
The two candidates, Janice Witt and Keith Jordan, raised questions at the 4 p.m. meeting, which was held to fulfill the technical requirements for planning and zoning. Another 6 p.m. meeting tonight was scheduled on the topic of Indian Springs at the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools Central Office near 59th and Parallel Parkway.
Hunter Harris of Lane4 Development presented the plans for the south side of Indian Springs. It is 26 acres on the south side of the property, which is only about a third of it. Developers hope to lure retail development on the north side of the property by placing about 200 or more employees in a flex-tech building on the south side of the property.
Harris told the more than 25 persons attending there would be plenty of room for other sorts of development on the rest of the land. That could include mixed use, apartments and retail.
Witt told developers she was for the project, just not at that location. Witt also said she thought there should have been more notification to community residents about this meeting. It was her opinion that the community leaders are not notifying enough residents of these projects.
She said since the developer said earlier that they were prepared to start the project within two months, that meant it was already a “done deal.”
Harris replied that it wasn’t a “done deal” and it still had to go for approval before the Unified Government Commission at 7 p.m. April 27.
He said the notice for the 4 p.m. meeting was sent out according to the statute requirements, which require notice to just those people who own property within a small distance of the property.
Jordan was concerned that they might build a business park and not know who the tenants would be. He cited an instance in another city where a building was built and sat empty for a time.
Harris responded that was a different situation, with a major retailer going bankrupt while it was being built, and it also speaks to the fact that retailers aren’t building as many stores currently. In answer to a Jordan question, Harris said Walmart is not interested in locating here at this time.
Jordan also brought up that when the Legends and Village West were being built, the residents were promised that their property taxes would decrease, “but they keep going up.” People who don’t live in western Wyandotte County aren’t seeing improvements, he added.
He asked why this was being built if there weren’t any retail tenants interested in locating here. He suggested cleaning up the surrounding area, improving it, and then trying to build it in a few years.
“It sat empty for 10 years, what’s another few more years going to do if we revitalize what’s already here first?” he asked.
Harris said waiting might mean there would be rising interest rates or fear of another recession that could affect the project. The buildings would help to attract businesses, furnish jobs and generate sales tax for the UG, he said.
While it may seem like a rush to this project, Harris said Lane4 has been working on this project a long time. It went through some UG committee meetings, including meetings in January, March and earlier this month, before it came to this level. Lane4 has been working on it for a few years.
At the April 6 meeting, UG officials said costs to the UG for Indian Springs total about $25 million, including the purchase price of the property, the development costs, relocation costs and tearing down the old Indian Springs mall. UG officials said the proposal is to sell 26.9 acres of the 90 acres to Axis Point, which is made up of a group of Lane4 principals, for $750,000.
The former Indian Springs mall was on 45 acres of this property, according to Harris.
The flex-tech building, which could house light industrial or office space, would be financed with UG industrial bonds. The developer is asking for a 75 percent tax abatement for the first 10 years. Harris said about 380 jobs would be created at the flex-tech building, and the project is estimated to generate about $400,000 in property taxes.
Witt remarked if the UG is that desperate for development, it ought to call Phil Ruffin and get The Woodlands redeveloped.
“We need to be having a different conversation,” Witt said. “These are scare tactics – these are force tactics — to force us into accepting that this is a horrible property in a horrible area, so we need to do something right now, so take what we’re giving you. I think that’s bad.”
Commissioner Melissa Bynum said that in retrospect, they probably should have held more community meetings for public comments. The UG added new meetings this week for community comments.
A representative of the Davidson Architecture group told the audience that there will be more grass, landscaping, green space, trees and flowers planned for the site than were at the old mall site.
While there were drawings and sketches of the flex-tech building, plans have not yet been presented for the rest of the Indian Springs property.
If the flex-tech building is built, Harris said there would still be plenty of room to build other developments such as retail on the site.
To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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