Do you go for something now or wait for something better? That was the crux of the discussion at the 5 p.m. Unified Government meeting on Indian Springs redevelopment.
It was the “classic conundrum,” remarked Commissioner Brian McKiernan, who then said he was leaning toward doing something now.
Representatives from Lane4 Property Group, whose principals are involved in the Axis Point Developers LLC, were at the meeting to explain the details tonight. They believe a “flex-tech” light industry building on the south side of the property may provide an interest for retail shops and other businesses that might locate on the north side of the former shopping mall site.
So far, there is very little if any interest from retailers for a big-box store and retail stores there as in former years, according to Hunter Harris of Lane4. Developers are hoping that by bringing hundreds of people to work at a light industry on the property, and possibly adding some housing there, they would attract the interest of retailers. The retail climate has changed with customers switching to internet sales, according to the developers. Developers are now building shopping centers on 5-acre parcels, not 60-acre parcels.
Harris said retailers believe they are already serving the Midtown area with stores at the Prescott Center at 18th and I-70 as well as stores at Wyandotte Plaza at 78th and State Avenue, as well as with stores at Village West.
UG officials estimated that 26.9 acres on the south side of the property at 47th and State Avenue, which is close to I-635 and I-70 in Kansas City, Kansas, would be used for a “flex-tech” light industry building. The entire property is more than 90 acres.
Many of those whose districts were near Indian Springs were for the project. UG Commissioner Melisssa Bynum suggested that if national retailers were not interested in the site, maybe the UG could encourage local businesses and local restaurants to expand there. Bynum also pointed out that a UG committee invited Lane4 to make a presentation on the “flex-tech” proposal, and that Lane4 had not received any money for years of work on the project.
Bynum, whose at-large district includes Indian Springs, said she and some other commissioners have planned a community meeting on Indian Springs that will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, at the Neighborhood Resource Center, 4951 State Ave. Community comments will be encouraged at that meeting.
UG Economic Development director Marlon Goff estimated that development project costs to the UG would be $25 million, including land acquisition, development costs of about $20 million, financing soft costs and tenant improvements. The 26.9 acres would be sold to Axis Point for $750,000.
Commissioner Hal Walker said this project wouldn’t come close to breaking even. Plus, he said that there are other former malls in the Kansas City area, such as one in Johnson County, that are being redeveloped with retail stores. Businesses in other communities would die to have such interstate access as Indian Springs, he said.
“There’s this insidious kind of discrimination that the law does not protect us from and it’s called economic discrimination,” Commissioner Walker said. Businesses want to go where the people have money and the people who have money are usually not in a diverse area in an urban core, he added.
“It just drives me insane that this site in Johnson County would have been gobbled up and built and producing already,” Commissioner Walker said. “They wouldn’t have gotten it for $750,000, not even close. We wouldn’t have had to take the property to do something with it because the original owner would have already sold it to someone who dreams. There’s an old saying about everyone dreams, but we don’t all dream equally. This proposal is not my dream.”
He said he doesn’t want to take any more of “something’s better than nothing.”
“Sometimes nothing is better than something, because something is just not good enough,” Commissioner Walker said.
Commissioner Jane Philbrook, whose district includes Indian Springs, said she liked Commissioner Bynum’s idea about bringing in local businesses and helping them with incentives.
“Our businesses have been supporting us for years, paying 25 percent of the tax, and it’s time to give back to them now on that north end,” Commissioner Philbrook said.
She also asked why would the commissioners expect half of the Indian Springs property or a third of it to pay the entire $20 million development costs back? She also suggested if the amount of property proposed for the flex park was too large, it could be cut back.
She would like to see local retail stores, such as grocery stores and dry cleaners, on the north side of Indian Springs, with the center part of the site developed as housing, similar to the apartment housing west of The Legends.
While she understands that some people want to hold out for something better, she’s tired of waiting and wants to create something new, she said.
Commissioner Harold Johnson, whose district is on the north side of State Avenue, adjacent to Indian Springs, said he agreed that it was economic discrimination and he realizes that times have changed for retail.
“I believe in my heart if we could have had it we would have had it by now,” Commissioner Johnson said.
Until he hears an overwhelming public dictate in favor of waiting, Commissioner Johnson said he would be willing to try leveraging flex-tech space.
Commissioner Mike Kane said he was not in support of a flex-tech industrial project that wouldn’t pay a high wage to workers. He was in favor of waiting for a retail development with a big-box store, restaurants and retail stores.
Commissioner Kane also said he wanted a list of everyone the marketers had contacted. Later in the meeting, a Lane4 principal said he would give him the list, and there were more than 30.
“There’s a place for this, just not on that property,” Commissioner Kane said.
Commissioner Ann Brandau Murguia said she agreed with a little of everyone’s remarks, and it was a great project, although she is inclined to vote against all economic development projects until her Argentine fast-food project is approved.
She criticized the way Lane4 and other developers are treated, and said the UG asked them to do the project, and they received no money from it.
Commissioner Jim Walters, an architect, said this is a very important site, and they would only get one chance to do it right. Either they would choose to let the market lead them, or they would think about what they want and work on it, he said.
He said the project, when it was presented in January, was focused on the back 26.9 acres but developers did not know what would go on the front. There was no certainty that the front part of the property would be economically viable. It is important to think about how much revenue comes from the back part of the property, he said.
At an earlier meeting they thought they could justify doing developments that were not as strong because of a strong flex-tech space. But now that the numbers are in, that is not the case, he added.
“We’re going to receive $130,000 in revenue for the first 10 years, and I’m sure that amount of money is dwarfed by what we’re laying out on debt service,” he said.
“It’s not a game-changer and it does not achieve my dream of having this space become transformational and become something that people who drive on I-635 see as something new and startlingly different than what was there before,” Walters said about the development proposal.
He added he understands they need to get something done, but they need to make sure they’re doing what they need to do.
It also bothered him that half of the site would be built without knowing what would happen to the rest of the site.
“It’s not the best way to build a house and not the best way to design and develop a large parcel of ground like this,” Walters said. He wanted to see a comprehensive plan for the whole property.
There were no votes taken at the meeting, but from commissioners’ remarks, there were not yet enough votes to approve the project. The commission is scheduled to vote April 27 on the project. The commission was split 4-4, with Commissioner Angela Markley not stating a position, and Commissioner Gayle Townsend not present. Commissioners may change their opinions before April 27.
Mayor Mark Holland, who may vote in the event of a tie, stated he liked the project, but not at the Indian Springs site. It would be great for another location in Kansas City, Kansas, he added.
His original plan for Indian Springs was a large retail anchor, with a big box store, retailers and a grocery store, he said. But he doesn’t believe that’s going to happen now. He also didn’t think the flex-tech proposal was a big enough engine to move the project forward. He discussed developing a master plan for the area and waiting.
“I just think we need to dream a bigger dream,” Mayor Holland said.
To see an earlier story, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/indian-springs-development-proposal-moves-forward-after-sparks-fly-at-meeting/.
To see more details from this meeting, a video is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQN_9gxMmJQ.