By: Lynn Horsley
A proposed high-end development at 115th Street and Nall Avenue appeared to be in big trouble last month when the Overland Park City Council complained it had too many fast-food drive-thru restaurants.
But after developer Ken Block mounted a vigorous defense Monday night and promised his Galleria 115 project would be a first-rate “Class A” development, the Council agreed to let it move forward.
Block was out of town when the council discussed the project Oct. 1. At that time, Council members erupted over concerns that a distinctive restaurant and entertainment mecca for the area’s workers and conventioneers would instead be dominated by Sonic and McDonald’s.
They called it a “bait and switch” to obtain tax incentives.
Ken Block, head of Block Real Estate Services, assured the Council on Monday: “I look at really building cool stuff...We build first class.”
The Galleria 115 project consists of 548 multifamily residential units, more than 200,000 square feet of retail, a four-story office building and space for entertainment attractions. The project was at one point a joint venture between Block Real Estate Services and The Retail Connection, a Dallas firm. The Retail Connection later dropped out of the project, leaving Block to forge ahead.
The company recently closed on purchasing land from Sprint for the development, which is intended to rival Town Center Crossing at 119th Street and Roe Avenue in Leawood.
Block told the Council on Monday that he wants to appeal to all the professional office workers, engineers and conventioneers who currently go to Leawood for entertainment and dining.
“There’s no place in Overland Park like this,” he said, urging the council to look at the quality at City Place and his other mixed-use Johnson County developments. He said later that his total investment in this project would exceed $500 million, including about $250 million in retail and entertainment, so he’s got more to lose than anyone if he doesn’t do it right.
The project originally proposed six restaurants, including one drive-thru. It now includes seven restaurants, including three drive-thru establishment.
But Block insisted it won’t be a row of Wendy’s and Arby’s. He said he’s aiming for some “fast casual” places like Panera or even higher end like Illinois-based Portillo’s. He said the Council has to realize that most sit-down restaurants, including Panera, want some kind of drive-thru window now for carryout, because that’s what their customers desire.
“People have to have convenience,” he said.
Block also reminded the Council that one of the hottest restaurants in town right now is Shake Shack, basically a hamburger joint, so he pointed out that fast casual can be very popular.
He also said he’ll provide extensive landscaping, stacked walls and other screening to hide the drive-thru passageways.
As far as the entertainment venues, he wouldn’t specify tenants but said he’s aiming for the type of popular arcade, bowling and billiards place that is attracting adults as well as young people elsewhere in the country.
Council members Faris Farassati and Gina Burke rebuffed Block’s pitch and said they saw nothing different from the October meeting. Burke was disappointed that there were no specifics on tenants.
“I don’t see anything new,” Farassati agreed. “There is no data or evidence to make us change our logic.”
But the Council voted 9-2 in support of the revised preliminary plan, with the majority saying Block’s argument had swayed them.
Paul Lyons said. “I’m convinced the quality is going to be very high.”
If all goes as planned, Block said the apartment construction should begin next spring although the entire buildout could take years.
In other action, the Council approved a rezoning to allow a $260 million office complex by Shamrock Trading Corp. at 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue. Shamrock wants to build three big office buildings across the street from its existing headquarters. The new development would go where the old Overland Park French Market was years ago. It is empty and will be demolished.
The Council also scheduled a Dec. 17 public hearing on a request for state tax incentives for the Bluhawk development near 159th Street and U.S. Highway 69.