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Developers have yet to start $2B project. Overland Park gives them a 2-year extension

Tammy Ljungblad/tljungblad@kcstar.com

The Overland Park City Council is giving the developer of the $2 billion Brookridge project another two years to begin the first piece of construction, work that officials say has yet to happen due to economic challenges.

After years of debate, the council in 2019 narrowly approved a $200 million tax incentive deal for the redevelopment of the Brookridge Golf Course, at the corner of Interstate 435 and Antioch Road. Developer Curtin Property Co. and public officials last year broke ground at the 200-acre site for the Meridian project, which includes 2,000 apartments, offices, golf and other outdoor amenities, two hotels, retail, restaurants and entertainment venues.

But city officials say construction challenges and financial issues have stalled progress. The City Council has twice previously amended its development agreement, pushing back deadlines. The last version would have required the developer to begin early construction work by July on public and internal streets as well as the first multifamily building.

But with the developer unable to meet the deadline, on Monday the council unanimously agreed to extend the milestone to July 2026. All other construction deadlines also will be pushed back two years.

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Under the amended agreement, the first part of work must be completed in 2028. And the developer would need to build at least 100,000 square feet of office space and 70,000 square feet of retail by December 2029.

“We look forward to something starting to happen inside the project as soon as possible,” Mayor Curt Skoog said during Monday’s meeting. “I agree that it is frustrating, the length of time that we’re in. But I still believe in the plan and am hopeful that it’s still a plan that financially can be built.”

Skoog highlighted that part of the required construction has already started. Work is underway on the public street improvements at the intersection of 103rd Street and Antioch Road.

The Kansas Department of Transportation awarded an $8 million grant to pay for the design and construction costs. The city is completing the street work and will be reimbursed through the KDOT grant and the developer, which will cover the rest of the cost.

Jack Messer, assistant city manager, told the council’s finance committee earlier this month that work includes improving the stormwater runoff system, burying utilities and putting up traffic signals. He expects it to be completed this summer.

Councilman Jeff Cox criticized the project on Monday, saying he would have voted against the hefty package of tax breaks in 2019, which drew strong opposition from many neighbors.

“What we have now is a mess,” Cox said, adding that the city has “walked hand in hand in our partnership to the cliff.”

But he voted in favor of extending the agreement, arguing that yanking the tax incentives now would only harm the city’s chance of seeing something built on the site.

“The best we can do is hope that by extending, they can get financing and get this thing going,” Cox said.

Failure to meet obligations puts the developer at risk of losing tax incentives, or the deal altogether. But officials have said that would be a worst-case scenario, and noted that the developer has been open about the status of the project and need to request an extension.

Developers first proposed redeveloping Brookridge in 2014, starting a strenuous journey as the project went through several iterations. After years of rejected plans and changes, the council approved the redevelopment deal in 2019 with an 8-4 vote, one vote shy of the nine required “yes” votes to approve the deal. It was pushed through after then-Mayor Carl Gerlach cast the deciding vote.

The tax break package includes a combination of tax increment financing and a community improvement district, as well as economic development revenue bonds providing a sales tax exemption on construction materials. At the time, council members in favor of the project touted the “pay-as-you-go” model for incentives, which reimburses the developer as work is completed, saying it helps protect the city from risk.