Converting 159th Residential to Commercial
First Steps Have Begun

September 26, 2006 [updated September 29]

Because of the soccer stadium/regional mall proposal at 159th and Metcalf, a realtor has already approached a homeowner on 159th street about converting his and others' homes from residential to commercial. This article discusses:

Conversion of Residential To Commercial: Steck Plantation Neighborhood:

As some of you may remember, when Wal-Mart first attempted to build at 159th and Metcalf, neighbors stopped it cold by using a Legal Protest Petition, signed mostly by the people in Steck Plantation, the neighborhood right across the street. They had all been told there was no way Wal-Mart could be stopped. It was too big. But the people at Steck worked closely with surrounding neighborhoods and other activists with experience in this sort of thing.

When Wal-Mart came back the second time it was better prepared. Both Wal-Mart and developers went door to door in Steck telling people they would be able to make a fortune if they would not sign a petition. They could sell their home and land for $500,000, instead of around $150,000. A couple of them trusted Wal- Mart/developers, the petition failed, and Wal-Mart moved in. [One homeowner, who had already agreed to sign the second petition, worked for Wal-Mart. After the Wal-Mart visit, the homeowner said signing was not possible.]

Although a few homeowners at Steck are still holding out, many have sold. Their homes are now empty lots. The promises of $500,000 melted away. The developer bought homes at standard retail, actually a bit lower based on what we know.

Steck's Death In Pictures from Johnson County AIMS:
X=House Gone (Click for large image) [All red notation added by NeighborhoodNet to AIMS images]




Overland Park has acquiesced to, some would say encouraged, the destruction of Steck, which is eventually slated to become commercial now. The Overland Park City Council at the time talked about how they would ensure Steck would be protected, that a 20 year old, stable neighborhood would not be sacrificed. They encouraged Wal-Mart and residents to work together to make sure Wal-Mart would fit with Steck. As if it ever could.

What Is Happening Now On 159th

At least one homeowner on 159th to the west of the massive new soccer/mall project has already been approached by a realtor. Not about a Protest Petition, but about the value of homeowners getting together and selling their existing homes for light retail. The argument being used is that if homeowners sell individually, they will lose, but if they will go together with the realtor they can do much better.

On the other side of things, the realtor wants to make low-ball offers if any homes are already for sale, presumably arguing that the value of homes is dropping because of the plans for the arena/mall.

It is not hard to see where this is going: turning 159th street into another 119th street commercial corridor.

I expect Overland Park to remonstrate once again that they will do everything they can to protect existing neighborhoods and homes.

Just like they did with Steck.

How Vulnerable Is 159th To Becoming A 119th Commercial Corridor?: Very

The above image links directly to the on-line, interactive, zoomable map from the Johnson County AIMS department. The map opens showing an aerial view like the image above. You can use controls to zoom down as low as you want to check out just how much undeveloped land there is along 159th.

There is a lot of land. In fact, on the south side of 159th for the 3 miles from Antioch to Pflumm (where the City of Olathe begins), Overland Park would need to destroy "only" 14 existing homes to have over 60% of the street front available for commercial. Considering that OP had no problem with destroying the 13 homes of Steck, this seems quite doable.

Like the Overland Park City Council, I am ignoring the Master Plan, current zoning, and the morality of destroying people's homes for economic benefit. There is another 0.8 mile of road front (29% of the 3 miles) being used for churches and cemeteries - I presume even Overland Park would not destroy these.

The following links will provide a zoomed down version of the AIMS on-line map that shows each mile of 159th from the Olathe border at Pflumm to Metcalf. You can see for yourself what residents are facing.

Why Commercialization of 159th Requires The Soccer Stadium

Wal-Mart at 159th and Metcalf and other commercial interests have lobbied hard to get an interchange at 69 highway and 159th for years. This Wal-Mart is one of the worst performing in the nation because there is no regional access. The interchange is necessary for not only Wal-Mart, but the rest of the area to become a regional commercial draw. It is simply too difficult for large numbers of people to get into the area without that interchange.

Until now Overland Park has been stymied for one primary reason: It cannot pay the tens of millions needed for the interchange and the state refuses to contribute.

The STAR bond proposal being pursued by Overland Park finally breaks that barrier. The STAR bond siphons off state and local taxes that could have gone for benefits to local citizens to pay the costs of the interchange (and to pay for the Wizards soccer stadium). But there is a catch - the state insists that the STAR Bond be used to pay for a major regional entertainment draw. The Wizards stadium provides Overland Park what it needs.

With the interchange in place, there can be an Oak Park sized mall at 159th and Metcalf, and a commercial corridor the rest of the way along Metcalf to Olathe at Pflumm.

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