KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Tensions ran high Wednesday night at a packed public meeting in Kansas City, Kan., where dozens gathered to hear ideas for the future of a massive empty lot that was once home to the Indian Springs Mall.
More than 100 people crammed into a room that was overflowing and without a working air conditioner at the Neighborhood Resource Center off State Avenue.
Frustration, anger and some confusion among the crowd was evident, as countless community members voiced their opinion about what should and should not be built at the old mall site.
A moderator posed the question: “What’s your dream or vision for the old Indian Springs Mall location?”
Their ideas for the once thriving hot spot that’s now an empty 60-acre lot ran the gamut – from a grocery store, to restaurants, hotels and a sports complex or community center.
But few responses aligned with the proposed plans by chosen developer Lane4 Property Group, which wants to spend $25 million to build a “tech-flex” office space and industrial development on one-third of the lot.
“We are talking about one small specific aspect of a very large area,” explained Hunter Harris, partner at Lane4 Property Group. “I shared a vision that there is and needs to be a rebirth in midtown Kansas City, Kan., and Lane4 really wants to be a part of that.”
But few people at the meeting were sold on the idea.
“The representative from Lane4, he already had a timeline as far as when they’re going to propose this, when they’re looking to have it approved, and even making a point to saying they’ll have shops ready and built by the fall of this year,” said Kendon McClaine, who has lived in the area near the mall all his life.
“If he’s ready to steamroll this forward, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for us to air our concerns and even look for other options out there.”
Many also voiced frustrations about late notice for Wednesday night's meeting (they were notified Tuesday), and feeling rushed and pressured by community leaders to accept Lane4’s current plans rather than having the time and forum to express their own ideas.
“They don’t want to communicate with the citizens,” said Janice Witt, who lives in the community. “They want to ignore the fact that we are here and tell us what’s good for us because in their world, we’re too dumb to know what is best for our own tax dollars.”
Moving forward, the crowd asked for, “More transparency from the Unified Government,” said McClaine.
“It’s a public meeting, but oh, we can’t talk about that right now? But you want us to sign off on it and be okay with it, so you basically want us to buy a car, sight on scene? That doesn’t speak a lot about transparency for my tax dollars with us being one of the highest taxed areas in the state!”
Despite the frustration, most left with the hope that days of better communication and compromise are ahead.
“Now that we’ve established this path forward,” Harris said, “I think it’s about keeping the lines of communication open so that we can have an active dialogue.”
Unified Government Commissioners Jane Winkler Philbrook, Melissa Bynum and Harold Johnson were present at the meeting.
Mayor Mark Holland was absent, but a representative from his office told the crowd that Mayor Holland does not support Lane4’s proposed project in the lot and that he “has bigger dreams” for the mall site.
There is another public meeting scheduled next Wednesday, but time and place have yet to be determined as Wednesday night’s showing made it clear they’re going to need more space.