Overland Park considering big changes at popular intersection to keep employees in town after work

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Overland Park is considering big changes for the area around College and Metcalf.

The goal is to get convention-goers and the 30,000 people who work in the 1.5-mile corridor to stick around after work. The area is home to the Overland Park Convention Center and dozens of office buildings, including one affectionately known to people in the area as the Darth Vader building.

But it’s not exactly what you’d call a shopper's paradise or pedestrian friendly.

“Every once in a while we go from our building, and we will try to walk somewhere in our walking club during our week, and it’s a challenge just to get across College," said Rebecca Roberts, who works at an office building in the corridor.

In an effort to keep up with increasing demand for areas of cities where people can live, work, eat and have fun, Overland Park started looking at the stretch south of Interstate 435.

“Because we have 30,000 people who work within a mile of that intersection, we are really looking for people for reasons for people to be here after five (p.m.), things for our business travelers to do when they have that free time," Overland Park City Planning Manager Leslie Karr said.

Consultants presented renderings of open spaces, landscaped streets and walkways at a meeting Tuesday.  The project could bring in thousands of new homes and hotel rooms. Consultants projected redevelopment of the corridor would create 14,000 new jobs and $2.7 billion in additional annual spending.

Small business owners were in attendance at the first of two meetings Tuesday at the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce. Many wanted to know what the plan could mean for them?

“That’s honestly part of the little bit of fear that brought me here tonight, to see what it is and see if they are trying to buy out all the businesses because we are in a retail center and I’d like to know if I’m losing my space," said Laurie Santee of Santee Floral Designs.

City planners said they're just in the information-gathering phase, and no developer has signed on for any project yet.

“Redevelopment is hard and certainly requires private investors and property owners to get excited and decide to do something different with their properties," Karr said.

If the plan gains City Council approval in March, they’ll likely start with public improvements around the city-owned Convention Center and then see if private developers take action as a result.