City and state officials were on hand Thursday to lift the shovels during a ceremonial groundbreaking for Prairiefire, a new Overland Park development at 135th Street between Nall and Lamar. The site includes a natural history museum.
The project is envisioned as a mix of retail and housing, and an exhibition space in the complex, called the Museum of Prairiefire, will host traveling exhibitions from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
The project was first proposed in 2006 by developer Fred L. Merrill, Jr., with financing stops and starts along the way.
"You know, as Calvin Coolidge said,'Nothing can take the place of persistence'," quotes Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach. "In the case of Prairiefire, persistence has paid off."
Construction on the first phase, estimated at $160 million, is now ready to begin, due to STAR Bond assistance from the state, city incentives, and construction loans. Gerlach says he thinks the economic impact of the project will be “felt for years to come.”
"Today, the annual estimated property tax for the land that we’re all standing on, that’s undeveloped, is under $1000 a year. By 2017, the property taxes projected for this piece of property will be over $6 million," says Gerlach.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he expects the "iconic" project to bring jobs and opportunities to the area.
"Much of today, I think you’ve got to compete in a way that’s different in the past, you’ve got to offer something that’s a little different to attract people to it. That’s what this project is going to do and what it’s going to have," says Brownback. "It’s going to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region."
The first retail stores, including REI and a Fresh Market gourmet grocer, are slated to open in October, along with a trail through a wetlands park and luxury apartments. More retail and the museum are scheduled to open in the spring of 2014.
The second phase of the project, with additional retail and offices, is expected to begin by the end of 2014. The Kansas City Star reports that when complete, the project is estimated to be valued at $427 million.