Did anyone else see a connection between these two seemingly unrelated stories – from far opposite ends of town – in this morning’s Star?
The first was this one, about how the grand opening for downtown’s prefab new Power & Light District has been moved back to next spring. Developers blamed the city for not transferring land quickly enough to keep the development on time, while Mayor Mark Funkhouser and City Manager Wayne Cauthen sent letters to the tenants they’d already booked, begging them to open earlier. In any event, here’s the point: “Long-term plans for the district call for 450,000 square feet of bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and specialty retail that would bring sizzle back downtown. Blake Cordish, the official in charge, promised a grand opening this fall when his company took over construction of the public-private venture last July.”
The second story was this one, about how the colossal mega-Church of the Resurrection’s plans for a sort-of Power & Light District all its own, way out south at 135th Street and Nall, weren’t coming together as well as church leaders had hoped. The short version: “Retail development at the Cornerstone of Leawood, as the project is known, has lagged in the face of intense competition. Plans to offer office space have not materialized … From a purely commercial perspective, the project cannot simply be labeled a failure. The development boasts five restaurants, a drugstore and a home-furnishings store. By most accounts, the stores are doing well, and a few are doing exceptionally well. But some pad sites remain unsold. Two key would-be tenants — Claddagh Pubs and Market Foods Limited — dropped out of the project when the companies filed for bankruptcy. And the hope of generating steady revenues through the construction of two office buildings remains unfulfilled.”
The connection I see? There’s just not enough money in this metro to support the commercial building boom that developers are promising and cities are putting so much faith in. The ability of Kansas Citians to consume, consume, consume can stretch only so far.
Which brings me to another point: Driving around Church of the Resurrection’s neighborhood way out south just makes me wonder how many strip malls one city really needs. Instead of encouraging the sort of sprawl that just keeps eating up God’s green Earth just so people can drive out to more stores to waste more money on stuff they don’t need, I’d like to see Pastor Adam Hamilton and his flock of 12,000 members start taking the lead on solving environmental problems, not contributing to them. Lord knows no one else in this metro seems to be questioning the wisdom of uncontained sprawl. Hey, Adam, check out what other folks of the cloth are saying over at the National Religious Partnership for the Earth.
Meanwhile, I suppose it would take a miracle for urban and suburban planners to get together and start thinking about how the metro’s growing. – C.J. Janovy