(This story has been updated since the print version dated May 25.)
By Kathy Feist
For the second time in two years, an industrial development proposed for a 93-acre wooded area off I-435 and 87th Street has been canceled, thanks to a group of concerned neighbors and nature conservationists.
On May 19, Scannell Industries canceled its purchase agreement with the Specialty Restaurant Corporation which owns the 93 acre-tract near the Oldham Farms neighborhood at 86th and Newton. The $73 million business park would have included three buildings totaling a million square feet of space, two access roads and a native forest buffer adjacent to the residential area.
But being buffered from the sound and view of large trucks traveling in and out of the property was not the biggest concern of those opposing development in the area.
“This acreage is valuable green infrastructure that increases Kansas City’s climate change resilience,” stated Amanda Gehin, who with others formed the group Blue Ridge Area Quality of Life Initiative (BRAQoLI). The group spoke out at a March 14 South Kansas City Alliance meeting to protest the plans being presented by a Scannell representative for the first time to the public. There, Gehin read from a statement prepared by the neighborhood group.
“Currently, these woods mitigate stormwater runoff in the vulnerable Blue River Watershed where they soak up water like a sponge, mitigate the heat island effect in the age of climate change, cool down the environment with transpiration, control air pollution near I-435, connect to Swope Park as a wildlife corridor, and increase the health of area residents by encouraging an active lifestyle,” she read.
“An industrial or commercial development would not only remove ecosystem services and health from the neighborhood, but it would increase light pollution, carbon dioxide emissions, air pollution, noise pollution, and psychological stress….. It would bring misery to the lives of Oldham Farms residents.”
BRAQoLI organized after a 1.2 million-square-foot industrial complex was proposed for the property in March 2021 by another firm, Flint Development. Meeting strong opposition, the developer pulled their plans.
Building industrial parks in the form of warehouses has become a fast growing trend as consumer-buying habits change. Warehouses have become especially popular in the south Kansas City area, which has over half of the total square footage of new industrial park developments in the metropolitan area, according to the Kansas City Business Journal. In addition to an industrial park on the west side of I-435 and 87th St., other warehousing has popped up along I-49 between Grandview and Belton, at the Bannister Federal Complex, and at the former Richards-Gebaur Airport. Most are not located in residential neighborhoods.
The 100-acre property at 86th and Newton is owned by Specialty Restaurant Corp., which purchased the land in 2002. Specialty Restaurant Corp. also owned the property south of 87th and I-435 now inhabited by Cerner Corp. and part of the property west of I-435 and 87th Street that will become a biotech community called The Glade. Whitney Kerr, Sr., senior director for Cushman & Wakefield has been the real estate broker for Specialty Restaurant Corp. for the past 20 years says he is mostly concerned for the economy of the area which he has worked so hard to boost after Bannister Mall shut down. As for the area’s ecology, he points out that Swope Park, consisting of nearly 2000 acres of trees, is less than a mile away.
In a formal statement Gehin said on behalf of BRAQoLI, “We welcome the opportunity to have a conversation with the landowners to explore options that align with our goals. Overall we are pleased with the result and we will continue to work to benefit the health, well being, quality of life, and climate change resiliency of our community–which are issues that are inseparably interwoven.”