Shawnee to get Natural Grocers if shopping area gets incentives
Those supporting incentives for Shawnee Parkway Plaza as a necessary step toward bringing more and better tenants to the struggling retail center just got some organic ammunition.
Natural Grocers, a Colorado-based chain of more than 60 organic grocery stores, is planning to locate in the center if incentives covering $7 million of the $16.5 million project to redevelop it are approved.
The Shawnee City Council is scheduled to vote on the incentives during its March 11 meeting. Natural Grocers’ plans went public a week earlier, when the Shawnee Planning Commission considered a sign variance for the new store during its March 4 meeting.
Representatives of the grocery chain did not respond to interview requests. And Dave Christie, the developer planning to acquire and redevelop Shawnee Parkway Plaza, declined to comment on the store. But Shawnee Planning Director Paul Chaffee said the grocer was planning to occupy a new 15,000-square-foot building at the west end of the center, which is located southeast of Shawnee Mission Parkway and Pflumm.
The grocery store would be located between Shawnee Mission Parkway and Midland Drive, which is to be realigned in front of the center to create room for new pad sites as part of the redevelopment plan.
According to Natural Grocers’ website, the company was established in 1955 by Philip and Margaret Islely, parents of the current leadership. They started by selling whole-grain bread and sharing nutrition information door-to-door in Golden, Colo. Within a short time, they opened the first of their retail locations, which originally were called Vitamin Cottages.
The first Kansas location was opened in Lawrence in 2011. Last year, another Natural Grocers store opened in the former Borders space at 7401 W. 91st St., Overland Park — adjacent to a shopping center anchored by competitor Whole Foods Market.
Natural Grocers sells only foods and supplements with natural and organic ingredients, and its new “neighborhood concept” stores incorporate community rooms and cooking classes.
Local economic development officials say residents are hungry for such new, upscale retail options.
Justin Nichols, chairman of the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce, said a recent citizen satisfaction survey indicated that attracting new businesses and revitalizing older commercial centers were residents’ No. 1 and No. 3 priorities for the use of incentives.
Christie Development Associates has requested $3.25 million in tax-increment financing, which would redirect new taxes generated by improvements toward eligible redevelopment costs. In addition, the developer seeks $3.75 million through creation of a transportation development district. The TDD would increase the sales tax charged by Shawnee Parkway Plaza merchants by 1 percent, to a total of 9.775 percent, with proceeds of the surcharge going toward Midland Drive’s realignment, new traffic signalization and other public improvements.
Of the two proposed incentives, the TDD has attracted more criticism during recent City Council discussions.
Resident Ann Norbury said she opposed TDDs because the sales tax is regressive, meaning its burden falls disproportionately on the poor. She also said the tax would be unfair because it would benefit a single property.
“I’m happy to pay taxes for the common good,” Norbury said. “But this extra sales tax does not meet the common good criteria.”
Andrew Nave, executive director of the Shawnee Economic Development Council, noted that residents who oppose the tax have the option of avoiding it by shopping elsewhere. But most residents want new uses like the grocery store, restaurants and Nuts & Bolts hardware store planned for Shawnee Plaza Parkway, Nave added. And in the case of that center, the proposed incentives are a must toward attracting new tenants, he said
“The numbers won’t work without the incentives,” Nave said. “But with these economic development tools, you can take a project heading down a declining trajectory and alter its course so that it’s something the community can be proud of.”
The TDD, if approved, would authorize the second sales tax surcharge for retail revitalization in Shawnee. The first, approved in 2011 for 10 Quivira Plaza, was a 0.5 percent surcharge authorized through establishment of a community improvement district. CIDs were created by state legislation a few years ago to aid redevelopment projects not requiring transportation-related improvements.
According to Nave, 52 projects involving CID or TDD sales tax increases ranging from 0.5 to 2 percent have been approved in Kansas since 2006. Overland Park has approved six, and Prairie Village recent approved a 1.0 percent CID surcharge for the $5.4 million redevelopment of Corinth Square.
One hundred percent of the Corinth Square project will be covered by incentives, Nave said, while only 42 percent of the Shawnee Parkway Plaza project would be covered by incentives.