New plans finally move forward for old Sears site in Overland Park, vacant for years

After years of sitting vacant as redevelopment plans came and went, the former Sears site in Overland Park is now poised to become an apartment complex and dog park.

The Overland Park Planning Commission on Monday voted 7-1 to approve rezoning the southeast corner of 97th Street and Metcalf Avenue to make way for two, four-story apartment buildings with 300 units. The move came with several stipulations from planning commissioners, and after many neighbors said they are concerned about traffic, safety and overcrowding in the neighborhood.

It’s the latest pitch for redeveloping the former Sears site that anchored the southern end of Metcalf South Shopping Center, which closed in September 2017. The rest of the mall was demolished, and Sears was finally razed in 2022.

In 2019, New York-based Seritage Growth Properties gained approval to build 300 apartments, restaurants and retail on the site. But that never happened, and a couple of a years later the land was rezoned for retail. Later, developers said the site would become a Life Time Fitness and four pickleball courts.

But the site has stayed vacant. And now developer Thompson Thrift is seeking approval to build apartments, which will include a pool, clubhouse, courtyards and dog park.

The Planning Commission on Monday also unanimously approved a revised plan for Box Development to build 42,000 square feet of commercial space west of the apartments.

The former mall site at 95th and Metcalf, purchased by Lane4 and the Kroenke Group in 2014, has so far been redeveloped with businesses including QuikTrip, Lowe’s, Andy’s Frozen Custard, Whataburger, Chick-Fil-A and Texas Roadhouse.

Several neighbors spoke out against the apartment plan during Monday’s meeting. Several said they felt the four-story apartment buildings would tower over their single-family homes to the east and duplexes to the south, plus contribute to overcrowding Shawnee Mission schools and cause more traffic backups in the busy area.

“You’re trying to put 10 pounds of flour in a two-pound sack. It just doesn’t fit,” neighbor Bob Pettit told the commission.

While several commissioners said they were “on the fence” ahead of Monday’s vote, the majority agreed the project meets the city’s requirements and development plans for the Metcalf corridor. An apartment complex for seniors, Novel Place, already sits north of the site. And they said the developer has made several changes to the plans to address concerns, including moving the dog park from the south of the site, which was closer to the nearby duplexes, to the northwest corner.

Commissioner Jenna Reyes said she empathizes with neighbors worried about the project, but has “a hard time looking at the criteria thinking it’ll detrimentally affect property owners,” saying home values continue to climb despite multifamily development.

She said she understands concerns about the development being taller than the mall that stood near where neighbors bought their homes. But she said the proposal “is the best we’ll do without leaving it vacant for a number of years.”

The City Council is expected to consider the rezoning request at its meeting on June 3.