by Mary Wilson
Members of the South Kansas City community have been keeping a close eye on a development off of I-470 and View High Drive in Lee’s Summit, which primarily sits in the Hickman Mills School District. Paragon Star is a projected 210-acre, $400 million multi-phase mixed-use development that will feature a sports and recreation complex including soccer fields, entertainment, and will serve as a major trailhead to the Little Blue Trace and Rock Island Corridor trails.
The developer of the project, Flip Short, is a Lee’s Summit businessman who started a lab company, Viracor, which he sold a few years ago and has since begun a handful of other businesses, including Paragon Star. Short was also the developer behind the Lee’s Summit Magic Tree, which sits on the southern edge of the Paragon Star property at the northeast corner I-470 and View High Drive. The Magic Tree is used to raise funds and goods for philanthropy.
“We plan on Paragon Star being the country’s number-one-used sports facility,” said Bill Brown, project coordinator.
The sports complex will include 10 artificial turf regulation fields and three junior fields, a clubhouse and cantina with viewing decks, and an entertainment district with multi-family housing, lodging, office, dining, boutique retail and entertainment venues. The location also serves as the intersection of the Little Blue Trace Trail and the Rock Island Corridor Trail, and the developer plans to extend the trails through the Paragon Star project with a trailhead.
The project’s current 120 acres is fully in the City of Lee’s Summit, and along the north side of the property is the city limits. According to Brown, the developer would like to go north into 95 acres of South Kansas City with additional development for the project.
“It is a gorgeous piece of property, but it is a very difficult one to develop,” said Brown. The City of Lee’s Summit posted a request for qualifications from development teams to propose a use for the 80 acres owned by the city, and Paragon Star was ultimately selected and will purchase the city’s portion of the property. Short owns another 20 acres, while the remaining will be leased from Jackson County.
A Community Improvement District (CID) has been developed for the property with sales tax generated on the property being captured, and it will be owned and maintained by that CID. The developer would also like to restore the Little Blue River that flows through the property, including building two new bridges and raising flood plain elevation. Local incentives in Lee’s Summit have also been included in the development of the site, including a tax increment financing plan (TIF) and a one-cent transportation development district (TDD) to pay for site infrastructure.
“Over the course of the last six years, we’ve had a lot of public discussions in and around Lee’s Summit,” said Brown. “We’ve had a very public process and each step has required a public process to go through to get the approval of the CID, the TDD and the TIF.”
As part of the process, Paragon Star developers met with the City of Kansas City to discuss standards of the road that will travel through the project. According to Brown, it was suggested from Kansas City staff to annex the area where the initial parkway through the project begins (currently in Kansas City, MO) in order to work with one public entity.
“That got us to thinking into the next phases of the project and what we wanted to do,” said Brown. “We were getting interest in putting other things in the project, and we were simply landlocked at 120 acres. We were already looking north into Kansas City property. We needed another way into the project (from the north), and we began to think there was a way we could catch fire and meet a lot of mutual goals.”
Short has since purchased a portion of the 96 acres to the north in Kansas City and is under contract for the remaining acreage. The goal is to create a parkway through the entire project that will connect I-470 and Bannister Road, paid for by the developer. The City of Lee’s Summit has given the initial nod of approval for annexation of the Kansas City 96 acres, which, if approved in Kansas City, will not change school district boundaries.
“Our application (with the City of Kansas City) is for 98 acres, but in reality only 46 of the 98 acres is developable,” said Paragon Star’s general counsel Christine Bushyhead. “The remaining is that beautiful hillside and other topography that won’t be developed.”
A traffic study will be completed that will determine the impact from the development onto already existing thoroughfares. The developer will also complete right-of-way improvements, and the major parkway through the development will be built to Kansas City standards with a cooperative agreement.
Brown said that there is a timing issue for the developers, who completed a ground-breaking ceremony in November of 2016. Before grading can begin on the initial project, the developers would like to incorporate the additional 96 acres into the grading.
“That’s why we just said, ‘time out,’ on the project, let’s work through the process and see what happens and we’ll make a decision after we go through the annexation process before we make a decision as a developer,” said Brown. “We’re ready to move forward on a lot of the work right now, but this question about the annexation does impact how we proceed.”
The annexation application with Kansas City was unanimously approved by Kansas City Planning Commission. On December 13, 1:30 p.m. at City Hall, Paragon Star will present to Kansas City’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee. That meeting will be open to the public.