Prairie Village residents living near the former Mission Valley Middle School were offered a glimpse into a senior living center being proposed for the 18-acre site.
Developers for The Tutera Group held a neighborhood meeting at Shawnee Mission East High School last Thursday to showcase the $50 million project they have planned for the location.
The retirement community, named Mission Chateau, would feature independent living, assisted living, memory care and rehabilitation facilities. The architecture has been designed to mimic French villas and chateaus.
“It’s not going to look like an institution at all,” said John Petersen, the attorney representing The Tutera Group. “It’s a place all of us would desire to live at some point in our life if we can’t live at home. It’s going to be inviting, welcoming and receiving.”
The site, at 8500 Mission Road, was originally planned to be a mixed-use development, with retail and a senior living community. Last summer, however, the plan changed to only a senior living community.
Petersen pointed out that the project was vital in the community, because according to the Prairie Village Parks and Recreations Master Plan, seniors comprise almost 20 percent of the city’s population, with the number growing as baby boomers age.
Almost 100 residents showed up to the meeting, anxious to learn the details of the project. Although the developer had met with a couple homes associations earlier this month, many residents, who live near the site were upset that it took so long for the developer to reach out to them.
“It’s a shame they didn’t do this five months ago, because it would have rid us of all this anxiety” said Jinny Alexander, a Prairie Village resident. “But I suppose it’s better late than never. I think they can turn feelings around.”
During the presentation, a few residents voiced unhappiness with the general idea of having senior living housing at the location.
Ron Mayer, the owner of Sole Patch Barber Shop in Corinth Square Shopping Center, was one of the first people to speak up.
He told developers that he’s been keeping an eye on the project for a while and he believes using 18 acres of property, in the middle of Prairie Village, for only one demographic is a bad idea. He would like to see the area used to fit the needs of everyone.
“There could be a day care and health clinic and office space,” said Mayer. “Your idea doesn’t speak to the entire community. There is a tremendous economic opportunity here and you should take advantage of it.”
Nancy Sinovic, who lives in a neighborhood adjacent to the former middle school, agreed. She doesn’t think a retirement community belongs in a neighborhood filled with young families.
“I have nothing against your beautiful plan, but it makes me sad because it doesn’t fit our neighborhood,” she said. “You can throw around statistics about an aging community, but I’ve lived in this neighborhood my entire life and there have always been children running around. I feel like you’re paving paradise and putting up a senior living center.”
She also doesn’t agree that the castle-like architecture fits in the neighborhood.
“I love Disney World, but I don’t want it in my back yard,” she said, drawing laughter and cheers from the audience.
Besides the criticism, many residents asked questions or expressed concern about the proximity of parking lots to single-family homes, the heights of the buildings, and storm water issues.
Petersen said the developer is going to take all those questions and concerns into consideration and make changes accordingly, before taking the project to the city for approval.
The Prairie Village Planning Commission is expected to hold an open work session, without public comment, at 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at Indian Hills Middle School, at 64th Street and Mission Road. It will hold a public hearing on the proposal on March 5.
If all goes according to plan, construction on the site will begin in 2014, with the project being fully completed within three years.