Want to live in an apartment above a Walmart? Mission Gateway developer wants to turn that dream to reality

What’s a developer to do with a project that was unpopular enough to get a slate of candidates opposed to it elected to a city council just a month ago? With Mission Gateway, the plan apparently is to double down.

Tom Valenti, the New York-based owner of the old Mission Center Mall site at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Roe Avenue, isn’t backing away from his Walmart-anchored development plan. Instead, he’s putting apartments on top of it.

It’s the latest garnishment to a project that’s drawn heavy skepticism among Mission political leaders and residents. In his previous plan, Valenti had wanted to put a jogging trail on the roof of the Walmart to try and make the giant retailer more appealing.

Whatever he puts on top of the Walmart doesn’t change the fact that it will be a Walmart. Mission residents haven’t been shy about noting their opposition to the giant retailer. True, Mission is full of chain retailers and restaurants, particularly on the far east side of Johnson Drive. But most of Johnson Drive west of Nall Avenue has been a rebounding retail strip adorned with cool, mostly locally owned businesses ever since a massive infrastructure project wrapped up there last year. 

Residents over the last year have expressed concerns about whether Walmart would threaten those businesses, or about a new Walmart looking like the seemingly disorganized Roeland Park location just a mile away. Valenti has noted that Mission seems to have an objection to Walmart, and he’s not wrong about that. But he pushes ahead anyway.

It’s difficult to imagine what demand is being met by putting apartments atop oa Walmart. But the new plan means he will have to go through the Mission Planning Commission once again before getting a new Mission City Council to vet his proposal.

As The Pitch reported in April, several candidates who opposed the overall concept of a Walmart-anchored Mission Gateway development were elected to the Mission City Council.

It’s difficult to see a path forward for Valenti with a superstore development at Mission’s most prized piece of undeveloped commercial real estate, with or without apartments on the roof of a Walmart.

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