STANDEES may have gotten a good deal of positive buzz after news broke that the restaurant-theater concept would debut at the Village Shops — but at least one Prairie Village City Councilor isn’t yet sold on the idea.
Councilor Michael Kelly, who lives just a block south of the Village Shops on Buena Vista, expressed reservations Thursday about the suitability of the proposed concept for the neighborhood and went so far as to question whether STANDEES would be an acceptable tenant for the shops under the site’s current zoning. His primary concern, he said, was that the facility would produce so much traffic that patrons would start parking on surrounding streets.
“I personally have never viewed my neighborhood as a ‘destination,’” Kelly said. “What’s next? A minor league baseball team and NASCAR track?”
But STANDEES chief Frank Rash said in an interview with the Prairie Village Post Wednesday that his company had developed the concept specifically for small, neighborhood-oriented centers, and that the traffic it would produce would be extremely unlikely to spill into surrounding neighborhoods. Parking studies for the centers commissioned by LANE4 show that peak parking usage at the Village Shops is Saturday around 4:30 p.m. Parking at the shops on Friday and Saturday nights, when STANDEES is likely to do its most brisk business, is significantly underutilized, Rash said.
“This is totally different than a traditional movie theater,” Rash said. “This is a small physical site designed for a neighborhood setup. And the parking studies suggest that we would be filling a niche — a weekend entertainment option — that isn’t at the center yet.”
Kelly said he feels strongly that the city and homeowners who live in the immediate vicinity of the shops should have the opportunity to play an active role in shaping what businesses go in there — though he hasn’t determined what mechanism precisely he would recommend for doing so.
For his part, Rash said he and his partners anticipated that neighbors and the city would have concerns about the project initially.
“This is a new business, and like any new business, people are going to have questions,” he said. “And we’re happy to answer them. But this is designed to be a great complement to the neighborhood.”
As for the site’s zoning, Kelly said his reading of the C-2 zoning regulations raised questions about whether the movie theater was an acceptable use, and encouraged the group to prepare to apply for a special-use permit. But Prairie Village Assistant City Administrator Dennis Enslinger said the zoning allows for “public or private recreation” facilities, which would cover the restaurant-theater combo.
“The concept as proposed would not require a special use permit from the city,” Enslinger said. “I would anticipate that the project will require some review at the Planning Commission level for façade changes, signage, etc… in addition to the standard building permitting requirements.’”
City Councilor Ashley Weaver, who also lives within walking distance of the shops, said that while she had concerns initially when rumors of a movie theater coming to the shops started circulating, she’s grown increasingly comfortable with the idea the more she’s heard about the concept.
“The big question I still have is whether they’ll have enough parking,” she said. “Overall, though I haven’t heard a single negative comment from people who have heard about it. But this is a new concept and we’re the first place they’re trying it out, so you are kind of taking a risk as a community.”