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R.H. Johnson wants to partner with city

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

A real estate brokerage and development company is proposing its vision for property the city of Platte City recently acquired, plus a much larger neighboring parcel.

The firm envisions a 300-acre development on the east side of Interstate 29 between the Main Street and Hwy. 92 interchanges with a mix of retail, medical, business park and residential space.

As exclusively reported by The Landmark on June 18, the city has identified a firm interested in developing city-owned property on the east side of I-29.

This week, D.J. Gehrt, city administrator, said one response to a recent request for proposals concerning what the city refers to as the eastside project was received.
Sources in the development field are telling The Landmark that firm is The R.H. Johnson Company of Kansas City.

R.H. Johnson, according to the company’s web site, already has a property management portfolio containing more than two million square feet in a five state area in the Midwest.

The city, through a condemnation process that was due to terms of a trust that owned the property, recently acquired the nearly 39 acres of land for $1.3 million. The price the city paid for the land was determined through an appraisal process by court-appointed commissioners in the condemnation process.

City of Platte City officials, from the beginning of the acquisition process, said the city would look to partner with private entities to develop the land, which is on the east side of I-29 at the HH (Main Street ) intersection.

When contacted by The Landmark, a representative of R.H. Johnson confirmed the company has had discussions with the city.

“We did respond to the city’s request for proposals,” said Jim Harpool, a vice president for the R.H. Johnson Company.

Harpool said since responding, the firm has also answered additional questions posed to it by the city.

“We’re waiting for the city, I guess, to make a selection,” Harpool told The Landmark.

Harpool said his firm has what he termed “an unconventional” approach to the situation. R.H. Johnson is already teamed with the Laderoute family, who owns 260 acres adjacent to the city’s 38 acres.

“We would look to do a master plan for the two parcels combined,” Harpool said.

"We are already teamed up with the Laderoutes to market their property.”

He said the city’s parcel would be commercial.

“And that’s probably a combination of retail and business,” he added.

Harpool said the “business” portion could be “office space, medical facilities, a business park, showrooms, light distribution, those kinds of things.”

He also mentioned a hotel as a possibility in the commercial area.

The 260-acre Kline-Laderoute property, Harpool said, would then be opened up for “lots of possibilities.”

Those possibilities, he indicated, would include some single family and some multi-family housing units.

The topography of the land could present some issues, but Harpool indicated it is a problem that can be overcome. He said there are some terrain issues, particularly on the eastern edge of the larger parcel.

Harpool said currently the Kline-Laderoute property is being farmed.

“It has been in the Laderoute family a long time,” he said.

He said combining the city’s parcel with the Laderoute land would create a development “interchange to interchange that could really be a tremendous gateway for Platte City.”

By “interchange to interchange” he is indicating the east side of I-29 from the HH exit south to the Hwy. 92 exit.

“Interchange locations on interstates are not made every day. This would incorporate the two main entrances. It seems like an opportunity to really define and take to another level what could be done over there,” Harpool remarked.

He said R.H. Johnson would look at the project “in a big picture master plan” that maintains some flexibility.

“It will take years to develop all of it,” he said. “As we know the market changes so you have to remain somewhat flexible. Our vision in working with the city can include some flexibility.”


One question/concern raised by community members has been whether the city will be selling the 38 acres to recoup its $1.3 million.

Gehrt, the city administrator, recently addressed that question for The Landmark.

“The proposal (of the development firm the city is apparently negotiating with) does not include an outright purchase offer for the city property, but it is likely that the agreement will include development conditions that trigger the sale of the city property,” Gehrt said two weeks ago.

The Landmark asked Harpool the same question.

“I don’t know that anybody will buy the 38 acres. It’s a systematic approach that involves planning it, figuring out what the highest and best use is for the city long term,” Harpool said.

“We think by teaming with the Laderoute parcel, and the way you install the infrastructure, create the utilities and roadways, you get a concept that all the stakeholders are in agreement with,” he added.

Once the roadways and utilities are in place, Harpool said, “then you find users who will buy pieces from the city” or enter a “build to suit” lease.

Harpool said the city has “pretty much resolved how to get sewer to the 38 acres.”

“Then long term it becomes critical to figure out how to get the utilities to the additional ground there. There are some infrastructure issues but they’re all solvable. There are some grading issues and topographical issues on the city’s site, but if we have the opportunity to work on this and team up with the adjacent 260 acres we should be able to figure it out,” Harpool stated.

Gehrt has told The Landmark he intends to bring a formalized proposal to the table for discussion by city leaders later this summer. The proposal would first be brought to the city’s economic development subcommittee, which would make a recommendation and then pass it on to the full board of aldermen.

“Staff has asked the respondents for additional information to evaluate the proposal. The issue is scheduled for review and discussion at the August economic development subcommittee meeting,” Gehrt told The Landmark on Monday.

Harpool has 40 years of experience in the architectural and development business in the Kansas City area. His focus with The R.H. Johnson Company is brokerage, development, and consulting.

Prior to joining R.H. Johnson Company, Harpool worked with MD Management as its director of development.

In his career, Harpool said he has designed, developed, and managed office buildings, hotels, malls, and retail centers. Some recent projects include the Hartman Heritage Center mixed-use project in Independence, the $80 million redevelopment of East Hills Mall in St. Joseph, the Oak Barry Shopping Center with a new 73,000 square foot Price Chopper, and the Quivira 95 retail center at 95th and Quivira in Lenexa, Kan.

Harpool serves on the Platte County Economic Development Council Board of Directors.