Fred Merrill Jr. wanted something special for the mixed-use development that his company, Merrill Companies, was developing in Overland Park, Kan.
And Prairiefire at Lionsgate certainly deserves that adjective.
The development will include include Cinetopia, a wine bar and luxury movie theater; Pinstrips, an onsite recreation center specializing in bowling and bocce bowl and boasting its own bistro; a gourmet grocery store; a Shade hotel; residences; and, most unusual of all, an American Museum of Natural History.
Yes, that museum’s home location is in New York City. But the Prairiefire development will feature its own site filled with all the exhibits — incuding rather massive dinosaurs — that make the museum in New York City such a popular destination.
“If you want to get a major development done today, if you want to distinguish yourself from other projects, you need something different,” Merrill said. “The longer people stay at your development, the more money they’ll spend and the more successful your tenants will be. Doing something different is incredibly important as we pull out of the recession. Competition is strong today. You need an amenities package that attracts and retains customers over a period of time.”
Merrill Companies closed the financing of the first phase of Prairiefire in late December last year. The company started the first phase of construction in January. The development’s first tenants, a Fresh Market gourmet grocery store and outdoors store REI, will open in October of this year. The new museum and the project’s entertainment options will open their doors in 2014.
Getting Prairiefire to this point, though, was no easy task. Merrill said that he and his company have been working on the project for six years. Merrill originally planned to start building the development three years ago. But the country’s weak economy scuttled those plans.
“We had to wait for the financial markets to the get to the point where with our pre-leasing levels we could go out and sell these bonds and secure construction financing,” Merrill said.
Now that construction is beginning, Merrill said that he is not surprised at the high quality of tenants that Prairiefire is attracting.
Johnson County, Kan., boasts a great location and strong demographics, Merrill said. And tenants like the fact that the development will feature a high-end movie theater and a top museum.
“We wanted to take mixed-use to another level,” Merrill said. “We wanted a civic component. When you look at what the future holds for mixed-use developments, you’ll see that a civic component, whether it be a museum or a library, really adds great depth to a project. The civic component will bring a lot of people to your development. And that’s a positive for everybody.”