Despite an additional month-and-a-half of preparation time and several changes to architectural renderings, a proposed office facility south of Interstate 70 missed the approval of the Independence Planning Commission.

Despite an additional month-and-a-half of preparation time and several changes to architectural renderings, a proposed office facility south of Interstate 70 missed the approval of the Independence Planning Commission. 

Commission members denied the city staff-recommended approval of the Mid-America Regional Council Insurance Trust’s headquarters 4-2, with Commission Chairman David Roberts and Vice Chairman Les Boatright voting in favor of the facility. Commission member Lyn Westfall was absent. 

The proposed U-shaped facility that would be south of Interstate 70 and north of Adair Creek received strong opposition during the Dec. 9, commission meeting. The case was continued to allow SFS Architecture time to make recommended changes. 

During Tuesday night’s commission meeting, Mike Shaughnessy with SFS Architecture addressed several changes that were made to the proposed facility’s design and aesthetics. Modifications were made so the facility would have continuity with adjacent office buildings and the Independence Events Center, including changes to the facility’s building base, lighter walls and darker roofs. 

Shaughnessy also spoke about the proposed facility’s site and its positive characteristics. He said he appreciated the commission’s initial comments and believed the new design presented a better facility.  

“By not surrounding the building with paving, the project allows a wider path of natural area to extend to the Little Blue River,” he said during his presentation. 

 But several commission members weren’t convinced. 

“I think it still looks like a bunker,” commission member Karen DeLuccie said. “This is a very prominent building. I can’t believe it meets the overlay requirements. It can’t possibly. It can’t.”  

MARCIT, an insurance trust pool that works with 113 governmental members in the Kansas City metropolitan area, would utilize the facility as its new headquarters, with separate spaces for offices, a wellness center and an employee training center. 

Roberts said that while the design is a different look than what Planning Commission members are accustomed to because of its energy-efficient design, he supported the proposed facility. 

“I think this is a good expression of this newer type of development that people are doing, and I suspect that we’re going to see some more things on that. That’s a little bit different than we’re used to seeing,” he said. 

SFS Architecture and MARCIT officials briefly met with Community Development Department staff members outside the planning commission meeting after the commission’s vote. 

In other business, commission members approved a final site plan for The Falls West Village south of Interstate 70 and west of Missouri 291. Hobby Lobby and Mardel, an affiliated retailer with Hobby Lobby that sells religious materials, office supplies and educational products, will be located in a building west of the Bass Pro Shops in the Falls at Crackerneck Creek development. 

The property now is undeveloped, but it is graded and prepared for construction. Byron Constance, a principal with Crackerneck Creek LLC, said construction is scheduled to start March 1, with a projected opening date sometime in October. 

“At a time when many retailers are closing their doors, it’s particularly gratifying to us to be able to bring this in our city,” Constance said. 

The Hobby Lobby and Mardel project is the second development project that has sought approval in the Falls at Crackerneck Creek development. Commission members approved the first project on Oct. 9, 2007, and construction has yet to begin on the V-shaped development on the corner of U.S. 40 and Bass Pro Drive.