County staff member Cindy Dunham (center) provides Johnson County Airport Commission members with detail about the conversion of hundreds of acres of property at New Century being opened up for business development at the commission’s March 22 meeting. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz

Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Johnson County Airport Commission met on March 22 reviewed plans to open acreage to business development and heard a report from Southwest Johnson County Economic Development on ongoing development projects including a proposed $70,000 upscale retail development in Gardner.
Greg Martinette, president of Southwest Johnson County Economic Development, gave a report on development activities in the New Century and Gardner areas.
Martinette told commissioners that Gardner city council had approved the Hampton Inn development agreement and $14 million in bonds to finance the project.
He said ground breaking on the 82 room hotel and 200 seat conference center would be coming in the near future.
This is great news for tenants in the business park, who have repeatedly stated that hotel space was needed for visiting employees and clients, Martinette said. He also noted the new Dairy Queen to be constructed on Main Street in Gardner.
Other potential developments, Martinette said, include:
“Project Fountain” is a 400,000 sq. ft. building to be located to the north of the UniLever plant at New Century. The business is expected to use New Century’s rail service – about 60 cars per month.
“Project Tate” is a 200,000 sq. ft. building to be located to the west of the UniLever plant. The space in this building can be divided into smaller portions for lease to businesses that might need 25,000 square feet rather than 100,000. Martinette said he hopes this will attract smaller business that will grow and stay at New Century.
At this point, the name of the companies involved is not public, so references are made by code names. Groundbreaking on “Project Fountain” and “Project Tate may occur this summer.
Martinette also mentioned four or five other potential developments under code names. One development, if it comes to fruition, might occupy a large amount of acreage on the east side and another would construct a million sq. ft facility.
Martinette also talked about “Project Hog,” a potential 70,000 sq. ft., “high quality” retail development which would be on Main Street in Gardner, but said he couldn’t reveal much more about that at this stage.
Martinette said the relationship between Gardner and SWJCEDC was complementary, and there was a lot going on in Gardner. He then invited his guest, Chris Morrow, Gardner mayor, to speak.
Morrow referred to a published article that identified Gardner as the fourth fastest growing city in the state.
He believed that the relationship between Gardner and SWJCEDC had been a major factor in that growth.
With the Hampton Inn development, Morrow said the city’s transient guest tax revenues would go up by more than double. He said that wouldn’t have happened without the SWJCEDC partnership.
Morrow considers support of SWJCEDC a sound investment. Since he is one of six members of the governing body, he said he couldn’t promise anything, but he will encourage continued support for SWJCEDC.
“Greg’s got my support. The EDC has my support. There’s stuff I can’t talk about right now, like “Project Hog,” [but] everybody’s going to be happy about that once it happens, and confidence is high,” said Morrow.
Expansion of business development areas
Hundreds of acres around the airfield are in the early stages of being converted from aviation use to other types of development.
The commission reviewed development concepts for New Century Business Park.
Staff members Aaron Otto and Cindy Dunham presented information:
JCAC has been working with real estate developer VanTrust LLC, to study development options and produce potential use concepts.
Potential uses range from light industrial on the north, an office park to the east and distribution warehouses to the south. Some developments could include new taxiways to the airport.
Development requires compliance with a Environmental Assessment being conducted by Burns & McDonnell, and approvals from the FAA.
Dunham said natural storm water drainage had been studied and development would try to complement that, and aim to preserve existing water flow to adjacent properties.
“We’ve done all the environmental due diligence at this point, in terms of looking at natural resources,” Dunham told commission.
The use concept materials commission reviewed have been shared with the FAA.
It was noted that the concepts presented do not represent a firm plan, but rather a starting point, subject to changes.
Commission approved the potential land use as presented.