By Kevin Collison
An incentive deal for the proposed headquarters of Fidelity Security Life Insurance at 27th and Main sailed through the City Council Thursday despite neighborhood criticism and broader policy concerns about its planned garage.
The Council voted 11-1 to approve a tax incentive package valued at about $9 million for the $83.4 million development on the Crown Center campus. Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw cast the lone opposing vote.
The 11-story building is intended to house 300 employees of the insurance firm which is currently located a few blocks away at 3130 Broadway.
While much of the testimony at last week’s Council development committee meeting came from nearby Union Hill residents objecting to the development design, most of the Council deliberations focused on concerns over the project’s planned 400-space garage.
The building design calls for six levels of office space totaling 155,000 square-feet above a five-level garage.
Much of the incentives are going toward building the garage, and opponents observed there was plenty of available parking already at nearby Crown Center garages. The development also would be next to a planned streetcar stop at 27th and Main.
Councilman Eric Bunch, who eventually supported the incentive deal, shared their concerns about parking.
“Every single project that comes before us requests more parking,” Bunch said. “We’ve not once had a discussion about how those developments could share that parking.
“I know there are literally thousands of parking spaces within two blocks of this project and here we are incentivizing a project with 400 parking spaces.
“We need to work harder on better land use policies and better incentive policies that align with our longterm goals and visions for the city.”
The Council approved a 15-year property tax reduction, 10 years at 70 percent, five years at 30 percent, for the Fidelity Security Life project and a sales tax exemption on construction materials for the development.
Councilman Brandon Ellington was absent for the final vote, but had supported the plan at the committee meeting last week.
In opposing the incentive package, Parks-Shaw noted the consultant hired by the city to evaluate the incentive request said the project could be financially viable with a 10-year property tax abatement.
“Why are we giving them the additional five years?” she asked. “Why are we also looking at subsidizing a garage when there’s over 3,000 parking spaces just a few buildings down?”
“The fact we continue to incentivize big businesses and companies and not allocating dollars to our taxing jurisdictions and on behalf of our students…I am concerned we are continuing to do this.”
The developer estimated the project, with the property tax reduction, still would generate $9.2 million in revenues for the city and taxing jurisdictions over the 15-year life of the incentive deal.
Without the project, the property would generate $946,000 in taxes during the same period.
In response to neighborhood concerns over the design, Bunch introduced an amendment that was approved by the Council which will require the project to have its rezoning approved before the revenue bonds needed to finance it are issued by the city.
“What I’m trying to accomplish here is to avoid something that was frustrating to me during the Waddell & Reed project,” he said, referring to the 18-story building now under construction at 14th and Baltimore.
“The incentive plan came to us first and then the design of the project was later agreed upon without a significant amount of Council consideration,” Bunch said.
The Council approved an incentive package for the Waddell & Reed project in 2019. Since then, the firm has been purchased by an Australian company and will no longer occupy the building which is being marketed now as speculative office space.
If the final development plan is approved by the Council, construction on the Fidelity Security Life headquarters would likely begin in early Fall 2022 with completion in 22 months.
Don’t miss any downtown news, sign up for our weekly CityScene KC email review here.