em>By Kevin Collison
Backers of the proposed South Loop Link downtown park hope a $10 million donation from H&R Block and affiliated foundations will spark other private donors to help pay for what’s now an estimated $200 million project.
As press conference announcing the donation today, Mayor Quinton Lucas praised the contribution and said the city will strive to build the proposed four-block park above the South Loop using the minimum amount of city funding.
“We certainly think that Block’s investment is a strong encouragement and sign about both the viability of this project but also how we can continue to call others and say there is real investment here,” the mayor said.
“It’s certainly my goal right now to have this built with as many private dollars as we can to preserve our taxpayer funds, but we’ll also make sure we’re at the top of the list when we look at federal and state investments.”
The park is expected to be completed in time for the 2026 World Cup Soccer competition in Kansas City.
The $10 million donation was a partnership between H&R Block, the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation and the H&R Block Foundation.
“When you travel across America and around the world, you realize the great cities have breathtaking urban parks,” Jeff Jones, H&R Block president and CEO said in a statement.
“Our commitment to this project is a reflection of our work to Make Every Block Better, our belief in Kansas City, and our collective ambition of greatness.”
At the press event held outside the Kay Barnes Ballroom overlooking the stretch of the South Loop between Wyandotte and Grand where the park would cover, backers of the project said an additional $3 million had been raised from other private donors.
They are JE Dunn Construction, Kansas City Southern, the Power & Light District, the Cordish Cos. and 1400 Baltimore, an office building developed for Blue Cross Blue Shield by the Merriman Family.
In December, Sen. Roy Blunt along with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver announced $28.6 million had been included in the new federal budget for the endeavor.
The idea of decking the South Loop with a park has been pursued for at least 15 years, but has made rapid progress in recent years in an effort led by the Downtown Council, an association of business and property owners.
“This (Block) pledge is a key milestone in transforming this vision to a reality,” said Bill Dietrich, Downtown Council president. “This is a work in progress, we have a long way to go and a lot of work to go.”
Revised cost estimates for what would be a 4.6-acre park bridging the central business district with the Crossroads area have climbed to $200 million because of inflation and better estimates. That figure includes a $40 million contingency account.
Engineering work is currently underway under a development process being managed by Port KC.
“This South Loop project is more than an infrastructure project,” said Jon Stephens, Port KC executive director.”
“It’s a transformative project that heals a divide, north, south east and west. It’s more than a park, it’s creating a vibrant space, really creating something out of nothing.”
A solicitation issued by Port KC last fall roughly outlined a general map of how the South Loop Link project would be financed, calling for equal, one-third participation by local, state and federal sources.
Locally, it calls for $20 million in private funding and $33 million from other sources; the state would provide $10 million in tax credits and $43 million from other sources, and the federal government, a $25 million RAISE Grant, and $25 million from other sources.
Lucas said the private funding to help pursue the South Loop Link plan could be a model for other partnerships needed in the city.
“This is a model for not just this project, but when you talking about other things coming up, including the soccer world cup, where we’ll look for substantial private investment to help address some of the costs, and other infrastructure projects citywide,” he said.
The $10 million donation from the Bloch Family Foundation is another example of the Bloch’s largesse in the community. Donations from the foundation built the Bloch Gallery addition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art which opened in 2017.
“We are thrilled to join H&R Block in making this leadership gift,” David Miles, the president of the H&R Block Foundation and the Bloch Family Foundation, said in a statement.’
“We believe the South Loop Project represents the Bloch family’s long-standing commitment to bring together diverse individuals and families to share experiences.”
A public meeting is scheduled for people to offer ideas about the South Loop Link project March 7 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Downtown YMCA at 222 W. 11th St.
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Still waiting to see when Cordish will step up after all the money the city has given them.
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