Editor’s note: Kansas City voters are preparing to elect a new mayor to replace Mayor Sly James, who has reached the end of his two-term limit.
The mayoral primary will be April 2 followed by the general election on June 18.
CityScene KC has reached out to the leading candidates for their opinions on several downtown issues and is grateful for their responses.
Each have been asked the same questions and their responses will be posted individually over the next two weeks.
What is your take on the current state of greater downtown today and what would your goals be for the area if you were elected mayor?
I have had the honor of serving on the Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development committee for the last eight years during the renaissance of Kansas City.
We have done a lot of hard work to revitalize downtown and many other parts of the City. We need to maintain the momentum we have built in Kansas City. If elected Mayor, I would continue to be hands on these projects as I have been as PZ & ED chair.
When I led the $39 million conversion of Kemper Arena into Hy-Vee Arena, I took a proactive approach to get people working together on this. I also checked up on a regular basis on the construction to make sure we were doing all we could as a City to move this forward.
What would be your approach to using tax incentives to assist downtown redevelopment? If you don’t believe further incentives are needed, why?
I believe we need to use our tools in a more intentional manner and continue to consider projects on a case by case basis.
Are their types of projects (residential, office, hotel, entertainment, etc.) that you believe no longer need tax incentives? If so, what are they and why?
I believe our focus should be more on Class A office space that creates new jobs (and corresponding tax revenue) in Kansas City and residential that includes affordable housing options more than any of these other categories.
We have had many market rate residential apartments and hotels come on line in the last few years including The Union on the riverfront, 531 Grand in the River Market, Two Light, Power and Light building and Traders on Grand.
We have many market rate residential projects coming online soon including City Club (which will be a game changer for 20th and Main) and hotels like the Grand Reserve Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn and (Loews Kansas City) Convention Hotel.
We need the historic tax credit program at the State level to continue to help close the financial gap on renovating historic structures which is cost prohibitive in many cases.
We have successfully seen improvements to the Savoy (21C), Brookfield building (Hotel Indigo), Pickwick buildings, Pabst buildings in Crossroads (hotel), Commerce Tower, old Catholic Charities building (McGown Gordon HQ) and Planters building on Broadway.
There are several ‘big ideas’ being discussed for greater downtown’s future. What’s your position on the following:
A downtown ballpark for the Royals?
I am open to the long-term discussion but love the K.
Decking the South Loop with a park?
I believe this new parkland could be a game changer for downtown if done as well as similar projects in Boston, Dallas, and New York. The key will be to minimize any public contribution and work with the private sector on this.
Reuniting the River Market with Columbus Park by lowering Missouri 9 to grade and reconnecting Independence Avenue?
This is one of those great ideas and was supported by the ULI a couple of years ago. It has a $58 million price tag and was determined that it is not feasible until 2028.
If discussion re-starts on this I will make sure that all surrounding neighborhoods and their leaders are part of the discussion as we have worked with them on many projects in Planning and Zoning.
Encouraging development along the 18th Street corridor to help connect the East Crossroads and 18th & Vine Jazz District?
We are already working on that with the latest development happening including the Keystone (Innovation District) project. Connectivity done in the right way would help increase foot traffic at 18th and Vine and make it more likely that small businesses could be sustained for the long term.
Extending the streetcar to the riverfront and UMKC?
I am one of the few candidates that can say I have already voted to support the original streetcar line. The extension to the riverfront may happen before the expansion to UMKC. The riverfront design plans were on display a few weeks ago.
With the Union development and Bar-K on the riverfront there are multiple potential projects getting ready to happen so the extension now makes sense to do and may potentially be privately funded.
The three votes for the downtown to UMKC expansion have been positive and now it is just a question of whether we can secure federal funds or find an alternative private sector approach. This expansion would be tremendous for the Plaza and UMKC to grow its stature and student base.
What’s your position on retaining City Manager Troy Schulte?
I have had a collaborative working relationship with Troy to get things done like the Hy-Vee Arena and East Side Revitalization Plan.
I have no plans to make a change if elected as continuity in leadership whether it is a City or football team is one of the keys to being successful.
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