Port KC Steams Ahead on Riverfront Projects, Charts New Boundaries

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The cost estimate for extending the streetcar to the riverfront has dropped to $22 million from $32 million. (Image courtesy Confluence)

By Kevin Collison

Reviving the riverfront and retreating from providing incentives in what was described as the “central business corridor” were major topics at the Port KC meeting Monday.

The board approved supporting a $15 million affordable apartment project planned near Berkley Riverfront Park.

The Bridgeside Lofts project planned by Prairie Fire Development is part of what the board was told are $226 million in projects in the riverfront development pipeline including another apartment project, hotel and improvements to the Isle of Capri casino.

“Anyway you parse it, it’s a good thing for greater downtown and the riverfront,” said Joe Perry, Port KC development manager.

Part of the proceeds from the sale of land for those projects will help finance the planned extension of the streetcar from the River Market to Berkley Park and the Union apartment development.

The streetcar project also has had its estimated cost decreased substantially from $32 million to $22 million, according to Perry. That extension estimate does not include a potential stretch to the casino, an idea being actively considered.

Prairie Fire riverfront apartment project. (Image Odimo)

Perry said the riverfront extension could be completed and operating by the end of 2022. That revised cost estimate includes building a separate pedestrian/bike bridge paralleling the Grand Boulevard viaduct.

Perry also told the board that Google has closed on its purchase of 82 acres in the Hunt Midwest Business Park in the Northland and is expected to announced next spring whether its proceeding with an estimated $600 million data center.

It may be the high water moment for Port KC however, when it comes to providing tax incentives to assist development outside what’s considered its core areas: the riverfront and the former Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base property in south Kansas City.

Port KC, a state-chartered development agency, has ventured into new waters in recent years including providing incentives to help redevelop the former Board of Trade building in the South Plaza as the headquarters for the Populous sports architecture firm.

It also has provided incentives for the renovation in downtown of the former City Square building, now called Lightwell; and the development of Crossroads projects including the  Home2 Suites hotel, Corrigan Station and the REVERB apartment tower.

Projects totaling $$226 million are in the works for Parcels 3, 10, 12 and 13 according to Porl KC development officials. (Map from Port KC)

The agency is being asked to provide incentives to help build the proposed Strata office project, which was delayed last week by the City Council, and the renovation of the Jack Henry building in the Plaza as an entertainment complex.

While Port KC officials estimated the value of those projects at $417.5 million and creating up to 7,317 jobs, criticism it was venturing too far afield prompted the board to back off from future projects in what it defined as the “central business corridor.”

The corridor runs roughly from Interstate 35/North Loop on the north, Prospect Avenue on the east, 63rd Street on the south and state line to the west.

Under the terms of the agreement, Port KC will only assist projects in that area if formally asked by the City Council.

Mark Coulter, the Port KC attorney, said the measure will give Port KC “political cover” to counter any future criticism of its economic development efforts.

In a related matter, the developer of another proposal that had been seeking a property tax abatement from Port KC, the $95 million Tracks 215 apartment project, recently decided instead to seek incentives from the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.

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