(Updated Feb. 9, 2022: Nick Benjamin is no longer employed by the Cordish Cos. When asked specifically about his departure, a Cordish spokesperson issued this statement:
“The Power & Light District remains under the strong leadership of John Moncke and his senior leadership team. We expect a banner year for the District in 2022 including welcoming guests for the return of the Big 12 Conference Men and Women’s Basketball Championships, upcoming new tenant openings and continuing construction on Three Light.”
Cordish provided no further details and Benjamin could not be reached for comment.)
Nick Benjamin is relinquishing his position as chief executive of the Kansas City Power & Light District since 2009 to take a larger role with the Cordish Cos. Midwestern operations.
He became executive director of the downtown entertainment district just two years after it began opening its doors in October 2007.
The project developed by Baltimore-based Cordish replaced eight, mostly-blighted blocks on the south side of the central business district and was part of a massive public and private reinvestment in downtown that began in the early 2000s.
Benjamin, who plans to remain in Kansas City and maintain his office at the District, will be replaced by John Moncke, currently an executive vice president at the Sporting KC professional soccer club, according to a press release from Cordish.
“Nick’s leadership in Kansas City for over a decade has been instrumental in cementing the Power & Light District as a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood and a catalyst for downtown Kansas City’s revitalization,” Blake Cordish, a Cordish principal, said in a statement.
During his tenure as executive director, the P&L District has grown to include more than 500,000 square feet of restaurants, entertainment, office, shopping and lifestyle amenities, with more than 65 best-in-class local, regional and national tenants, according to the release.
It also now includes 603 apartment units in One Light and Two Light Luxury Apartments, the first new downtown apartment towers in decades.
Work also has just begun on the 321-unit, 26-story Three Light at the northeast corner of Main and Truman. It’s expected to open in May 2023.
The Power & Light District however, has fallen short of the revenue goals established when the city issued $295 million in bonds to build it. The original plan called for the bonds to be repaid by the new tax revenues generated by the development.
The city however, was required to step in and cover any shortfalls under the terms of the 2004 redevelopment agreement. The project has required those city subsidies throughout its life.
Over the past several years, they have ranged from $14 million to $17 million annually, according to officials. That figure is expected to drop to $9 million annually after a recent refinancing and extension of the bonds which originally were scheduled to be retired in 2033.
In the past, Cordish has noted that much of the city bond proceeds went toward rebuilding the infrastructure in the Power & Light development area, including two underground garages built specifically for the development.
While the Power & Light District has been successful attracting new residents and keeping its core Kansas City Live! block fully leased and appealing to large gatherings, it has struggled to fill retail space at other locations.
A prominent storefront at the northwest corner of 14th and Main has never been leased, and there are several other vacancies, some stretching for years including a Famous Dave’s location that closed a decade ago.
Cordish however, recently signed a lease with B&B Theatres to take over the former Mainstreet Theater space vacated by the Alamo Drafthouse. That operation is expected to open by early Fall.
Benjamin will become managing partner of the Cordish Midwest portfolio, which includes the Ballpark Village development in downtown St. Louis, as well as continue to oversee multi-family development for the company’s residential division.
“Downtown Kansas City has made tremendous progress since 2007, establishing itself as one of the country’s fastest growing downtowns and putting Kansas City on the map,” Benjamin said in a statement.
“While that progress is notable, I truly believe that the potential for growth and improvement in downtown Kansas City is greater in the next 10 years.”
His successor is no stranger to the Power & Light District.
Moncke was the primary liaison between the No Other Pub entertainment venue at Kansas City Live! and Sporting Kansas City, helping to maximize the integration of the Sporting brand with the No Other Pub and KC Live! experiences, according to the release.
He has worked for Sporting KC for a decade, his last position being executive vice president of stadium and brand revenue.
“I spent a life-changing decade at Sporting Kansas City working with some of the best people in the sports industry, and we were focused every day on finding innovative ways to tell the local Kansas City story on a global stage,” Moncke said in a statement.
“Through working closely with Nick Benjamin and his team over the past several years on our joint venture and other projects, I’ve been inspired by how The Cordish Companies have transformed the way we live, work, and play in the city.”
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Thank you for calling out some of the struggles they’ve had. It’s amazing that spaces like that one you noted haven’t ever had a tenant in 14 years, plus that Famous Dave’s location. Pretty sure the space right across 12th from the movie theater had never had a tenant either. Are the prospects for business there that bad or is Cordish still that proud of the spaces?
I don’t know what the prospects are, but as long as the city is required to subsidize any shortfall, Cordish doesn’t have a lot of motivation to fill them. I’ve always wondered why the City Council doesn’t bring Cordish execs in at least a couple times annually to grill them on what they’re doing to reduce that subsidy. It’s been way too hands off because these are real taxpayer dollars involved.
If the Plaza can keep it’s spots filled there is no reason Power and Light shouldn’t be able too. This subsidy must be the hidden part as having worked right there at a customer site for a year and a half before COVID it was interesting to see so many spots still empty. Maybe if they filled them with more things that create traffic it have a snowball effect.
This issue of real estate developments leasing out their available commercial spaces is becoming very serious. We are seeing it all over the Downtown/Crossroads area. It would seem as though many are building those spaces just to check the box for the city tax incentives but then they do zero (0) marketing to fill those spaces. I am close to commercial real estate and I don’t think I have seen any marketing for the above mentioned spaces in the last five years. This is ridiculous! We need to get the City Council to make marketing of the first floor commercial space a required clause to receiving any tax incentives. In my opinion new and vacant looks just slightly better than old and dilapidated.
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