River Market Office Plan Fizzles, KCATA Seeking New Proposals

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The KCATA has ended its development agreement with Briarcliff Development for a proposed office project at Third and Grand and will be seeking new proposals for the site. (Image from BNIM)

By Kevin Collison

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has dropped the developer of a proposed River Market office project after four years without progress and will be seeking new proposals soon.

Briarcliff Development, which has been pursuing a 200,000 square-foot office project at Third and Grand since 2015, did not have its development agreement renewed by the agency board in February, said Brien Starner, KCATA director of economic development.

“The board got to the point where there was development fatigue,” Starner said.

“They didn’t see the certainty for development they were seeking. Four years is a long time for any project.

Starner said the KCATA is starting over and will issue a fresh request for proposals possibly next month for the Third and Grand property. The 1.8-acre parking lot is located on the streetcar line.

Richie Benninghoven, president of Briarcliff Development, said that while his firm was disappointed by the board’s decision not to extend its deal, it plans to resubmit when the new RFP is released.

“We’re still very bullish on that area and it makes sense that offices go there,” Benninghoven said.

The new request for proposals will be managed by the KCATA’s non-profit development arm, RideKC Development Corp.

Starner is also president of RideKC Development.

“We’re trying to do a restart,” he said.

“Four years later, we’re a different organization and it’s a different market and a lot of different things have happened with development.”

In recent years, the Transportation Authority under the leadership of CEO Robbie Makinen has become more aggressive trying to develop its extensive property holdings, particularly along East 18th Street where its headquarters and maintenance barn are located.

The KCATA owns this development site at Third and Grand which is currently used for surface parking.

It’s currently in talks with backers of the proposed Keystone Innovation District for a block the authority owns at 18th and Troost and also is building a new East Village transit center at 12th and Charlotte.

Starner said his agency recently extended its development agreement with the Keystone group 90 days.

The KCATA also plans to go beyond the Third and Grand property with its new RFP. Starner said it will be bundled with two other properties owned by the KCATA: land next to the East Village transit center at 12th and Charlotte and parking lot at 31st and Troost.

As for the type of development ideas the agency is seeking for the three properties, Starner said the only stipulation is that it be transit oriented.

Respondents to the new request for proposals can choose which properties they want to submit development proposals, and can pick one, two or all three of the sites.

Benninghoven said Briarcliff was making good progress on its development plan when the KCATA board decided not to renew.

“We’ve been working on getting incentives in place the last four years,” he said. “We got to the point the incentives were lined up, but when we came to the wire, the KCATA decided not to continue.”

The Briarcliff official pointed to an agreement approved by the Kansas City Council in January to assist financing the 568-space garage planned for the office project. The city agreed to use earnings taxes generated by jobs at the project to help pay for the garage.

Benninghoven also said his firm has been working with Port KC on tax incentives for the office portion of the deal.

He said it’s been difficult lining up potential tenants for the project the past few years because of the uncertainty over the incentive package.

“Prospective tenants wanted a delivery deadline,” Benninghoven said. “We felt we were at the finish line with incentives and could give the tenants a date when we could deliver.”

While the decision to seek new proposals for the Third and Grand site is a setback to efforts to encourage more Class A office construction downtown, two major projects remain in the works.

The Strata office project, a 25-story tower planned by Copaken Brooks, Jury & Associates, and H&R Block in the Power & Light District remains active, and Platform Ventures is still pursuing a 100,000 square-foot office building as part of its redevelopment plan for a block east of Barney Allis Plaza.

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