By Kevin Collison
Backers of the plan to deck the South Loop freeway with a four-block park are making a big ask from Washington, seeking a “mega-grant” that would greatly assure construction of the project.
“We have applied for a $60 million mega-grant from the feds that’s part of the federal infrastructure program, Rebuilding America,” said Bill Dietrich, president and CEO of the Downtown Council.
“We’ll know how much, if any, we receive in December.”
The Downtown Council has been pushing the South Loop Link plan for more than a decade. The $160 million proposal calls for building a park deck above I-670 from Wyandotte to Grand, reconnecting the central business district with the Crossroads.
Last week, Port KC selected a group led by HNTB to do the environmental and preliminary engineering work for the plan. HNTB’s partners are BNIM architects, OJB Landscape Architecture of Houston, Parson + Associates and Willoughby Design.
OJB was part of the team that designed the Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. The park, which opened in 2012, covers a three-block stretch of a freeway between that city’s Uptown neighborhood and downtown.
In addition to seeking money from the Rebuilding America program, Dietrich said Sen. Roy Blunt has included a $20.6 million earmark for the South Loop plan in the upcoming federal budget.
“It looks promising,” he said. “Sen. Blunt sees this as a legacy project and we’re thankful he’s working for it.”
Supporters of the project also are applying for money from the federal RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity” program. One of its goals is reconnecting communities disrupted by freeways.
With regards to the state, Dietrich said the project supporters also will be seeking Missouri tax credits to help finance the endeavor.
On the private fundraising front, the Dietrich is optimistic an additional $5 million will be coming from what he called the “Founders Group.” The owners of the Loews Convention Hotel already have pledged $5 million.
Dietrich declined to identify members of the Founders Group, but it’s believed business entities that would stand to benefit from the South Loop Link likely would contribute to the plan.
The owners of Loews as well as Cordish and the Merrimans have a strong interest in seeing the noisy South Loop freeway capped with a park above it.
The Loews Hotel is adjacent to the highway trench as is the Cordish Two Light and Three Light apartment towers. There’s also a proposal for a 500-unit apartment development at 15th and Main being pursued by an entity that includes Cordish and J.E. Dunn.
The Merriman interests own the new 1400KC office building overlooking I-670 at 14th and Baltimore. It will be the new headquarters of the Blue KC health insurance company.
A solicitation issued by Port KC two months ago 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.
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