(Editor’s note: the full City Council approved the $10 million in funding Thursday)
By Kevin Collison
The city is poised to contribute $10 million to the proposed South Loop Link project, an amount backers hope will leverage the total raised for the four-block park to more than $115 million by year’s end.
A City Council committee unanimously endorsed the request Wednesday and its expected to be considered by the full Council today.
The $10 million city pledge would be the local match for a $15 million state tax credit application expected to be submitted to the Missouri Development Finance Board this summer, according to Jerry Riffel, an attorney for the South Loop Link plan.
The $15 million in tax credits are expected to leverage at least $30 million in private donations. The proposal already has lined up $57.2 million in federal and state assistance and raised $18 million so far from private sources.
All combined, should the tax credits leverage the projected private donations, supporters have identified $115.2 million for the estimated $200 million project. That budget includes a $40 million contingency fund.
The idea of decking the South Loop with a park has been pursued for at least 15 years, but has made rapid progress in recent years in an effort led by the Downtown Council, an association of business and property owners.
The 4.6-acre park would span the I-670 interstate trench from Wyandotte to Grand Boulevard, covering what’s now a noisy freeway with recreational space and reconnecting the central business district with the Crossroads area.
Engineering and design work is currently underway under a development process being managed by Port KC.
OJB Landscape Architecture of Houston has been hired to design the park. OJB designed the Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, a park covering part of a downtown freeway that’s considered a model for what’s proposed in Kansas City.
The firm has produced three potential layouts for the green space above the South Loop, two of which would close a downtown street, Baltimore or Walnut, and the third would leave the downtown street grid open.
The Council committee deliberations focused on whether the project would follow city requirements for procurement, hiring women and minority contractors, pay prevailing wages, and how the park would be maintained and managed.
“The challenge is we are building so many great amenities, but we don’t have a strong plan for maintenance,” said Councilwoman Melissa Robinson. “We need to make sure we’re clear to taxpayers…that it needs to be managed properly”
Advocates for the project have said the park would be maintained and programmed by a non-profit group yet to be established.
Riffel suggested that some of the funding would come from nearby private property owners who would most benefit from the park.
The plan already has attracted a $10 million donation from H&R Block and associated foundations as well as $5 million from the Loews Hotel.
An additional $3 million has been pledged by JE Dunn Construction, Canadian Pacific Kansas City, the Power & Light District, the Cordish Cos. and 1400 Baltimore, an office building developed for Blue Cross Blue Shield by the Merriman Family.
The Loews Convention Hotel overlooks the South Loop as do the Two Light and Three Light apartment towers developed by Cordish, and the 1400 Baltimore building. Cordish and JE Dunn also have proposed a 500-unit apartment project on Main just south of I-670.
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