South Loop Link Plan On Course for Lining Up $115M in Funding

One of the three concepts for the South Loop Link project calls for keeping the downtown street grid intact, the others would close either Baltimore or Walnut.

(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.

The South Loop Link would deck a four-block stretch of I-670 with a park. (Image from City of Kansas City)

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.

A rendering of how the South Loop Link might look to future pedestrians. (Rendering by OJB Landscape Architecture)

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”

The South Loop freeway separated the Central Business District from the Crossroads in the 1960s.

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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  1. It seems like a pretty cheap donation by Cordish as they have some of the most frontage and consequently much to gain from this project.

  2. This project, otherwise known as the “South Loop Lid,” is well intentioned but poorly conceived. The estimated project cost, $200 million, is more than the $186 million MoDOT has budgeted for a replacement for the Buck O’Neil Bridge over the Missouri River.

    And a $40 million line item for contingencies? That looks like a project that hasn’t been thought out very well.

    A park in the intended location will never escape the traffic noise below. It will be difficult to “program” as it has a limited resident and worker population, and will probably end up being the region’s most costly dog park.

    Furthermore, you mention a possible revenue district to help finance the project. I live just over a hundred yards from the proposed project and have received no notice of planning for this project. As a likely potential user of the park, you’d think my views and those of other nearby residents would be sought.

    Downtown has lots of public open spaces that should be considered “prime” for programming. The Oppenstein Brothers and Ilus Davis parks are just two, plus the new park space above the reconstructed Barney Allis Plaza garage.

    Don’t we have better ways to spend $200 million to improve Downtown? How about doing something with Grand — something to make it live up to the “Grand Boulevard of the Americas” its banners proclaim it to be.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  3. I neglected to mention some additional issues on the “South Loop Link,” as you call it.

    Restrooms will need to be provided if you expect the space to be used. (Ask KCATA about problems it has had by not providing public restrooms at its East Village Transit Center at 12th and Charlotte.) The restrooms will be used 24/7 by all people, including people you’d prefer not to use the park, and they’ll use the restrooms for all manner of personal hygiene functions. That will create a perpetual need to patrol the park to make people feel safe.

    The park will be constructed over a MoDOT right of way. I assume the sponsors will get an easement from MHTC, and compensate MoDOT for the cost of lighting the extended I-670 “tunnel,” as they currently do between Broadway and Wyandotte.

    Heat and glare reflected from Two Light and Three Light will make the park significantly less usable during spring, summer, and autumn months.

    The issue of proper notification to the most likely users of the park (especially nearby residents) remains unanswered, in my view.

    Covering over I-670 is a nice idea. I’m not trying to be a nay-sayer, just wanting citizens to know about many related issues, and that there are far more important potential uses for $200 million — including (I repeat) the shamefully inadequate “Grand Boulevard of the Americas.”

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