By Kevin Collison
City Manager Troy Schulte led a downtown advocacy group on a wide-ranging review Wednesday that included big announcements and updates regarding several major projects.
In a follow-up interview, Schulte said he told the KC Downtowners that an ordinance for Three Light, the latest high-rise apartment project planned by the Cordish Co., is scheduled to be introduced to the Kansas City Council today.
He also said the bonds for the 800-room Loews Kansas City Convention Hotel project were sold Tuesday, the last major step to finance the $322.7 million project. Schulte described the sale as “very successful.”
The hotel deal is expected to close next week with preliminary construction beginning about Jan. 22, Schulte said. The 24-story project is going up on Wyandotte Street across from the Bartle Hall Grand Ballroom. Completion is expected in March 2020.
The 300-unit Three Light tower is planned for the northeast corner of Truman Road and Main Street. The site is currently a parking lot and located along the streetcar route.
Nick Benjamin, executive director for the Cordish-owned Power & Light District, said if the City Council approves, construction is expected to begin on the $130 million project late this year with completion anticipated in early 2021.
The plan is scheduled for a hearing by the Council Economic Development Committee Jan. 17.
Schulte said the city is obligated under its 2004 master development agreement with Cordish to build the parking garage for Three Light, estimated cost $17.5 million.
That contribution is offset somewhat, he said, by Cordish taking over maintenance and operating costs at the Three Light garage, and existing garages beneath the Kansas City Live block and the so-called Cosentino garage. Schulte said that’s expected to save the city $600,000 annually.
The city manager also said Cordish has agreed to make a 50 percent PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, on the additional property value of Three Light to the Kansas City Public School District, the public library and other taxing jurisdictions.
A similar arrangement was reached with those entities on the Two Light project.
The Three Light announcement closely follows the recent completion of Two Light, a $120 million, 296-unit apartment project at Truman Road and Baltimore. The 24-story tower is immediately east of the Three Light project, and just began leasing its units.
The first Cordish tower, One Light, was completed in November 2015 and was quickly leased. That $80 million, 25-story project is located at 13th and Walnut and has 315 apartments. A potential ‘Four Light’ apartment tower also is contemplated.
The apartment projects are included in the landmark agreement reached in 2004 between Cordish and the city that covered an approximately eight-block, mostly blighted area of downtown. It included construction of the Power & Light District which began opening 10 years ago.
In a related matter, Schulte told the Downtowners that H&R Block is teaming up with Copaken Brooks and Cordish to pursue a potential office tower project on the block southwest of 13th and Main.
Block 124 currently includes the Yard House and other Power & Light tenants, but at the time of construction, a foundation was built that could support a potential, second H&R Block building above.
Schulte said H&R Block’s development rights to the site were recently extended to 2020.
“We need quality, Class A office space in downtown that could be done a little on speculation,” Schulte said. “We need to bring more job space to downtown.”
Schulte also told the Downtowners that a study group led by Cordish has been examining the possibility of building a deck over Interstate 670, the South Loop, that would extend four blocks from Grand to Wyandotte.
The concept has been contemplated for years as a way to reconnect downtown proper with the Crossroads Arts District. The city manager said he expects recommendations to be forthcoming sometime this year.
Cordish’s Benjamin declined to comment about the potential office building project and the I-670 deck study.
Schulte said he would like to see a major strategic study undertaken to help the city prioritize its spending similar to the two Sasaki studies of the last decade.
Big-ticket proposals currently on the table include removing the North Loop freeway, replacing the Broadway bridge, lowering the Missouri 9 highway viaduct and reconnecting Independence Avenue, and the potential I-670 deck.
Finally, the city manager is hopeful that a revamped financing plan for building the proposed UMKC Downtown Conservatory will be produced at some point.
The $96 million project is proposed for south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts at 17th and Broadway.
The ambitious plan, which would bring 700 students and faculty downtown, suffered a crippling blow last June when Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens vetoed $48 million in state funding that was to have matched private money raised for the conservatory.
“A local group is trying to put plans together to build it without any state funds,” Schulte said. “I’m optimistic it will eventually come forward and there may be an even bigger development on the site.”
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