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Crossroads Development Plan Receives Unexpected Opposition


A new proposal to use public financing to renovate a building in the Crossroads Arts District received unexpected opposition this month, surprising the respected Kansas City architectural firm at the heart of the proposal and its developer. 


The most adamant objections to the proposed tax increment financing, or TIF, plan were from school district parents and the Urban Summit of Greater Kansas City. But Kansas City School District Interim Superintendent Al Tunis joined in, asking to renegotiate a payment-in-lieu-of taxes agreement on the building.


Tunis said he was the one responsible for asking for at least a two-week delay on approval for the tax breaks because, he said, he admired the tenant firm and thought the project was a wonderful one, but “we don't want to pay for it.”


Some observers suggest this opposition to what is a relatively small set of tax breaks may signal growing public resistance to the idea of providing financial incentives for downtown developments in areas like the Crossroads District and the Plaza. 


Tunis said some factors had been brought to his attention since he signed off on the original proposal. He did not enumerate those factors, but presumably they were ones mentioned by other opponents of the TIF, including a member of the TIF commission and a former city council member.


These issues included the blossoming of the Crossroads area following the debut of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, a planned new Hyatt convention headquarters hotel and another $46 million hotel project nearby.


Tunis cited concerns that shifting costs of development to taxpayers is unfair to homeowners, and that the school district is suffering from inadequate funding while giving up tax dollars to encourage development of areas that have already turned the corner economically.


“We have classrooms that don't have air conditioning. We limit summer school classes and where we offer summer school because we don't have air conditioning,” Tunis told the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee.


He added that the district has classrooms that depend on fans and space-heaters for climate control.


The proposal for the new “green architecture” headquarters for BNIM Architects and the accompanying $1.6 million TIF are tentatively scheduled to go to the City Council this month.

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