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Kansas City Mayor James Proposes Fund For East Side Development

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3

Mayor Sly James hopes a plan to redirect some of Kansas City’s economic development revenue could spur more projects east of Troost.

James pitched his plan to deposit payments in lieu of taxes – or PILOT dollars – into what’s being called the Shared Success Fund to the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee Wednesday.

“It’s not that people don’t want to develop on the east side,” James said. “It’s that they can’t develop on the east side profitably because the lending that takes place is not sufficient to support the risk that they undertake and for them to get a return.”

Even with tax increment financing, James said would-be east side developers can’t plug the gap between what banks are willing to lend and what they’d need to break even.

The mayor feels that’s led to the perception that tax incentives only flow to downtown or other economically advantaged parts of the city.

“I never want to get to the point where we’re thinking this area is paved in gold and this area is Beirut,” James said.

Only projects located in severely distressed census tracts would be eligible to tap into the Shared Success Fund. The preference is to award dollars to commercial developers who could bring high quality jobs with them. Liquor stores, pawn shops, payday lenders and smoke shops would all be ineligible to receive payments.

James, who met earlier Wednesday with U.S. Sec. of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, told the committee a half-century of urban blight wouldn’t be cured in a few weeks or even a few years.

Nor, he said, would this proposal quiet critics who thinks the city gives out too many tax incentives.

“I think nine times out of ten, those who want to be reasonable will see the benefit,” James told reporters. “Those who don’t, won’t.” 

A resolution will be introduced before the full city council Thursday.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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