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City Council Approves $7 Million Phase One For 18th And Vine

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After months of debate, Thursday's Kansas City Council vote was unanimous, but the $7 million commitment had reverted to a level similar to the first proposal made seven months ago.

In the meantime, estimates for improving the historic Jazz District had ballooned to as much as $12 million to start. The remainder of the $27.6 million total cost is expected to be divided into two more phases over a three-year period.

Supporters called it a most-expensive-case scenario, predicting that private investment would end up paying a large portion of the expense.

Several council members feared that if the city committed to the total amount it would end up spending it, regardless of what other funding might turn up.

The total cost estimate of $27.6 million has not changed, but council members were not willing to commit to spending that much money.

Instead, they committed to the phase one expense, to be at least partly offset by a Community Improvement District sales tax in the historic area.

The rest, the approved plan states, would require specific approval at yet undetermined future dates and only after extensive efforts to secure commitments from the private sector and develop funding mechanisms other than general city revenues.

Councilman Jermaine Reed, the principal advocate of improving the Jazz District, explained that the council remained “interested” in supporting phases two and three.

Reed said the initial $7 million would allow the city to buy some of the property in the district which it still does not own and undertake historic preservation efforts. 

It also would fund projects at the Buck O'Neil Education Center, the Blue Room and American Jazz Museum, as well as getting a start on a planned public patio and amphitheater and securing a professional property management company to manage marketing, tenant mix and other commercial details.

The ordinance calls for a citizens oversight committee for the district, but the City Council will retain final decision-making power.

Steve Bell is afternoon newscaster and business news reporter for KCUR.  He may be reached at 816-235-5173 or by e-mail as steveb@kcur.org

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