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Downtown Kansas City Adding 400 Apartments, New One Cent Sales Tax

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The deal Kansas City councilmembers struck with the Cordish would add 100 more affordable apartment units to downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

The Kansas City Council has paved the way for a third new luxury apartment building downtown as well as more moderately priced units. But downtown shoppers, drinkers and diners will be paying an extra penny on the dollar.

The city is contractually obligated to cover the cost of parking garages for apartment buildings built by the developer Cordish Companies. That was the deal the city struck in 2004, to get things rolling when downtown was dead. The Baltimore-based developer has already built two luxury towers, One Light and Two Light. It plans to break ground on a third building later this year, which will add another 300 luxury apartments. Councilwoman Katheryn Shields had a message for the company.

“This isn’t 2004 anymore,” Shields in the council meeting Thursday.

Shields and Councilwoman Alissia Canady pushed the city to require Cordish to build more affordable housing and to shoulder more of the cost of building parking. That sparked a round of talks with the company that resulted in the agreement the council approved yesterday. Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner called it an improvement.

“We believe that after great negotiations, this is the best deal that we can come up with,” said Wagner.

For one thing, Cordish will add some less-expensive apartments, 100 of them in the old Midland building. It won't be low-income housing, but units affordable for tenants making around $60,000 a year. The city will still be on the hook for paying off two more garages, which will cost more than $21 million, but the plan produces some money for that.

The city plans to create a Community Improvement District to levy an extra penny sales tax downtown. Details will be worked out later, but the city will be collecting at least half of that money with Cordish getting the rest. Cordish has also agreed to take over operating and basic maintenance at its garages, which the city figures will save about a half million dollar a year. All told, Wagner says the city shouldn’t be out any additional money as a result of the Cordish’s next round of development.

Frank Morris reports for KCUR and NPR. You can find him on Twitter @FrankNewsman.

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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