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Independence makes deal for $1 billion industrial park, the largest project in city history

Three men sit at a table. The man in the middle (Rory Rowland) is talking and in front of him is a document he is preparing to sign.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Independence Mayor Rory Rowland, center, talks Wednesday before signing a $1 billion investment agreement with NorthPoint Development. Seated with Rowland is Zack Walker, Independence City Manager, left, and NorthPoint's Chief Communications Officer, Brent Miles.

Independence Mayor Rory Rowland signed an ordinance Wednesday approving the development of a 1,200 acre industrial park in eastern Jackson County. Construction is expected to begin in August.

Independence leaders have inked a $1 billion investment agreement with Kansas City-based NorthPoint Development to bring a mixed-use industrial park to the east side of the city.

“This is really where Independence needs to be developed,” said Independence Mayor Rory Rowland. “And this is really that stepping stone to make a big commitment, to drop a big rock into the pond to really make waves going forward.”

Rowland signed an ordinance approving the development at a ceremony Wednesday. Officials say the Eastgate Commerce Center project will occupy more than 1,200 acres near Highway M-78 and Little Blue Parkway.

“I drove down the parkway to come here today and it was remarkable,” Rowland said. “My grandchildren will drive down that parkway. It'll be completely different, you know?”

The deal is the largest single investment in Independence’s history. Rowland said he anticipates the development to bring 5,000 new jobs to the area as well as gas stations, restaurants and other support services.

But it will take a while to see the full project to fruition.

“It'll take probably between 20 and 30 years,” Rowland said. “But it'll completely change this area of Independence.”

To move the project forward, Independence City Council had to rezone land included in the project, which was originally zoned as residential.

A landscape photo shows a highway on the left where a red car is driving. On the right is a woodsy field bounded by a sidewalk.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Traffic rolls along Highway M-78 on Wednesday near part of the land where NorthPoint Development has signed an agreement to build a mixed-used light industrial park in Independence.

The agreement was also preceded by weeks of public commentary. Most opposition to the project came from nearby residents, who were concerned about destruction of green space and increased traffic on nearby roads.

A press release from the City of Independence notes that in response to citizen concerns, some buildings from the original proposal were eliminated to increase open space, create wetlands and lakes with trail extensions to the Little Blue Trace Trail.

Rowland said the agreement also includes more than $4.9 million to improve Little Blue Parkway, Jackson Drive, and the intersection of Little Blue and I-70.

"Obviously a $1 billion investment anywhere is a big investment,” says NorthPoint chief marketing officer Brent Miles, “but to do it here locally, what that means for the community jobs, tax revenues, construction jobs, we're just super excited.”

When completed, the project will include about 20 new buildings. Miles said NorthPoint has 450 industrial tenants across the country, and his company started reaching out to them as potential occupants for the new site.

“We don’t have anything secure, of course, yet,” Miles said. “But we’re already prospecting and I expect by this time next year, we’ll be full on our way with a building and hopefully a tenant that fills it.”

Rowland said the first potential business to operate out of the park could be a distribution operation for a company that builds ammunition boxes for the nearby Lake City Ammunition Plant. Rowland said the Independence Chamber of Commerce is currently in discussions with that group.

Construction is expected to start in August on the first phase of the complex. Officials said they hope to have some of those structures ready by fall 2023.

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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