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The Plaza's InterContinental Asks The Kansas City Council For Blight Designation

InterContinental Kansas City At The Plaza
The InterContinental, which overlooks the Country Club Plaza is seeking blight designation from the Kansas City Council so it can establish a salex tax to help offset the costs of building renovations.

The InterContinental — the iconic hotel on the corner of the Country Club plaza — wants to be designated as blighted. 

The hotel went before a Kansas City Council committee Wednesday to ask for the designation so it can establish a community improvement district, which would allow the hotel to create 1 percent a sales tax to help pay for renovations.

Hotel representatives presented before the City Council, showing the hotel's deteriorating parking garage, worn carpets and furniture and building facade issues. The last time the 44-year-old building was renovated, they said, was about nine years ago.  They estimate the renovation to cost $16 million. 

Under Missouri law, in order for the city to establish a new sales tax for private improvements, there must be a blight designation. 

The Planing, Zoning and Economic Development committee voted to send the ordinance to the full council without recommendation. Heather Hall cast the lone dissenting vote. 

If approved, the project wouldn't cost the city or taxpayers any money. Only hotel guests would incur the additional sales tax.

However, the proposal has city council members and residents wondering whether the definition of "blight" is too broad. 

Councilman Quinton Lucas says although the project qualifies under the legal designation of blight under Missouri law, he was concerned about the broadness of that definition. 

"There are a lot of people that say, 'Well if you all can find blight in this situation than you can find blight in almost any situation in our city or in other places,'" Lucas said. 

He told KCUR's Steve Kraske approval of this ordinance could set a precedent for similar private improvements. 

That sentiment was echoed during the public comment session.  

Brett Ellison, general manager of the Marriott Country Club Plaza, testified before the committee. He says his hotel is also in the middle of a $15 million renovation. 

"Should the InterContinental be successful in this application, we would also like to apply, and I assure you I've spoken to multiple general managers who will also be submitting application," Ellison said. 

The hotel is planning on beginning renovations within the next year. If the ordinance is approved when it goes before the full council in a few weeks, revenue collected from the sales tax would reimburse part of the construction costs. 

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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