The Kansas City Council on Thursday took a crucial step toward building a new terminal at Kansas City International airport.
By a vote of 11 to 1, the council approved a project agreement with developer Edgemoor, setting the stage for design and construction to begin in earnest. Edgemoor managing director Geoff Striker said he expects demolition of Terminal A to begin within four or five weeks.
“Clearly the council said, ‘We recognize how important this is to Kansas city,” and they put citizens first and moving forward with the project, so it’s a great day,” Stricker said.
Following the vote, Kansas City Mayor Sly James summed up the overwhelming feeling of airport proponents — relief.
“I feel like this is a long time coming,” James said.
The vote follows months of delays while the City Council awaited for the airlines to coalesce around a final price for the project. They will ultimately pay for the terminal.
On Wednesday, the aviation department announced that seven airlines had signed a term sheet agreeing to a price tag of $1.5 billion.
Alaska, American, Delta, FedEx, Southwest, United and UPS signed the term sheet. Aviation officials say together, they represent 95.5 percent of landed weight at KCI. Of those seven, the five passenger airlines represent more than 93 percent of passengers that go through the airport.
Several council members remain concerned about the project and how to pay for ongoing costs. But James dismissed those concerns.
“We shouldn’t be confused by all the nonsense that’s floating around by people who didn’t get what they wanted. This is a good day for Kansas City,” James said.
The development agreement sets the project’s budget and scope; outlines workforce benefits such as transportation and childcare; establishes a process for decision-making throughout the project; and guarantees minority participation in the workforce.
Councilwoman Alissia Canady, the lone “no” vote, said she was not convinced the agreement would ensure that the terminal is a “transformative” project for the city. Canady wants Edgemoor held to higher standards for hiring local minority- and women-owned businesses to design and construct a terminal.
“This is not mission accomplished, this is ‘we wanted to get something done, so we’re going to push something through.’ And that I wasn’t proud or willing to support,” Canady said.
Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner, a frequent critic of Edgemoor, surprised many by voting for the agreement. But he doubts Edgemoor will deliver a new terminal by early 2023, as promised.
“It will not surprise me one bit if it takes a little longer and it’s a little more expensive,” Wagner said.
With the development agreement approved, the city can begin selling bonds to finance the project. But the council still needs to figure out how to pay $48 million for ongoing work on the terminal before that revenue comes in.
Several options are on the table — from the city taking out a short-term loan to Edgemoor selling its own shares to put equity into the project. Those discussions are expected to continue next week.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.