Wichita’s redevelopment role model needs scrutiny


Power and Light District Kansas City 2009-09-16 35Kansas City Power & Light District

On the City of Wichita’s cable channel 7, Kansas City’s Power & Light District is presented as a model for the revitalization of downtown Wichita. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer sees this district as Wichita’s competition.

So yesterday I went to take a look for myself. And I agree with the mayor. It’s a neat place. It’s huge. It would be great if Wichita had something like it.

But there are problems surfacing already. Although I haven’t yet done extensive research, it appears that the troubles stem from the public/private partnership nature of the district.

One problem is the tax increment financing district, or TIF district, that underlies the district. It appears to be underperforming: “The biggest project, the Kansas City Power & Light District, will cost the city more than $4 million because there wasn’t sufficient economic activity to cover TIF bond payments.” (TIF bonds take a bite out of KC’s skinny budget, Kansas City Business Journal, February 9, 2009)

In Wichita, when we have underperforming TIF districts, we might make an interest-free loan to solve the problem.

The district and Jackson County are squabbling over the taxable value of this property, too. And it’s not a small disagreement — the owners and the county disagree by a huge amount:

The developer of the Kansas City Power & Light District refers to the project on its Web site as an $850 million project.

Yet The Cordish Co. claims in a lawsuit and to county officials that the project’s value — at least its appraised valuation — should be $12.3 million when the project is complete.

That valuation, which equates to an average of about $24 a square foot, is a far cry from Jackson County’s appraised value of $160 million, roughly $270 a square foot, which is what county officials say the district is worth for 2009. (Power & Light District developer seeks bargain-basement valuation, Kansas City Business Journal, January 16, 2009)

The developer of the district seems to have a few issues, too, writes a Kansas City Star columnist: “Cordish Co. CEO David Cordish comes across as a petulant, greedy, uninformed developer in his e-mail rantings to KC Mayor Mark Funkhouser.”

In Wichita and across the country, public/private partnerships have a mixed record. We’ll want to think carefully whether we want to rely on the artificial nature of subsidized development as we think about the revitalization of downtown Wichita.


2 responses to “Wichita’s redevelopment role model needs scrutiny”

  1. Ruben

    The Cordish companies have some of the brightest people that I have ever met. They worked on the Baltimore waterfront; Houston Bayou; and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos in Florida. I have been to their Baltimore development and Florida development and they are first class. All of their retail space is 100% leased months ahead of construction with first class retailers. They do try to stay away from government partnerships and much rather partner with the private sectors or Indian tribes. Democrat KC Mayor Funkhouser has plenty of problems on his plate and the corruption is not easy to overcome. Mayor Brewer will never get it done in the WaterWalk since the WaterWalk partners had a chance to bring in the Cordish company expertise to their development here in Wichita, but Tom Johnson turned them down. Our folks here want to keep competent outsiders out.

  2. Benjamin

    I had the pleasure of going to the Power and Light area in KC a few months ago. It was crowded with people from all over the KC area and its surrounding cities. There was plenty of lighting to feel safe, and ample parking. EMS workers and police officers who were unarmed strolled around making sure people were not puking all over the place, fighting, getting lost and asked if you had a ride once all the bars were closed. There was also many food vendors around selling all kinds of food till 4am. If we get a place like this it will be great for our economy and also give people a little more to do and see around here.

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