Yael T. Abouhalkah

Hallelujah: Building a hotel without taxpayer subsidies

Updated: 2013-08-27T22:48:06Z

By Yael T. Abouhalkah

The Kansas City Star

Yes, it can be done: Someone can build a hotel in the Kansas City area without a taxpayer subsidy.


The announcement that a developer wants to build a 257-room hotel project in the Crossroads Arts District is very good news indeed.

• It will bring more rooms to the downtown area (maybe just in time for the 2016 Republican National Convention, right?)

• It puts new development along the planned two-mile streetcar line, near the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, and near the Power & Light District and Sprint Center.

In other words, Kansas City’s downtown development is paying off.

Actually, the news that a Marriott Courtyard and a Residence Inn, along with a parking garage, could be erected without public incentives is great news.

It’s also very, very unusual.

As The Star noted, almost all the smaller hotels built or renovated in the last decade or so have used economic incentives provided by taxpayers.

The longstanding idea of putting up a 1,000-room convention hotel somewhere inside or near the downtown loop continues to circulate at City Hall and among convention promoters. That project, however, has always come with a huge price tag from the public, and no one has yet figured out how to finance it without either a tax increase or a straight giveaway of precious general fund revenue.

While public subsidies for hotels actually make sense in some cases involving hard to develop downtown property, they make almost no sense in Kansas City’s suburbs.

Yet, just last week, the Olathe City Council approved a ridiculously large tax increment financing package for a smaller hotel in that fast-growing city.

So that makes the decision by Chartwell Hospitality to build its planned two hotel franchises in Kansas City’s Crossroads a very surprising — but also very positive — action.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/YaelTAbouhalkah.

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