With the federal government being metro Kansas Citys biggest employer with 41,500 employees, its always interesting when the feds chief landlord comes to town.
By KEVIN COLLISON
The Kansas City Star
Dan M. Tangherlini, who became administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration in July, visited last week. His trip included a meeting with Mayor Sly James, a town hall gathering at the Bannister Federal Complex and a session with civic leaders held by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
The upshot was that the agency expects to announce in December where downtown it plans to move 1,000 federal employees now at the Bannister complex, and an assurance the feds wont walk away from the massive World War II defense plant in south Kansas City when its vacant next August.
Thats when the nuclear weapon parts operation at Bannister will be completely shifted to the new National Security Campus being built by the National Nuclear Security Administration for Honeywell at Missouri 150 and Botts Road.
Theres been a thoughtful study process running parallel to the new construction, Tangherlini told the chambers business roundtable. Im getting the sense this sort of cross-agency cooperation is something we could apply to other urban areas.
CenterPoint Properties of Chicago was chosen a year ago to help guide the redevelopment of the 5.1 million-square-foot Bannister complex and its 300-acre site. CenterPoint also is the developer of the new Honeywell plant.
As for whats in store for the old Bannister complex, CenterPoint officials said its too early to tell.
The gathering included representatives of the Missouri and Kansas congressional delegation, including all four senators, as well as chamber leaders; John McGurk, the mayors chief of staff; Pete Fullerton, leader of the Economic Development Corp.; and the current and former leaders of the regional GSA office.
The interaction between those former regional administrators, Brad Scott and Woody Overton, and Tangherlini provided the most spark during a mostly low-key meeting.
Both Scott, a Republican, and Overton, a Democrat, enjoyed much more autonomy during their time at the regional GSA a political position dependent on who occupies the White House than the current administrator, Jason Klumb.
Overton was in charge when the Charles Whittaker U.S. Courthouse and the Federal Aviation Administration buildings were done downtown.
Scott was running the show when the massive Internal Revenue Service operation near Union Station and the new National Security Campus projects were hatched. Both were developed privately under long-term leases with the federal government.
With the arrival of the new administration, that method of developing federal facilities fell out of favor as the GSA reined power back to Washington. The end of that era came in 2009 when the GSA rejected Scotts effort to have a new downtown federal office building built privately and leased.
Scott pushed Tangherlini to give Klumb more authority in charting the redevelopment of the Bannister Federal Complex, saying Klumb had limited powers for a difficult job. He noted the IRS and National Security Campus developments required the participation of state and local governments.
Only a regional administrator has the political skills and understanding to accomplish this, Scott said.
Tangherlini replied that the Bannister redevelopment process would be handled by all of the GSA.
Well get it done, he said, as Klumb will have 12,000 people behind him, referring to the entire agency.
The challenge for all of us is to recognize the power of the whole, Tangherlini said.
Later, the GSA administrator reaffirmed it was the federal governments obligation to fix the environmental problems at the Bannister complex before handing it over to local government.
Tangherlini also said the federal workers coming downtown from Bannister were likely to be in rented space, and the idea of building a new federal building was out for the immediate future. The government is seeking a seven-year lease.
We havent gotten a construction budget appropriation in three years going on four years, Tangherlini said.
As for buying a building in a downtown with several empty or underused properties, he said, I would not take that off the table, but we have the same problems as building a new one, he said. Where is the money?