The Planned Industrial Expansion Authority on Thursday approved financing for a blight study in three specific areas near the Cerner Innovations office campus in south Kansas City.
The blight analysis, estimated to cost $16,000 to $20,000, would help pave the way for an East Bannister Area Plan, designed to encourage commercial and residential redevelopment.
PIEA executive director David Macoubrie said the effort is an unusual “proactive plan” that doesn’t follow developers’ expressed interests. Rather, it is designed to map specific areas where development or redevelopment projects would be eligible for public incentives.
“We want to start momentum, to create a framework to make properties eligible for PIEA benefits,” Macoubrie said.
The plan targets a broad area along east Bannister Road, immediately south and east of the Innovations campus. It also specifies two other smaller commercial areas, one further east on Bannister and one on 87th Street.
Former Kansas City councilman John Sharp, representing the South Kansas City Alliance, said neighborhood groups have endorsed the proposed East Bannister Area Plan.
Sharp said new tenants are needed in the Robandee Shopping Center at Bannister and James A. Reed Road and in the Loma Vista Shopping Center at 87th and Blue Ridge Boulevard, and that area residents are clamoring for “new retail and residential.” He said there also is “a lot of vacant land available for multifamily and single family development.”
Steve Renne, business development officer with the Economic Development Corp. of Kansas City, said that he’s attended multiple neighborhood meetings in south Kansas City and that “all thought they needed more goods and services in the area” plus a general upgrade.
The Innovations campus along with Cerner’s nearby Realization campus will house thousands of employees who are considered potential shoppers, diners and nearby residents. But Sharp said it’s important to aim for commercial services that the Cerner workers would use, and not things like “a luggage store” that they wouldn’t.
Cerner employees have taken an extensive survey about their retail and restaurant preferences, partly to help development officials determine what they might use off campus, given that they have multiple food options and other services available in their buildings.
PIEA commissioner Brian Noland said it’s also important to aim for commercial development that keeps services accessible and affordable to area residents, many of whom are low income.
“We don’t want to price neighbors out of housing or shopping,” Noland said.
The PIEA vote permits Macoubrie to contract with a company that does blight analysis. A finding of blight is necessary to make tax incentives available in the plan area.