One week after developers of Kansas City’s planned convention hotel learned some bad news — namely, another petition that could stall the project — a bit of good news surfaced Friday: City Hall finally cleared up a title issue with the property where the 800-room hotel would be built.
Kansas City Manager Troy Schulte confirmed that a bond insurance company had agreed to take a public works building in the Northland as collateral for debt issued long ago for Bartle Hall’s expansion. Kansas City had previously pledged city-owned property at Truman Road and Baltimore Avenue as collateral for the Bartle Hall bonds.
The effect of this latest development is it clears up title on a portion of land where the hotel would be built. Schulte had said previously that the city eventually would clear up the title problem but that it had taken longer than expected.
But Friday’s development does little to assuage the immediate concern for the hotel’s future posed by a referendum effort by Citizens for Responsible Government that looks to put the hotel to a public vote.
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Mike Burke, an attorney for KC Hotel Developers LLC, said he was still contemplating what the petition means and how the developers might react.
The citizens group submitted enough signatures to start the referendum process and now needs to gather 3,400 valid signatures to force an election later this year.
The effort could, at the very least, delay the start of construction if it does get as far as establishing a public vote. That’s a problem for the hotel, which is already behind schedule and expects Shriners International to have its convention in July 2020. The hotel is currently on a timeline to open late in 2019 or early in 2020.
Visit KC, the convention and tourism promoter for Kansas City, told The Star last week that potential convention business is casting a leery eye on Kansas City, given the uncertainty around the convention hotel.
Citizens for Responsible Government attempted to put the hotel’s subsidies to a public vote in 2016, but a Jackson County judge ruled against it. The group, steeled by a Missouri Supreme Court ruling on a minimum wage issue earlier this year that has been interpreted as being more permissive to petitions ending up on a ballot, decided to mount a referendum challenge.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James weighed in on the group’s action with a blog post Friday, joining a chorus of business and civic organizations that did not take kindly to the new challenge.
“So, it’s telling that just last week a special interest group — with a history of dividing issues along political ideology rather than playing a role in uniting our city around ideas that promote progress — filed paperwork in an ill-conceived attempt to stall the downtown convention hotel, potentially bringing the deal to a screeching halt,” James wrote. “The reason? It’s simple, political games.”
The citizens group’s referendum drive isn’t the only hurdle the hotel still faces. It must obtain bond financing, get a community improvement district established and learn the project’s guaranteed maximum price from its general contractor, JE Dunn. Burke said he’s “very close” to getting that price from JE Dunn.