Redeveloper Butch Rigby has begun another in a series of Kansas City urban renewal projects that aim to revive commercial corridors.
The newest is a relatively small $1.86 million rehabilitation of the former Bitterman Candy buildings at 3105-3111 Gillham Road, a commercial strip in the midtown Longfellow neighborhood.
The city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority this week approved a tax abatement request that Rigby said was needed to make the project financially viable in a “high challenge” area.
“I bought the building after I bought the Luzier building,” Rigby said, referring to a vacant structure nearby at 3216 Gillham Plaza that he intends to renovate to return to commercial use. “I believe in the need to create a strong corridor.”
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Rigby already has applied that concept to redeveloping parts of the Crossroads District and East 63rd Street. With his new request for public incentives to assist the Gillham Road renovation, he was able to reach a negotiated agreement with the Kansas City Public Schools.
Instead of the original request for a 10-year, 100 percent abatement on property taxes, the deal settled on 100 percent for five years, 88 percent for years six and seven, and 85 percent for years eight through 10. It includes payments in lieu of taxes in the amount of existing property taxes for all 10 years.
Rigby said some current tenants, including the nonprofit SchoolSmart and an arts collective, are likely to remain in the Bitterman buildings, but his overall goal is to provide space for a small restaurant and other nonprofits or small businesses at a lower rental rate than is available in more vibrant commercial districts.
“This is a high-risk location for offices,” Greg Flisram, LCRA executive director, told the agency’s commissioners. He endorsed “a cushion for the risk he’s taking.”
The incentives, which need final approval from the Kansas City Council, will help with the cost of installing new windows, installing a new HVAC system, a new roof and an elevator.