Mayor slams Planned Industrial Expansion Authority’s failure to endorse Advance KC reform plan

08/13/2013 5:23 PM

08/14/2013 8:58 AM

Mayor Sly James vented his frustration Tuesday at the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority, criticizing the board for failing to join other agencies in endorsing his plan to overhaul how the city runs its economic development programs.

Also at the meeting, the board approved a 20-year property tax abatement to redevelop the historic Globe Building at 1712 Main St. in the Crossroads Arts District. The $6.8 million project would convert the seven-story vacant building into loft office space.

The redevelopment of the old Globe Storage and Transfer Co. Building, which opened in 1902 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, is being pursued by John Williams. It would be the first big redevelopment project to be announced on the planned route of the new downtown streetcar line.

But before beginning its usual business of reviewing incentive requests, the board got an earful from the mayor, who in a rare appearance took members to task for not signing a resolution supporting his Advance KC plan.

The overhaul, introduced in March, calls for the city’s development agencies to consolidate staff under the aegis of the Economic Development Corp. and coordinate a single point of entry for incentive requests.

“I’m beginning to feel you’re kind of jerking my chain,” James told the board, “and I’m not a guy who likes his chain jerked.”

Since the City Council approved a resolution backing the Advance KC plan in April, other city development agencies have signed off on it, including the Tax Increment Financing Commission, Port Authority and Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.

The goals of Advance KC include retaining businesses, creating jobs, encouraging development in areas of the city lagging in investment, cultivating entrepreneurs and other startup businesses, and making the tax incentive decision process more efficient.

James already had made a direct pitch to the agency board in early July, making this his second appearance.

“If you don’t support this process, say that and then we’ll deal with it,” the mayor said. “I’m asking for a visible sign of support for this process the City Council has approved.”

In response, board members told James they were uncomfortable with the agency moving from its current offices in the City Market to join the rest of the agencies at the Economic Development Corp. office, saying their rent helped support the city-owned market.

They also were concerned about being unable to hire their own staff and executive director. A major objection is the industrial authority, as opposed to other city development agencies, was chartered by the state. It was established in 1967 to offer up to 25 years in property tax abatement on the improved value of projects to stimulate development.

“We need a comfort level we can do this and that we’re authorized by state statutes to do this,” said Jake Schopp, board chairman.

James said the agency was not being asked to make any changes that would violate its state charter and the other issues could be negotiated. After being told lawyers negotiating for the industrial authority needed more time, the mayor agreed to set a September deadline for the agency to sign off on the Advance KC program.

“I have 50 people waiting to implement this and continuing to wait,” James said. “This needs to be addressed and put to bed.”

Meanwhile, most of the old Globe Storage building has been vacant for more than 10 years, its last tenant being Retro Inferno, an antique business that occupied the lower floor. Williams plans to reuse the building for commercial office lofts geared toward creative small tech companies.

“We’ve seen interest from younger companies,” Williams said. “We think we’ll see quite a bit of interest because of the lofty, creative space.”

The building is owned by Brad Nicholson, and parking would be provided in a garage Nicholson controls that was built to serve the redevelopment of the TWA building at 18th and Main Streets. The Barkley advertising agency occupies the TWA building, but about 100 spaces are available in the garage.

Work is expected to begin next month, and the project would be completed by next spring. The abatement is 100 percent for the first 10 years and 50 percent for the remaining 10 years.

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