Downtown KC charter school wins support to double size

03/24/2014 10:53 PM

03/24/2014 10:53 PM

A plan by Crossroads Academy of Kansas City to double its size by this fall with the help of $5.5 million in tax incentives was endorsed Monday by a city development agency.

The fast-growing downtown charter school, founded two years ago in a former office building at 1015 Central St., wants to acquire the building next door at 1009 Central St. so it can expand to include middle school students.

Its current enrollment is 230 students, kindergarten through fifth grade. The expansion would allow it to enroll 270 students by fall.

The Kansas City Tax Increment Financing Commission endorsed the school’s request for the $5.5 million in TIF assistance from the existing 11th Street Corridor TIF Plan covering the area.

The Crossroads request now goes to the Kansas City Council for final consideration. It is expected to be approved.

The school has been supported as another amenity to the revival of downtown by providing educational opportunities to children of residents and employees.

Dean Johnson, co-founder of Crossroads and its executive director, praised the TIF Commission support.

“We think it’s not only a great day for Crossroads Academy but for public education in Kansas City and the ongoing urban revitalization of downtown,” he said.

Crossroads wants to buy and expand into the Uhlmann Building. Uhlmann Co. supports the sale and is considering moving its 10-employee grain business to midtown Kansas City. The school also wants to buy its present building, which it leases. The entire investment is estimated at $7 million.

The $5.5 million in tax increment financing would come from the 11th Street TIF Corridor Plan established by DST Realty in 1992 to help fund improvements on the west side of downtown between Ninth and 12th streets. The area has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment, and part of the new tax revenue has financed the TIF plan’s improvements.

Supporters said a charter school was exactly the kind of public amenity the 20-year-old TIF plan was designed to encourage. But the idea was opposed by TIF commissioners representing Kansas City Public Schools, Jackson County and the Kansas City Public Library when it was introduced.

The TIF Commission delayed their consideration of the Crossroads plan last month because of the concerns expressed by those representatives.

In a compromise that addressed concerns that school district revenues generated by the TIF plan could potentially be used to support a charter school project, the Crossroads request was amended to remove that funding source.

The revised plan was approved 7-4 by the TIF Commission, with the two school district representatives, one library representative and one of the two Jackson County representatives opposed. All the city-appointed TIF commissioners voted in favor of the proposal.

Crossroads supporters say the expansion is on track for completion this fall if the council approves the plan. It is expected to be introduced to the council next month.

“We want to move forward with all deliberate speed,” Johnson said.

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