More than two years after Kansas City developer Jason Swords went to City Hall with a proposal to build a $16 million hotel at 20th and Main streets, ground finally is being turned.
The Home2 Suites by Hilton extended stay hotel now has a price north of $20 million, but plans otherwise are pretty much the same: Put a 112-room lodging facility at a prime Crossroads District intersection between downtown and Crown Center.
The project, by Main Lodging Partners, an entity of Swords’ Sunflower Development Group and True North Hotel Group, has navigated choppy development waters to get to groundbreaking.
To be developable, the 1.2-acre site first required resolution of a yearlong dispute, complete with litigation, that ended with the owner of a billboard agreeing to give up the location in exchange for the city paying to upgrade two of the company’s billboards elsewhere.
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The city then had to bid and pay $300,000 to demolish the already closed Walnut Street ramp that sloped northeast from Main, diagonally slicing the property.
Meanwhile, the developers’ request for public assistance drew criticism from the county’s taxing jurisdictions and citizens opposed to such incentives when it sought tax abatement through Port KC. The authority is a state agency that, unlike the city’s other economic development agencies, doesn’t require City Council approval.
Port KC earlier this year approved a leaseback agreement for a 10-year, 100 percent property tax abatement followed by a five-year, 50 percent abatement on the property’s added value. After 15 years, the tax-exempt port authority, which holds title to the property, will transfer it back to Main Lodging Partners.
The deal requires the developers to make lease payments covering the debt service on the building. It also requires them to make payments in lieu of taxes to make up for part of the abatement.
The last hurdle, which delayed a projected groundbreaking in February 2016, involved waiting for a utility easement to be moved.
Word came Thursday from Joe Novak, a True North vice president, that site preparation has begun.