KC landlord sends letters to tenants opposing streetcar plan

05/30/2012 5:00 AM

05/16/2014 6:36 PM

A prominent downtown landlord is recommending his tenants vote against the streetcar project, but he acknowledges his letter may not have a big impact.

Roger Buford, president of Old Town Management Inc., said Wednesday his company distributed letters to about 1,500 units within the proposed downtown streetcar district, warning about possible rent increases if the streetcar project moves forward.

About 600 registered voters living within the proposed boundaries will decide later this summer whether to create a downtown transportation district, which would help generate local funds for a $100 million streetcar system from the River Market to near Crown Center. A subsequent election could establish property and sales tax increases within the district for the streetcars.

“Old Town Management is and has been positive about promoting the continued growth of the downtown KC area,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, with the approval of the Transportation Development District, it would affect all of us greatly, tying ownerships’ hands to ‘possible’ rental increase to pay for the new assessments that would be placed” on downtown addresses.

The letter goes on to “suggest voting against the current proposed KC Downtown Streetcar project.”

Buford said Wednesday that the letter went to tenants in about 20 buildings within the proposed district. He estimated the proposed property tax increases could add $10 per month to rents.

Ashley Allen, 24, who received a copy of the letter at her rental unit in Waltower Lofts, 823 Walnut St., said it wouldn’t change her plan to vote for the streetcars.

“I think it will add a lot of value to downtown,” Allen said. “It will bring in more people and make it more convenient.”

Allen said she was a little offended by the letter and thought it was inappropriate. She said she realized her rents might go up somewhat, but it would be worth it to have the streetcar service.

Buford has been a pioneering downtown landlord and booster since 1984. But he questions spending $100 million for streetcars at a time when the city has other huge unmet infrastructure needs.

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