Mark Holland, the mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., has spent the bulk of his administration pursuing a downtown health-related campus development. He just got some good news for his signature project during the twilight of his term in office.
The UG Commission late Thursday voted to pass an allocation of $2 million toward land aquisition for a proposed $37 million Downtown Healthy Campus, a development anchored by a full-service grocery store and a YMCA community center in downtown KCK. The measure passed 9-1 with Commissioner Ann Brandau-Murguia voting against.
The project is planned for a block of downtown land bound by 10th and 11th streets and Minnesota and State avenues. It’s just south of Big Eleven Lake.
Thursday’s vote is a boost to Holland’s long-sought project, one he pursued during most of his time in office after Wyandotte County received low scores in an assessment of residents’ health.
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“It's really a terrific project,” Holland said. “It's taken a long time.”
That’s true: Holland spent a good portion of his political capital planning and raising funds for the Healthy Campus but did not have a groundbreaking to show for it by the time Election Day rolled around in November. Holland lost his bid for a second term as UG mayor to David Alvey, a Board of Public Utilities director who will replace Holland in January.
The $2 million is expected to help the UG secure other funding sources for the project, including New Markets Tax Credits, a federal tax credit program meant to stimulate investment in disadvantaged communities. Other funding sources include a YMCA fund-raising campaign, UG bond and tax district proceeds and a $1 million grant from the Wyandotte Health Foundation.
Thursday’s vote does not necessarily secure the reality of the Healthy Campus. Other UG Commissioners suggested that the project needs more evaluation, much of which will take place after Holland leaves office.
“There's a lot of work that needs to be done yet,” said UG Commissioner Brian McKiernan. “Before I would approve a final development agreement, I would have to see it, study it and it would have to make sense for all of us to commit to that development agreement.”
Hal Walker, a UG Commissioner who did not seek another term in November’s election, said the project represents an opportunity for the UG to promote development in an area where it has not otherwise occurred. Commissioners often complain that the UG is too interested in adding development near the Kansas Speedway on the western edge of the county while paying too little attention to the central city.
“Moving this project forward is an opportunity, again, to do something...east of (Interstate) 635 corridor where we all, know for the most part, is not happening,” Walker said.
This article corrects an earlier version to reflect that the Wyandotte Health Foundation gave a $1 million grant to the project.