Kansas City Council members endorsed taxpayer support Wednesday for a new Linwood Shopping Center grocery, even as they worried about why the previous market failed.
The council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee voted 5-0 in favor of tax increment financing and $13.25 million in bond proceeds to redevelop the long-defunct shopping center at Linwood Boulevard and Prospect Avenue. The plan goes to full council for a vote Thursday.
“It shows the city does care” about supporting urban core development, committee chairman Scott Taylor said.
But committee members Heather Hall and Katheryn Shields sought assurances from city staff that a new grocery can succeed where the previous operator closed down in 2007.
“My greatest fear is we spend the money and we don’t get what we want,” Shields said.
Third District Councilman Jermaine Reed, who represents the area, said this will be a much better-quality operation and will serve residents who now travel miles to buy food.
“Every community deserves a full-service grocery store,” Reed said.
Plans call for demolishing the existing shuttered grocery store and building a new one for Sun Fresh. The operator still must be formally selected but is expected to be the Lipari Brothers. They previously operated a popular Thriftway in Kansas City, Kan., which closed in 2014 because of competition from newer stores.
John Lipari, 59, told the committee he is excited about this new opportunity and determined to be a hands-on manager, providing quality meats and produce to residents who have pleaded for years for a decent grocery store.
The retail wings at the north and south ends of the property, bracketing the grocery store, won’t be demolished but will be renovated.
The city hopes the grocery can open by Christmas 2017, but the project is way behind schedule.
Mayor Sly James announced the redevelopment with great fanfare in May 2015 and predicted the new retail center would be open by the middle of this year.
Last November, city officials said they were close to completing the purchase of the center for $950,000 from an entity established by developer Don Maxwell, who had owned the property since 2014. But negotiations dragged out for months and the purchase didn’t close until last month.
In addition to the $950,000 purchase price, the city expects to spend about $13.2 million on construction costs. The city is borrowing the money for the shopping center redevelopment through the bond sale.
The debt service, expected to be $1 million per year for about 20 years, will be partly repaid with projected taxes from the development, along with a special 1-cent sales tax collected at the stores.
But city officials admitted those funds may need to be supplemented by as much as $500,000 per year in general taxpayer dollars.
Shields noted that while this overall taxpayer subsidy could exceed $14 million, the city spends that much or more every year subsidizing the downtown Power & Light District.