A Kansas City Council that was sharply divided over funding for the 18th and Vine Historic Jazz District now appears much closer to an agreement.
A vote for $7 million in initial funds could come Thursday.
“I’m hopeful that this is something everyone on the council can agree on,” 3rd District Councilman Jermaine Reed said during a council work session Tuesday. Council members were trying to find consensus on a financing strategy for improvements at the 18th and Vine district.
Reed and City Manager Troy Schulte previously championed a plan to spend $27.6 million over the next three years to try to — once and for all — help 18th and Vine emerge from the doldrums and achieve the vibrancy that has been a goal since 1990.
Reed last week had floated a plan to spend $11 million or $12 million in the first phase and a total of $27.6 million through two additional bond issuances.
But council skeptics questioned whether that money would really complete the revitalization job. They also wondered why the city wasn’t seeking more private investment first. When it was clear Reed didn’t have majority council support last week, he asked for more time to negotiate.
At Tuesday’s work session, attended by 10 of the 13 council members, most said they could support spending $7 million to help 18th and Vine. Future bond funds would be possible, but only after the city pushes harder for private investment and other sources like new-markets tax credits.
Fourth District at-large Councilwoman Katheryn Shields said the $7 million allows the city to acquire all the remaining property that had not been under city control, except the Lincoln Building, the Mutual Musicians Foundation and the Kansas City Call newspaper property. It also allows the city to shore up historic buildings, like the Boone Theater, without which the district’s historic status could be jeopardized.
A precise outline of how the $7 million would be spent is not yet available.
The latest plan also calls for the city to hire an experienced property management company with a good track record in marketing, tenant mix, special events and redevelopment to maximize the district’s commercial potential. The property would also have more oversight from an appointed citizens committee consisting of council members and interested stakeholders.
The ordinance language directs the city manager to include, in future bond issuances, funding to complete the ambitious second and third revitalization phases. Reed said that could ultimately add up to $27.6 million.
Other council members said they weren’t yet comfortable with that language. While they too want to see 18th and Vine completed, they’re still not eager to obligate the city to that level of funding. All sides agreed more negotiation may be needed to polish the ordinance language before Thursday’s vote.
Some citizens remain highly critical of spending so much money on an entertainment district that has often languished in recent years. Citizens for Responsible Government sent an email this week saying there are too many unanswered questions about how the $27.6 million would be spent.
Group spokesman Dan Coffey said Tuesday that reducing the initial commitment to just $7 million was “a step in the right direction,” although he added that a lot more specifics are needed to verify that that city’s 18th and Vine plan is justified.