May 28, 2014

A better south Kansas City campus plan from Cerner

Cerner’s ambitious proposed office project in south Kansas City has become even bigger — and greener. That’s a welcome upgrade for nearby residents and for critics of the original campus layout.

The Cerner Corp.’s ambitious proposed office project in south Kansas City has become bigger — and a bit greener. Those are welcome upgrades for nearby residents and critics of the original campus layout.

Cerner has announced it will buy more land and add buildings to the project, which could be the home of 15,000 employees, plus some retail stores, within a decade.

The new additions would bring the total redevelopment area to nearly 300 acres. The total cost could climb by more than $200 million to $4.4 billion, including more than $1 billion of taxpayer incentives.

Under the new plans, aging hotels and a former Montgomery Ward building left out of the original Cerner proposal would be demolished. That pleases nearby homeowners, who have lived with the blight of the old Bannister Mall site for too many years.

Cerner also now wants to construct a training center and health clinic for its employees, expanding the uses of the project.

Eventually, the area east of Interstate 435 between Bannister Road and 87th Street will present an entirely new look with modern structures employing thousands.

In addition, the health information technology firm says it will scatter its buildings more than once planned and add a parking garage. That will break up some of the sea of asphalt that was going to surround several large offices. The wide open parking lots were seen as an old-fashioned tribute to the car.

The new proposal adds green space that could encourage walking between the buildings. However, there’s still plenty of work to do to link the campus to major transit initiatives, which one day might include the streetcar system.

The Cerner project is an extremely important effort to revive south Kansas City’s fortunes. City and company officials should keep working on the best plans to rejuvenate that property.

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