Don’t blame Mayor Sly James for the excessive public incentives aimed at building the next luxury apartment tower in downtown Kansas City.
James wasn’t in charge when the City Council more than a decade ago approved a deal with the Cordish Companies.
That was Mayor Kay Barnes’ agreement. It helped spur development of the Power & Light District — but also created a huge, long-lasting debt for taxpayers. Every year, they have to shell out millions for that debt.
That pact also detailed how Cordish would receive millions of extra dollars if it ever built more housing around the district. That started a year or so ago with the unveiling of the One Light Luxury Apartments project; the Two Light Luxury Apartments project was confirmed Thursday.
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We also can’t blame City Manager Troy Schulte for the sweetheart deal for Cordish; he wasn’t in charge either. In fact, only one of the 12 other elected officials now in office at City Hall was on the council at the time — Jim Glover.
Yet get this much straight, too:
The current council will rubberstamp the Cordish plan, even though hundreds upon hundreds of apartments are being built in downtown right now, indicating there’s a huge interest from people in living in the urban core.
That’s something definitely worth celebrating.
This also ought to be a time the city could move away from public incentives for such construction.
One reason it won’t happen, however, centers on that long-ago agreement struck when Kansas City was desperate for anything to happen in its ghost town of a downtown.
The second reason is that the council has agreed to give taxpayer assistance to many of the other developers now working downtown to build more housing. The city has continued to do that because, it often believes, the developers need the cash to provide parking for residents.
Of course, that tactic clashes with the view that public transportation — especially with the new streetcar — should reduce the need for using cars and providing parking in downtown, especially for young people who are moving away from owning their own vehicles.
At this point, Cordish can sit back and wait for the council to swiftly approve the Two Light project.