Kansas City Council approves $4.3 billion Cerner campus plan

The Kansas City Council voted 10-1 Thursday to approve the tax incentives required for Cerner Corp. to move forward with developing a huge new office campus on the site of the former Bannister Mall.

The council majority supported a $1.63 billion incentive package to help pay for a project estimated at $4.3 billion at Interstate 435 and Bannister Road. The Three Trails Crossing redevelopment plan calls for 38 percent of the cost to be reimbursed by future tax revenues generated by the project.

Local and state governments would still net $446 million in payments in lieu of taxes over the 23-year life of the TIF plan.

The Cerner redevelopment deal also would provide an additional $6 million to help the Hickman Mills school district and $2 million to support redevelopment in the nearby neighborhood.

Councilman Russ Johnson was the lone dissenter. He said the area definitely needs redeveloping, but he was opposed to the supercharged level of tax incentives and also was concerned about how “autocentric” the project is.

The master plan calls for the 4.5 million-square-foot campus to have its parking provided by a 13,662-space surface lot. No garages are planned currently.

Cerner officials say the development also will be on a public bus route and ultimately could be served by a commuter rail station should a system be developed. There also will be accommodations for bicyclists.

The Cerner development, when fully built over the next decade, would include 11 office buildings, a day care center, two data centers, a service center and retail. It is ultimately projected to generate 15,000 new jobs.

Cerner plans to close on its acquisition of the site by the end of the year. Cerner chairman and CEO Neal Patterson and vice chairman Cliff Illig already own 221 acres of the Three Trails property through an entity called Cerner Property Development.

Some demolition is expected to begin before then, and the first office building construction is expected to begin next year.

The council approval of the Cerner redevelopment plan caps a long effort to find a new use for what had become a major blighted area in south Kansas City, the former Bannister Mall.

The shopping center opened in 1980 and at one time had more than 150 stores and 1.1 million square feet of retail space.

By the 1990s, however, fear of crime and the opening of newer shopping centers began to drain customers. By 2005, only 50 stores remained opened. The mall closed for good in 2007 and was demolished in early 2009.

In 2007, a development deal that would have brought a professional soccer stadium and Cerner jobs to the Bannister Mall property fell through. Kansas City and Missouri offered a $273 million incentive package, but the developer was unable to attract enough retailers to generate the tax revenue to finance the plan.

When the city balked at providing additional subsidies, the deal jumped the border in 2009. The Cerner office complex and the Sporting Park soccer stadium in western Wyandotte County have been major contributors to the economic boom in that area.