Union Station gets $2.25 million in Missouri tax credits

Union Station at sunset on Thursday, Sept. 10th. _PHOTO BY: ALLISON LONG/THE KANSAS CITY STAR 091009
Union Station at sunset on Thursday, Sept. 10th. _PHOTO BY: ALLISON LONG/THE KANSAS CITY STAR 091009

Union Station on Tuesday was awarded $2.25 million in state tax credits to encourage donors to a major improvement project at the station and Science City.

The plan is to build a vehicular and pedestrian bridge connecting Pershing Road to the parking garage west of Union Station. The project also would create new connections to the science center, planetarium and the Extreme Screen theater. Station officials hope to complete those projects within three years.

“This is a major commitment by the state of Missouri,” Union Station CEO George Guastello said of the tax credits. “It’s a very big day for Union Station.”

The credits had been under review for more than a year by the Missouri Development Finance Board. Union Station initially asked for $5 million in credits for a $10 million project but scaled back its request to better meet expectations of the finance board. The tax credit program allows those contributing to approved projects to deduct 50 percent of their donations from their state taxes.

Now Union Station will begin to look for those donors.

The station’s application for credits was endorsed by the Kansas City Council, which agreed to pitch in $600,000 for street improvements on the north side of Pershing Road.

The bridge will allow visitors to the station or Amtrak riders to drive to the garage directly from Pershing Road. It also will provide pedestrian access to the main level of Union Station from the garage.

A second element of the project will provide more convenient access to the science center, the recently upgraded planetarium and the theater, which has been equipped with a 3-D digital projection system for movies and business conferences.

Station finance officer Jerry Baber said the state development board members had noted Union Station’s financial stability. The station will end the year with a cash surplus for the fourth year in a row.

Guastello noted that the tax credits accompany the recent announcement that 900 federal employees will be relocated next door to Union Station and the new streetcar line that will stop outside the station on Main Street.

The station’s projects “will strengthen our tourism experience and strengthen our science programs,” he said. “When you look at all the people coming through the station, there’s a pretty significant economic development vehicle to this.”