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Kansas City Council passes ordinance to clear path for convention center hotel

Convention hotel in Kansas City moves ahead with City Council ordinance

Michael Burke, who heads the development team for the Kansas City Convention Center hotel, talks about the planning process and what lies ahead.
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Michael Burke, who heads the development team for the Kansas City Convention Center hotel, talks about the planning process and what lies ahead.

The City Council on Thursday approved an ordinance that convention hotel planners say is the last legislative approval needed to aim for a groundbreaking by early October.

Council members voted 11-2 to pass the measure that includes an accelerated effective date to proceed on what has been presented as a $310 million hotel.

The proposed 800-room tower — for the area bounded by Truman Road on the north, Baltimore Avenue on the east, 16th Street on the south, and Wyandotte Avenue on the west — was publicly announced in May 2015 but had been discussed since 1999.

The ordinance sets the size of a Community Improvement District according to those boundaries, approves the zoning and development plan for the site, and permits an elevated walkway across Wyandotte.

Councilwomen Heather Hall and Teresa Loar voted no on the grounds they hadn’t seen enough financial information about the project and didn’t want to risk taxpayer funds.

Mayor Sly James countered that there was no risk to the city, there is no commitment from the general fund, the city is not guaranteeing the bonds, and the city will not operate the hotel or take a possible loss on it.

The city is donating land for the project and is allowing hotel and guest taxes paid within the hotel district to make up part of the financing package.

The project, backed by the mayor, City Manager Troy Schulte, most of the council, and a development team headed by attorney Michael Burke, was delayed partly by a petition drive and lawsuit filed by group opposed to financial participation by the city.

A Jackson County Circuit Court judge ruled in 2016 against the Citizens for Responsible Government argument that the hotel should go to a public vote.

The group is trying again, through another petition drive, to require a public vote, but city legal advisers believe the accelerated passage of the ordinance makes the effort moot.

Burke said investors are lined up and that JE Dunn, general contractor for the hotel, has delivered a preliminary guaranteed maximum price, a figure necessary to take bond sales to market.

The development team said bond counsel will be ready within a few weeks to sell more than $100 million in bonds to help finance the project.

Ronnie Burt, CEO of Visit KC, said the city already has lost one intended convention of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners because of the planning delays and is at risk of losing others if work doesn’t begin by this fall.

About 1,300 construction jobs and 350 hotel jobs are expected to be created.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford

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