Government & Politics

Kemper Arena rezoning is endorsed, but tax credits are delayed

Kemper Arena secures historic designation

Scott Taylor, Kansas City Councilman 6th District at Large, spoke held a press conference Monday to announce that Kemper Arena has secured a historic designation which allows for historic tax credits to help with its renovation. Elizabeth Rosin, P
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Scott Taylor, Kansas City Councilman 6th District at Large, spoke held a press conference Monday to announce that Kemper Arena has secured a historic designation which allows for historic tax credits to help with its renovation. Elizabeth Rosin, P

Foutch Brothers is poised to get the final City Hall approval Thursday to redevelop Kemper Arena as a destination amateur sports hub.

But there’s a new financing glitch that will delay the start of the redevelopment project at least a few months.

The City Council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee unanimously supported the rezoning and development plan Wednesday for about 10 acres in the West Bottoms. The move will allow for the moribund facility’s renovation as a private amateur sports and entertainment center, to be renamed Mosaic Arena. The measure goes to the full council on Thursday for approval.

It’s the final city regulatory approval needed for Steve Foutch, CEO of Foutch Brothers, to pursue an ambitious redevelopment vision he first proposed four years ago. The city studied his idea for years. Last September, Foutch was able to get Kemper Arena listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it eligible for state and federal historic tax credits to help fund the project.

Foutch said in February that he was wrapping up final financing details and hoped to break ground in late April.

“We could see the finish line,” Foutch said Wednesday. But he added that, two weeks ago, the Missouri Department of Economic Development sent out a letter saying that the state had reached its cap of $140 million in historic tax credits for this fiscal year.

That means Foutch must wait until the start of the new fiscal year, July 1, to get in line again for about $6 million in state historic tax credits. The project, estimated to cost about $30 million, also needs close to $6 million in federal historic tax credits, which Foutch said are not at risk.

Foutch said the delay was somewhat frustrating, especially because some state lawmakers have talked about reducing or even eliminating the historic tax credit program.

A bill sponsored by Senate President Ron Richard in the current legislative session would cap the historic tax credit program at $120 million. It’s passed committee and is on the senate calendar, but at the moment it’s not progressing.

Foutch said he’s still very hopeful the Mosaic Arena groundbreaking and project can move forward later this summer.

“Unless they cancel this whole program, we should be OK,” he said.

Committee chairman Scott Taylor and other council members said the historic tax credit program is an excellent redevelopment tool and inspires increased investment in historic buildings without taking money away from schools and other taxing jurisdictions. Taylor said he’s still optimistic the program will resume in fiscal year 2018.

“We’re excited about the potential of this project,” Taylor said of Kemper’s preservation and redevelopment, which will save the city about $1 million in annual maintenance on an unused public arena. The project also saves taxpayers the $8 million to $12 million it would cost to demolish the structure.

Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, a staunch historic preservation advocate, agreed a renovated facility serving all sorts of teams and groups, as well as office and entertainment needs, will be a great addition to the Historic West Bottoms neighborhood.

“This is just a great win for everyone,” she said.

The Star’s Jefferson City correspondent, Jason Hancock, contributed to this report.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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