Government & Politics

KC Council vote Thursday could green light new convention hotel

The Kansas City Council on Thursday will be asked to jump what’s said to be the final legislative hurdle before work can begin on the proposed downtown convention hotel.

The council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee voted 4-0 Wednesday afternoon to advance and recommend passage of a proposed ordinance that will take care of three remaining details.

The ordinance sets the zoning and development plan for the site bounded by Truman Road, Baltimore Avenue, 16th Street and Wyandotte Avenue, enlarges the size of the 880-room hotel’s Community Improvement District to include the recently acquired American Hereford Association property, and allow a pedestrian bridge across Wyandotte.

Another key part of the ordinance also accelerates project approval. With full Council approval, the measure would take effect immediately and, advocates say, would not be subject to a referendum challenge.

Councilman Quinton Lucas said the accelerated approval was in no way intended to circumvent the will of the voters. Rather, he said it was time to move a years-old project forward.

A group called Citizens for Responsible Government is conducting a petition drive to try to force the convention hotel project to a public vote in November. The petition drive challenges a previous ordinance that also dealt with the zoning and development plan.

The petitioners have gathered about 2,800 valid signatures of registered voters and need about 600 more by June 17 to meet the city charter requirements to force an election.

If further challenges to the hotel fail, supporters of the project hope to break ground in late September or early October, with an opening in late 2019 or early 2020. It would be Kansas City’s first new convention hotel since 1985.

Hotel project leader Michael Burke, Visit KC CEO Ronnie Burt, Downtown Council CEO Bill Dietrich and representatives of JE Dunn, and the labor community told the committee that quick action was necessary to hold down costs, provide jobs and keep Kansas City’s convention industry competitive.

Dan Coffey and John Murphy, members of the petition-drive group, were the sole opponents testifying against the ordinance. They emphasized that they weren’t against a hotel being built but they were against secrecy concerning the investors and the financing and against a deal that might leave the city at risk if the hotel fails.

Responding to council members’ questions, Burke said the development team has received a guaranteed maximum price from JE Dunn but that the amount won’t be revealed publicly until the project timing is set.

Attorney Roxsen Koch, representing the development team, said the public will be able to see financing numbers before the deal closes, likely in August.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford