A proposal from City Councilman and mayoral hopeful Scott Taylor to revitalize the city’s east side passed a key test Wednesday winning a 5-0 approval from the council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee.
Taylor’s “Revive the East Side Plan” also came with an unexpected amendment from Councilman and fellow mayoral candidate Quinton Lucas: A provision to rename The Paseo for Dr. Martin Luther King. The proposal is the latest twist in a politically fraught debate over how to best honor King.
The east side initiative calls for a mix of new spending and tax incentives to stimulate economic growth in an “investment zone” focusing on the city’s most distressed census tracts. Portions of the Ruskin neighborhood in south Kansas City would also be covered by the plan.
“We have a booming local economy but need to make sure all parts of the City are growing in order for Kansas City to realize its full potential,” Taylor said in a statement released Wednesday evening. He chairs the planning and zoning panel.
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The measure calls for City Manager Troy Schulte to find $10 million for establishment of a home improvement fund for repair and rehabilitation and $3 million to preserve or reconstruct certain dangerous buildings. It would create a tax credit for employers who hire within the investment zone, with a focus on unemployed veterans, ex-offenders and those on public assistance.
Taylor’s ordinance also proposes to work with Jackson County to combat possible gentrification by freezing property taxes for long-time residents. An east side development “concierge” would be designated to streamline regulatory approvals for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs.
The ordinance will go to the full council next week.
The east side proposal was first introduced by Taylor, the council’s Sixth District at-large representative, last November. It was met with skepticism from Lucas and some other leaders in the urban core, who saw it as a brazen play for votes from a south Kansas City candidate who had evidenced only limited interest in east side economic development prior to his mayoral campaign.
The package has been through some revisions following a series of community hearings and amendments by Lucas, who also sits on the planning panel.
“What we have now is something looks a lot closer to collaboration,” Lucas said.
If approved, Taylor’s plan would be the second major new initiative to spur economic development the east side.
Last year, voters approved a 1/8-cent central city sales tax that is expected to produce about $10 million a year. A board appointed by Mayor Sly James is reviewing an initial round of proposals for possible funding.
Taylor’s initiative joins a list of potentially costly proposals to stimulate housing and economic development in the city’s under-served neighborhoods. The Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department has proposed creating a public-private trust fund of as much as $50 million for loans and grants to rehabilitate preserve of existing housing stock and to stimulate construction of new units.
Lucas, chairman of the council’s housing committee, proposed a smaller housing fund financed, at least in the short term, with public money. It would draw an estimated $10 million from an increase in the business use tax on out-of-state purchases of more than $2,000. Another $5 million would come from central city sales tax revenue.
On Wednesday, Councilman Jermaine Reed unveiled a plan to invest another $10 million for the next phase of the 18th & Vine redevelopment. The proposed sources are a mix of revenue from the one-cent sales tax for capital improvements and the same 1/8-cent sales tax.
At least two council members have already expressed doubts about the availability of the funds.
The wild card in the east side package was the proposal to rename The Paseo for King.
In August, the mayor forwarded to the council the recommendations of an advisory group he formed in April to study the renaming issue.
In May, the citizens panel reported choices in order of preference: a renaming of Kansas City International Airport terminal, 63rd Street, or The Paseo. James tasked the council with selecting one. What happens to the group’s recommendations at this point is unclear. If the council passes Taylor’s plan as written, the name change would be adopted.
Lucas’ Paseo amendment is an attempt to return the King debate to the original proposal long favored by east side ministers.
He said that at least five council members support The Paseo option.
“As the lone council member who lives on The Paseo,“ Lucas said, “I look forward to further conversation with my neighbors and our community on the proposal now in the ordinance.