Government & Politics

No KC Council consensus on $27 million for 18th and Vine Historic Jazz District

The Kansas City Council could not agree on whether to spend $27 million more on the 18th and Vine jazz district.
The Kansas City Council could not agree on whether to spend $27 million more on the 18th and Vine jazz district.

A four-hour City Council debate over whether to invest up to $27 million in the 18th and Vine Historic District failed to garner sufficient support Wednesday.

An attempt to send the measure out of committee to the full council failed on a 4-4 vote, so the measure stalled and awaits further consideration.

Supporters said the public funds would help 18th and Vine reach its full potential as a national destination, but skeptics wanted more assurances the money will be well spent. Some council members said they support 18th and Vine as a significant historic asset but opposed the proposed financing approach.

“This project presents us with a unique opportunity,” Councilman Jermaine Reed said in urging support Wednesday from the joint Finance and Governance and Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee. Reed and others have worked for more than a year on a city funding plan to bolster the infrastructure and assets in the district, which everyone agrees have not met expectations after 20 years of effort.

Reed and others sought up to $27 million in bond funding over three years to carry out about a dozen key projects, including major investments in streetscape and a gateway plaza to connect 18th and Vine with the Crossroads Arts District and downtown. Other beneficiaries of the funds would include the Black Archives, the American Jazz Museum, the historic Boone Theater, the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center, and infill apartments and retail.

One measure contemplated issuing $27 million in bonds and paying them back over 15 years with capital improvement sales tax dollars. An alternative plan contemplated using general obligation bonds for some of the projects, paid for with property taxes as well as capital improvement sales taxes.

But neither plan could get sufficient support from committee members, so it remains stuck in committee for discussion at a later time. Some said 18th and Vine needs to be part of a larger citywide conversation about infrastructure priorities.

This debate has been percolating since last December, when Reed proposed a wish list of $7 million in improvements for the district. Additional worthwhile ideas emerged, and in January the council directed City Manager Troy Schulte to come up with a way to pay for up to $18 million in improvements.

In April, Schulte unveiled $27.6 million in proposed improvements, which he said could help leverage an additional $12 million in private investment and make the district a venue that would reach its potential.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley