Editorials

ATA unveils bold plan to bring two new office buildings to the River Market

The proposal at Third Street and Grand Boulevard has the potential to boost density of use in the urban core while providing what ATA chairman Robbie Makinen calls a “transit-oriented development.”
The proposal at Third Street and Grand Boulevard has the potential to boost density of use in the urban core while providing what ATA chairman Robbie Makinen calls a “transit-oriented development.” The Kansas City Star

Kansas City Area Transportation Authority officials have put together an innovative plan that could lead to the construction of two new office buildings in the River Market.

The proposal at Third Street and Grand Boulevard has the potential to boost density of use in the urban core while providing what ATA chairman Robbie Makinen calls a “transit-oriented development.”

The 1.8-acre project site — now mostly a parking lot for about 200 vehicles — eventually could feature a pair of 100,000-square-foot office structures and 10,000 square feet of retail.

A transportation hub would serve passengers of local bus lines, the new streetcar system and a future commuter rail line. A 600-stall parking garage would be used by office employees and by the public at nights and on weekends.

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The ATA board, which will review the plan Wednesday, has good reasons to move forward. More details must be worked out with Briarcliff Development Co., including what kinds of tax breaks could be requested from City Hall and the state.

The area creates no property tax revenue because it’s owned by the ATA. A future pact could divert earnings taxes generated by new employees into project costs.

The project, which eventually would require City Council passage, has several positive-sounding features.

Makinen vows that, as a bistate agency, his group would veto any anchor tenant trying to engage in this area’s wasteful, economic development border war. That should rule out a bid to steal a company from Kansas and move it to Missouri with the help of public incentives.

The ATA also would reap a small financial boost from its agreement with Briarcliff, which would pay a lease the property starting at $137,500 a year. The ATA could use the funds to improve transit service and to pursue redevelopment of other parcels of land it controls.

Also, the ATA’s headquarters and about 40 employees could relocate in one of the new office buildings. The agency would keep more than 700 workers at its facilities on 18th Street, just west of the Paseo. As a key stakeholder in that neighborhood, ATA officials would remain involved in efforts to boost redevelopment along 18th Street from the Crossroads Arts District to the nearby 18th and Vine district.

The ATA has made recent progressive moves such as a regional transit brand — RideKC — shared by four local agencies. The redevelopment of Third and Grand could become another asset.

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