On the City of Wichita’s cable channel 7, Kansas City’s Power & Light District is presented as a model for the revitalization of downtown Wichita. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer sees this district as Wichita’s competition.
So yesterday I went to take a look for myself. And I agree with the mayor. It’s a neat place. It’s huge. It would be great if Wichita had something like it.
But there are problems surfacing already. Although I haven’t yet done extensive research, it appears that the troubles stem from the public/private partnership nature of the district.
One problem is the tax increment financing district, or TIF district, that underlies the district. It appears to be underperforming: “The biggest project, the Kansas City Power & Light District, will cost the city more than $4 million because there wasn’t sufficient economic activity to cover TIF bond payments.” (TIF bonds take a bite out of KC’s skinny budget, Kansas City Business Journal, February 9, 2009)
In Wichita, when we have underperforming TIF districts, we might make an interest-free loan to solve the problem.
The district and Jackson County are squabbling over the taxable value of this property, too. And it’s not a small disagreement — the owners and the county disagree by a huge amount:
The developer of the Kansas City Power & Light District refers to the project on its Web site as an $850 million project.
Yet The Cordish Co. claims in a lawsuit and to county officials that the project’s value — at least its appraised valuation — should be $12.3 million when the project is complete.
That valuation, which equates to an average of about $24 a square foot, is a far cry from Jackson County’s appraised value of $160 million, roughly $270 a square foot, which is what county officials say the district is worth for 2009. (Power & Light District developer seeks bargain-basement valuation, Kansas City Business Journal, January 16, 2009)
The developer of the district seems to have a few issues, too, writes a Kansas City Star columnist: “Cordish Co. CEO David Cordish comes across as a petulant, greedy, uninformed developer in his e-mail rantings to KC Mayor Mark Funkhouser.”
In Wichita and across the country, public/private partnerships have a mixed record. We’ll want to think carefully whether we want to rely on the artificial nature of subsidized development as we think about the revitalization of downtown Wichita.Learn how you can support the Voice for Liberty. Click here.