The Prairie Village City Council on Monday approved the transfer of the Corinth Square and Village Shops Community Improvement District agreements, paving the way for the sale of the shops to a new, Maryland-based owner, First Washington Realty.
The 10-2 vote came after two council meetings filled with sometimes contentious discussion on the issue, during which the councilors asked the First Washington principals about their future plans for the centers and the company’s financial fitness to take over the responsibility. With $1.5 billion in equity, the backing of the California Public Employees Retirement System and experience operating more than 90 neighborhood shopping centers across the country, there was never much doubt that First Washington met the requirements for transfer to a new owner detailed in the CID agreements, which the Prairie Village council approved in September 2010. The agreements compel the council to approve the reassignment of the CIDs unless the new owner “does not have qualifications and financial responsibility, as reasonably determined by the Governing Body, necessary and adequate to fulfill the obligations of the Developer being assigned.” As such, had the council failed to approved the transfer, they would have exposed themselves to potentially costly legal action from the ownership group, which is led by the Consentino family.
Given that CIDs became a divisive political issue in the city council campaigns that followed their passage, it wasn’t surprising to see a number of the councilors expressing concerns and frustration with the sale to the First Washington representatives. On Monday, councilors Brooke Morehead and Jori Nelson, who made opposition to the CIDs the cornerstone of their campaigns against incumbents Dale Beckerman and Dale Warman, respectively, read statements expressing frustration with the sales. Nelson called the CIDs “corporate welfare” and Morehead said the proceeds from the 1 percent sales tax increase at the centers could better have been spent to address needs for parks and roads.
“Unfortunately, we will vote to transfer it…and can only hope they, instead of the present owner, will be more generous to the city of Prairie Village,” Moorhead said. “We need you as our partners, and we need you to see our centers as more than just a profit center.”
First Washington Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer Joshua Brown responded that the company accepted the responsibility for the centers.
“We don’t take this responsibility lightly,” Brown said. “These centers have tremendous potential, we recognize they are in your communities, they can be improved in many ways.”
Only one member of the public spoke during Monday’s deliberations. John Anderson, a frequent attendee at council meetings, told the governing body that the CIDs were just part of “progress” in Prairie Village.
“This is not a robbery, so to speak, with the rich taking from the poor,” he said. “The tax incentives are given to improve the properties, and the residents see the benefits. The property value of their homes go up.”
Every member of the council except Ward 5 councilors Dan Runion and David Morrison voted to approve the transfer.
Brown said after the vote that the parties intended to close the sale in the next several weeks.