Shamrock Trading asks for public finance incentives totaling more than 20% of cost of office tower project at 95th and Metcalf

Mayor Carl Gerlach spoke at a press conference in July announcing Shamrock’s plans for a new 10-story office tower on the vacant French Market site. Photo credit Kansas Governor’s Office.

Developers hoping to build office towers on the site of the old French Market have asked for a public financing package of $56 million – or about 21 percent of the total cost of the project.

The Shamrock Trading Corporation, founded as a freight brokerage company in 1986, wants tax increment financing of $48 million and a break on sales tax for construction costs that would equal $8.3 million as it undertakes a massive redo of the northeast corner of 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue.

An architect’s sketch of one of the office towers planned for the project.

The total project is expected to cost around $261.9 million.

The Overland Park City Council agreed Monday to have city staff research the financing proposal, with Shamrock paying the costs of the study. That vote doesn’t commit the city to a financing plan.

The Shamrock project is an expansion of the offices the company already owns directly across Metcalf. The company plans to keep those offices and eventually expand into three new towers in the now vacant area where Kmart and China Star Restaurant once were. The three towers would total 780,000 square feet and would include structured parking for the influx of new employees.

The company, which now does international trade finance, fuel cards and financial services, has been on an “explosive growth path,” said Korb Maxwell, lawyer representing Shamrock. As a result, the company plans to add 1,000 new employees over the next 10 years with average salaries of $56,000. About 700 people work there now.

Council members at a finance, administration and economic development committee meeting remained excited about the project because it would bring new jobs to the Metcalf area and rebuild a struggling corner. But some questioned the request for 100 percent of the tax increment financing revenue.

The city’s TIF policy limits project financing to 90 percent of the increment, which is the amount property taxes would go up due to the improvements the development brings. The limit was intended to protect school and other taxing districts from losing out on the revenue. But Overland Park’s 90 percent restriction has been overridden lately because of changes in state law that accomplish similar results.

“I don’t know how comfortable I am with a 100 percent TIF, but that’s down the road in the process,” said Councilmember Fred Spears. As to the project itself, “I think it’s great.”

Councilmember Paul Lyons also mentioned the TIF request before asking if the company will provide some pedestrian connection across Metcalf. Maxwell said a walking connection is a “desire” but not a must-have at this point.

Maxwell said the site is considered the best option for expansion, but not the least expensive. “We do have unbelievably high costs with this project,” including around 4,000 parking spaces that will be built as a garage. Since parking structures are so much more expensive than open lots, it’s harder to get private investment in them, he said.

The corporation wants to have its first office tower open by 2021, when the current location will run out of space, he said.