Brookridge developers are back with a new public financing plan – this time without the tourism sales tax bonds that proved so unpopular with the Overland Park City Council four months ago.
Council members will have another go at the new financing proposal, which includes tax increment financing and a special sales tax dedicated to pay some development costs, when they meet March 4. At that time, they’ll be asked to decide whether city staff should work with developer Chris Curtin to come up with a plan that can eventually be voted on.
The council said no the last time, when Curtin asked for STAR bonds for “business tourism” plus city help on major road improvements. The new proposal leaves out the STAR bonds, but still asks the city to shoulder some risk in street improvements to handle the traffic around the project at 103rd Street and Antioch Road.
Discussion at a council finance committee meeting Wednesday revealed the serious questions council members still have about how the city will be involved in development of the long-time golf and fitness club. The committee sent it on to the council on a 5-1 vote, with some members saying they are particularly concerned about the plan for the city to do the street improvements.
$2 billion proposal would totally rework 140 acre site
Brookridge is a $2 billion project that envisions offices, retail, apartments and entertainment on rolling hills and putting greens of the 140-acre tract. It has been adamantly opposed by neighbors over the more than four years it’s been discussed.
The latest financing package involves only one part of the entire project – the northeast corner near Antioch and 103rd Street, which would be first to be built. That part of the project would cost $596.1 million to build. Curtin has asked for $96 million in tax increment financing, a money-raising vehicle that uses money from increasing property values brought about by the development.
Also in the package is a 1.5 percent special sales tax to be charged within the development that would raise $33.7 million, plus revenue bonds to exempt some building purchases from sales tax. Another $446.4 million would come from private funding from a variety of sources.
The part of the plan that got the most scrutiny Wednesday involved financing for the streets. The developer asked that the city take on $26.4 million in extensive road improvements through a general obligation bond, which would be paid with tax increment financing proceeds. The developer would guarantee repayment of the city’s expenses if for some reason the TIF didn’t raise enough.
But there was concern that the city would end up on the hook if things went wrong. “For five or six years during the recession all I did was litigate personal guarantees,” said Councilmember and committee chairman Dave White. “So I have some real problems on all of that,” he said.
White ended up voting against sending the idea on to the full council. “I honestly don’t think we should be spending the money we’re going to be spending on roads for the benefit of one developer,” he said.
Although no financing plan is in place yet, the council did recently rezone the area to accommodate Curtin’s plan. “I look at this tonight as a tee-up to, do we see this as a project we want to pursue?” he said. “Overall, I would say yes.” But Thompson, too, was concerned about the road funding issue.
Councilmember Fred Spears also had concerns about the complicated and interlocking nature of the financing plan. “I see this as a house of cards in that it’s not a simple TIF. There are a lot of nuances here, a lot of pieces to it, all of which have to happen,” he said.
Nevertheless, the project would be an important addition for a city that has committed itself to the “live-work-play” concept of development, said Councilmember Paul Lyons.
“I’ve come to see this as a 21st Century version of Corporate Woods,” he said. The Brookridge development could have a positive impact on the older office park across the Interstate, he said.
“This could incentivize the Corporate Woods area to make changes to make it more of a live-work-play area too,” and perhaps modernize Corporate Woods, he said. “If that were to happen we’ve got a really wonderful office area of our city that could potentially carry us for many years to come.”