Shawnee city leaders last month took steps to approve plans for Project Homeland, a proposed industrial park in western Shawnee. Several councilmembers shared their support for the project, saying that once it’s complete, it could produce property tax revenue that may reduce the city’s need to rely on residential property owners for taxes.
Blue Shawnee LLC, a Missouri developer, will have access to the city’s unique economic development grant program to fund public infrastructure improvements in connection to the site at 43rd Street and K-7 Highway.
The more than $90 million project includes a two million square foot warehouse and facility for distribution and light manufacturing spaces on 182 acres.
In her presentation to the city council Sept. 23, Ann Smith-Tate, president and chief executive officer of the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council, said the industrial park could bring as many as 1,500 to 2,000 new jobs to the city.
Smith-Tate said city staff and the economic development council have worked on plans for the Project Homeland development “for quite some time.”
Smith-Tate said the need for shovel ready development ground “has been a high priority for the community for decades now.” The site of Project Homeland is no exception. She counted six studies and five site plans on the site of Project Homeland, demonstrating past efforts to build a business park or similar development on site.
Additionally, the site has lacked public infrastructure, including proper street and wastewater connections. Smith-Tate said about $6 million worth of road work and about $3 million of wastewater improvements still need to be completed. The developer has requested that the city of Shawnee contribute to wastewater infrastructure and/or public road improvements, according to city documents.
Shawnee would invest no more than $4 million into the project, either through road or wastewater improvements, according to city documents. The city already had 43rd Street road improvements in its capital improvement program, with a project estimate of $3.2 million to be bonded out. The remaining $800,000 is allocated from the city’s unique economic development fund.
Smith-Tate said they are also working with KDOT to help cover financing for the road improvements.
Shawnee has planned for 43rd Street to be the gateway to the future Riverfront Park, according to city documents.
Councilmember Mickey Sandifer said he didn’t want to compare Shawnee to Lenexa, but noted the neighboring city had thought 40 years ago to bring in industrial parks to help relieve the tax burden from residential property owners.
“Now it’s all paying off; it’s a cash cow to them,” Sandifer said of Lenexa. “This is our start. We’ve been a bedroom community forever. It’s time to start making it work. Everybody talks about saving the people money and being good stewards of the tax dollars. This is our chance. We need to do this.”
Councilmember Eric Jenkins said he thinks the project is an appropriate way to spend public dollars. Councilmember Jim Neighbor echoed his fellow councilmember’s comments, adding that he hopes the city can participate in KDOT’s new cost-share program that would help fund this and projects.
The city’s issuance of general obligation bonds will finance the public infrastructure improvements and to make economic development grants of bond proceeds to Johnson County Wastewater, Kansas Department of Transportation, and/or the developer to facilitate construction of the improvements.
However, the city will terminate that agreement if the developer doesn’t begin construction on the first building of at least 180,000 square feet by the earlier of the time construction has begun for the wastewater improvements or Oct. 31, 2022. Site work on utilities and construction is expected to begin early next year, and construction on the rest of the site would continue for the next four years, according to city documents.
The Shawnee city council unanimously approved all items related to Project Homeland, including: rezoning the site from agricultural to planned industrial; execution of a development agreement; using economic development funds to pay for public infrastructure improvements in connection to the site; and issuing $250 million in private activity revenue bonds, which provides the developer with a sales tax exemption on construction materials for the project.
There was no public comment on the proposed development.