KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Environmental Protection Agency moved into its new regional headquarters in Lenexa on Tuesday. The move came after a long battle over its decision to leave downtown Kansas City, Kan.
The move left a large building empty in downtown KCK. When the EPA first announced it would be leaving downtown for the old Applebee’s headquarters in Lenexa, Wyandotte County filed complaints and then filed a lawsuit. But over the summer the county withdrew the lawsuit and now the EPA is fully moved in to its new home.
At Tuesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony, the head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson seemed pretty impressed with the new regional headquarters building.
“It’s a big wow moment to walk into this building,” Jackson said.
But more than being wowed, she says this move is about savings.
“But when we looked at the financial on this building, the money saved and ability to continue to save that money was up to 25 million dollars over 20 years,” she said. “That’s not insignificant.”
Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks says the savings come from lower rent and also operating costs because it’s a green building, LEED Platinum certified.
“A big cost of the building is the power it takes to turn on the lights and run computers,” said Brooks. “We project a savings of 32-percent in the electricity we use here compared to the old building.”
As for the old building it was located just blocks from the EPA lab where 90 employees still work in the facility specifically built for the EPA’s needs. The epa says it has no plans to move that lab closer to the new headquarters.
“We built it with the idea we’d be there for the long term, it’s a really specialized facility,” said Brooks.
Brooks says video conferencing will decrease the need for employees to travel to the lab. To help ease commutes for employees, the EPA says it’s increased telecommuting opportunities and has van pools that run as far away as Lawrence and the Northland. But the EPA admits that leaving downtown KCK does leave an urban area without a major tenant.
“Both great communities,” said Jackson. “But at the end of the day it’s about finding space at the best value for the American taxpayer.”
As for the old building, now that the court battle is behind it, KCK is moving forward too. The Wyandotte County Economic Development Council says there’s been a lot of interest in the building varying from people wanting to rent part of it or the entire building. However there are no contracts or anything official in place yet.