KC Council approves amended deal with company behind downtown luxury apartment buildings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Council signed off on an amended deal Thursday with the developer of the Power & Light District. But according to critics, that 2004 contract is no longer appropriate for Kansas City.

Fourteen years ago when downtown Kansas City was a very different place than it is now, the council made an agreement with Cordish to develop the Power & Light District.

The development company was allowed to build an unlimited number of residential buildings over 99 years, and the city would provide tax subsidies and build parking garages for the residential developments. As part of that deal, Cordish was supposed to build affordable housing.

Since then, Cordish has already opened One Light, a luxury apartment high-rise, and is set to open Two Light in about a month.

Next, Cordish wants to build a third high-rise with 300 units called Three Light at Truman and Main in the Power and Light District. The project is expected to cost around $130 million and would be complete in 2021.

While these apartments are not affordable for low- to moderate-income families, developers believe there are still enough people to fill a third luxury apartment high-rise with renters.

On Thursday, the council voted 8-3 to approve an amendment to that deal with Cordish, which some critics say is now taking away from other important issues facing the city.

At the city council's meeting Thursday, several people silently protested the development deal.

"We needed to draw some people downtown, and we are drawing a lot of them now," said Crosby Kemper, director of the Kansas City Public Library. "And maybe it is time to stop subsidizing them."

Kemper participated in the silent protest over the city's agreement with Cordish to build Three Light. The group of protesters feels the city should not give Cordish tax incentives but instead use the property taxes from these high-rises to pay for more affordable housing in other parts of the city.

Council member Quinton Lucas isn't a fan of the agreement ether, but said the city is stuck dealing with it.

"The $17 million parking garage is a story that leads things, a terrible deal that we cut," Lucas said. "I don't think KC is in a position to start breaching all of our contracts."

So instead of breaching the contract with Cordish, the 2018 City Council passed an amended contract Thursday where Cordish will provide a new community improvement district to help pay back the money for the garage, will take over city obligations at Cordish's other garages and pay rent.

Additionally, the length of the contract has been cut in half, now ending in 2045, and the number of residential buildings has been capped at six.