Waldo shopping center asking taxpayers to fund rehabilitation effort

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KANSAS CITY, Mo -- A proposed tax hike to improve a privately owned shopping center in the Waldo neighborhood has some residents concerned about how that money will be spent.

The 1% tax hike discussed in Wednesday's Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee would be the result of one city block in Waldo being designated a Community Improvement District.

Anyone who spends money at the businesses in the Romanelli Shops will be spending a little more for the renovation of that property.

"I think the history here is what brings people in," said Brooke Smith, owner of Moonshot Hair Company. "But for bringing in new clients and more people, I think it would definitely deserve a face-lift."

The Romanelli Shops has been at the corner of W. Gregory Boulevard and Wornall Road since 1926.

A yearand a half ago, G. Palen Investments bought the property, assuming responsibility for its significant deterioration over the last 20 years.

"To say he let it go in disarray, the previous owner, is an understatement," an attorney representing G. Palen Investments told the KCMO Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee.

While it looks OK from the outside, the new owners say behind the scenes there's flood damage and environmental, electrical and roof issues, among other things. All problems they knew about when they bought the building.

Now G. Palen wants the building deemed a blight so it can raise tax dollars to fix it by becoming a Community Improvement District.

"Me personally, I am going to be a no on this because it sounds like you guys are trying to pass a CID on a building that was not maintained," City Councilman Brandon Ellington said. "When it comes to the devaluation of the property because of the condition and now you want the taxpayers to fund rehabilitation of a building you got a deal on."

Ellington believes G. Palen is stretching the intent of a CID, created to enhance economic development and maintenance to benefit the entire community.

"My question is how what they are doing is benefiting the community as a whole?" asked Margret Lapierre who lives in Waldo and expressed her concerns to the committee.

Representatives told committee members that when Romanelli Shops thrive, so does the neighborhood.

The Romanelli Shops is already part of the Waldo CID, which stretches along Wornall from Gregory Boulevard to 85th Street.

"It is hard to understand why tax dollars are necessary to pay for renovations when you buy a building and know you are going to have to fix it up," Waldo Tower Neighborhood Association's Angie Lile said. "That should be part of the business model."

The Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee has set this issue aside until Nov. 13, to get more input from the public and give neighborhood groups the opportunity to meet with Romanelli Shops  owners at G. Palen Investments.

Three men representing G. Palen refused to answer FOX4's questions after the meeting.

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