I haven't had much time for Kansas City politics lately (thus, the few blog postings), but I have been following with some casual interest the Citidel Plaza project in KCMO. (And atip of the hat here to TKC, who has actually used his blogging time wisely by doing a good job of covering this strory -- it's a shame he doesn't put his writing skills to this good of use all the time.)
The proposed project is for a shopping district at 63rd and Prospect. For those not initiated with 63rd and Prospect, the neighborhood has has long been in a neglected part of the city. The 64132 zip code has a poverty rate of 29% (more than double the state average. 13.7% of the population has an income 50% below the poverty level (also more than double the state average). The zip code has lost nearly 20% of its population since 1990.
Everyone on the council knows the Citidel Plaza project is a loser financially for the city. There is no way a shopping center in that location is going to pay out in the TIF money they need to build it. And given the current economic situation of the city, taking on more TIF losses doesn't seem like the most responsible thing to do.
But politically it's a loser too. No one disputes that something needs to be done to help this area....which is, at this point, overgrown with weeds and the blight is becoming a haven for crime. Denying redevelopment TIF money to a blighted and forgotten part of town is not good either.
But it doesn't take much driving by the area to realize that the Citidel Plaza area may be the least of the area's problems.
Drive two blocks west and you get to your first abandoned office building.
Given all of this vacancy along 63rd Street, I find it hard to believe that building more buildings is actually in the best interest of the area. Maybe the answer should be, that instead of building another shopping center, maybe we should provide an incentive for people to fix up and fill the empty building space that blights the area. Maybe once we can get these buildings remodeled, and filled, maybe then, the new shopping center might make sense. But building more buildings for shopping, while others sit empty just blocks away, doesn't make sense: financially or logically.
Helping these buildings get improved and inhabited would likely require less subsidy than the Citidel Plaza project. And it would also be helping benefit the neighborhood that badly needs it (which will help the city council politically by not turning their back on the area -- not to mention, it would be the right thing to do). Besides, even if they build the Citidel project, they're likely going to have to subsidize this blight anyway (especially when they can't compete with the new development that has tax incentives).
Maybe it's a horrible idea. If it is, tell me why. But it seems like better solution for the neighborhood, and a better financial situation for the city.