On Friday, the Star reported that it seemed likely that the Hotel Cosby at 9th and Baltimore would be likely be torn down -- potentially as quickly as this weekend.
According to the city, there are concerns over bricks falling off the building that may endanger pedestrians. Instead of looking at possible solutions to secure the building, the city is looking at paying $115,000 to tear it down.
The Hotel Cosby was built in 1881 and sits almost in the center of our city's downtown. It sits jus a block from the newly renovated public library, from hundreds of loft units and offices and within a short walk of the Power & Light entertainment district and the River Market. In this case, the city has already provided Tax Increment Financing to SAVE the building.
And yet, somehow this building has set empty for the past 15 years and is now set to be torn down.
If you care about Kansas City keeping its historic buildings at all, then call your city council person and the mayor TODAY to be sure they know how you feel about the city's decision.
Then, let's ask ourselves (or, the city), how our incentive structure works to cause this to happen.
The story of this building is the same story that has plagued this city for far too long.
Owner owns building and leaves it to sit unoccupied for decades.
Building is near colapse. Is called blighted. The city provides TIF incentives for them to repair the blight that they helped create by allowing the building to sit empty for decades.
And throughout the metro, dozens of building sit empty, abandoned by owners waiting for the city to give them tax breaks to clean up the mess they've created. The city's codes department does little to anything to mandate the building's upkeep. And it falls in disrepair.
And if it can happen in the heart of our revitalized downtown, think about how often it happens in less desireable areas along Troost, on the East side, and in the Northeast Neighborhoods.
It's a complete failure by the city, on all fronts to allow a builidng to just crumble before its eyes.
Here's an idea. Tax abandoned buildings differently than those that are occupied. All buildings in the city require a certain amount of public infastructure to support. But abandoned buildings don't generate the same type of tax revenue that inhabited ones do. Inhabited buildings have residents who buy taxable items and earn taxable salaries. Commercial spaces generate sales tax revenue, or have workers in them who buy lunches out, or generate income tax revenue.
Abandoned buildings cost the city money. So let's tax them that way. If a building is sitting empty, it should get taxed at a higher rate than one that is at full occupancy. This will encourage people to to fill up empty store fronts or apartments by lowering rents. It will help incent people to DO SOMETHING with their buildings vs incenting them to do nothing and allowing the building to fall in dis-repair.
It is my understanding that Iowa City, IA has such a policy (I can't find how the bylaw is written and thus can't verify this, but it's where I got the idea) and there are almost no empty store-fronts or apartments in Iowa City -- because people are not incentivized to just sit on empty, rotting buildings.
Here, we incent the wrong things. We don't enforce basic bylaws. And yet another piece of our city's history remains destined to be another surface parking lot in the middle of our downtown. Tragic.