« Three more years before the economy is normal? | Main | Steps forward for animals in Kansas City »

July 02, 2009



At last, a voice of reason! Your proposed approach makes a tremendous amount of sense, logically and politically.


I think it's ironic that this area is exactly the type of area TIF was invented to help. I agree with you that another shopping center is the last thing 63rd street needs. Maybe would could provide some TIF money for something besides retail in that area. OH WAIT! We can't afford it any more, not after the handouts we've given in places like Briarcliff and West Plaza.

Brent Toellner

No doubt Casey. I'm not sure why virtually all TIF projects seem to want to involve retail...it's like we've forgotten that retail needs people to support it. And more than anything, this area needs people -- people living in the now-empty homes and people working in the now empty office buildings. If you get a lot of people there, retail will succeed. But without the people there first, it will not.



Sometimes I wonder just how well you understand how TIF does and does not work. Your comment above gives the impression that you think that a TIF district comes with money to be given to the project. That is only true if a bond is issued upfront to finance the project; otherwise, most TIF projects are "pay as you go" - in other words, the project only get the TIF revenues that it creates. No project, no revenues. So, if a "pay as you go" TIF project under performs, the project is the entity that suffers because there is less TIF revenue to repay eligible project costs.

Your comment about Briarclif makes me realize that you don't remember what it was like before the TIF project began. It was a mined-out, overgrown, semi-lunar landscape with homeless camps and other assorted junk littered about. Those funny-looking hose and pump contraptions that you see on the lawns are actually part of on-going work to fill the mines with flay ash and thus ensure the future stability of the site. Yes, Briarcliff is quite lovely and appears to be relatively healthy financially - because of TIF. Don't hold it up as a poster child example of TIF "abuse."


Brent & Casey,

The reason that so many TIF projects have retail components is because they tend to generate Economic Activity Taxes (EATS) - sales taxes, local earnings, utility taxes, etc.. 50% of the increased EATS generated in a TIF projects are captured by the TIF and used to pay for eligible project costs.

The reason that there are so few housing TIF projects is because of the way residential property is assessed in Missouri. Commercial property is assigned a market value, but is assessed on 32% of that market value. Residential property is also assigned a market value, but is assessed on only 19% of that market value. This makes is very difficult for residential property to be developed using TIF.

Hope this helps.


What the urban core needs more than retail is decent paying jobs. Let's save our subsidy for small to medium manufacturing or some other average to higher paying job. The shops at Blue Parkway don't seem to be doing so well and that is a nice shopping center so stop trying to force something that isn't there. The retail that follows rooftops assumes that the people have jobs to support shopping. First things first. Create jobs.


Briarcliff is also a great example of one shopping center stealing the business away from another and not generating anything new - tax dollars or jobs. It IS an example of a project that was not "needed" but yes, nice payback to the Northlanders.


I agree that many retail TIFs do simply move the sales, jobs and tax revenues around. This is something that probably needs a legislative fix since it will always be in one municipality's interests to use TIF to move sales, jobs and tax revenues from another municipality to itself. Perhaps it shouldn't be allowed to capture revenues from a business that is relocating from within the same municipality or from another location within 10-miles of the new location?

Briarcliff is a little unique in that most of its businesses are locally-owned one-ofs, which means that they weren't generating sales, jobs and tax revenues in another municipality. Briarcliff does have the added benefit of having remediated some nasty blight.

Brent Toellner

ISB -- Thanks for the clarification on the Commercial vs Residential TIF differential. I didn't realize they were taxed differently. That said, at some point they need to realize that business and cities revolve first around people...and without them, retail doesn't matter.

I can't share the same sentiments that you share on Briarcliff. Seems like regardless of what it looked like, a vacant piece of land, 1 mile from downtown with great skyline views surrounded by Million dollar homes doesn't seem like it needed incentives to develop.



Okay, lets change the location to Harlem, the area that is sandwiched between the Missouri River, the downtown airport and the City of North Kansas City. It is on the north bank of the Missouri River, less than 1/4-mile from downtown, has fabulous views of the downtown skyline, and is easily accessible from downtown via the Broadway bridge (if you know to exit to the left at the north end of the bridge and then turn to go under 169 and the railroad tracks). The infrastructure is incomplete and in poor condition, the access to 9 Hwy and North Kansas City is circuitous at best, there's illegal dumping, and the site is surrounded by the railroad yards and industries. Would you consider this area blighted? I know what my answer would be.

Brent Toellner

Yes. Of course the area is blighted. And while I know you are tying this back to Briarcliff, there is a huge difference. At the time when Briarcliff Village received TIF money it was surrounded by hundreds of homes that would be valued in the $500,000 - $1.5 million range. Seems like people would have been clamouring to get a piece of those dollars....not receive tax breaks for it.

Meanwhile, most of the problems you note with Harlem (infastructure, illegal dumping, etc) are things the city should be providing to all neighborhoods anyway...which is a completely different issue.



A TIF doesn't come with TIF money; it creates its' own subsidy through the increased property taxes and economic activity taxes generated by the project itself. If there is no development, there are no TIF funds generated. If the project does extremely well, it generates more TIF funds and is able to pay back the eligible development costs faster. So, Briarcliff didn't receive TIF funds until the projects had created them. The developer did see a market, but couldn't make the project work financially with conventional financing because of the tremendous cost of remediating the blight. I can't think of a single developer who wouldn't prefer to do every project with conventtional financing instead of having to seek public assistance for the difficult projects; developers tend to have a low tolerance for hassle factor and if it's one thing public assistance programs have, it's a high hassle factor.

You're right about the City having a responsibility to provide the infrastructure and services that the Harlem area needs. I just don't see that happening since the City has much more pressing needs in more visible - and vocal - neighborhoods. Sounds like a future TIF project to me.

Brent Toellner


Here's my problem with Briarcliff. I think it most likely would have been financially feasible without TIF help. It's a shopping district surrounded by million dollar homes, 5 minutes from downtown, and with beautiful skyline views. And by giving TIF breaks to places that don't need it, we end up shorting the city tax revenue that we would otherwise be getting that would go toward infastructure improvements in places like Harlem Neighborhood (and countless others).

Briarcliff isn't the worst case of TIF abuse (I29 corridor wins that IMO)but if the only way we can spur any development is through TIF, then we're going to continue to rely solely on residents -- through property tax, 1% income tax, and sales tax to afford infastructure improvements (or, deal with the complete disrepair that plagues many areas). Which is exactly what Wyco has done -- and now has the highest taxes on individuals in the entire metro.



I've enjoyed our "coversation." It seems clear that we will continue to disagree about Briarcliff, but that's okay.

One of the underlying problems is that there are relatively few tools available to provide development assistance. TIF gets used -probably more than it should - because it is available. This is one of the reasons that I'm interested in the Mayor's New Tools effort, although I have my concerns. Cities do need to be able to provide assistance to worthy projects without bankrupting themselves or impacting the other taxing jurisdictions, so we've got to find a different way of doing it.


Citadel redevelopment would be a success, if a big grocer like Price Chopper or Hy-vees would become a anchor tenant. I live in the 4th district and take my money to Johnson County. Its ashame that our city leader and council members have a limited vision. Far as the Landing and Metro Plaza and empty office buildings on 63rd Street. They need to be torn down and let City Vision Redevelop the area, like they did in Rosedale area of Kansas City, Ks.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad