Plenty of big projects ahead in Kansas City region for 2013
The Kansas City Star
Last July Kansas City deservedly basked in several days of national attention focused on the 2012 Major League All-Star Baseball Game.
The renovated Kauffman Stadium was gussied up, the downtown Power & Light District was abuzz and Mayor Sly James was seemingly everywhere, promoting this city and area as happening places to be.
The game was one of the region’s highlights of 2012, made possible in large part by the building boom and the new taxes that have been put in place in recent years to upgrade Kansas City.
In addition, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts celebrated its first year of operation, secure in the knowledge that the gorgeous building on the hill will be a key to downtown’s continuing resurgence. The Kansas City Zoo began construction on projects made possible by generous taxpayers in a 2011 election. And the Hollywood Casino opened near Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
Looking ahead to 2013, though, the pipeline isn’t as full as it has been when it comes to major public construction projects. The area’s future would be well-served if 2013 was spent completing already underway projects as well as getting ready to deal with new ones.
Among the priorities:
Kansas Citians approved one of the largest tax increases in their history in 2012 — a permanent half-cent sales tax increase that could raise $350 million in the next decade. James and other city officials must now spend those funds as promised. Big improvements should be made to basic services used by thousands of people every day, including on miles of smoother streets, better-maintained city parks and longer hours for community centers.
Kansas City residents already paying for large sewer and water rate increases should begin seeing much more work to repair leaking water pipes and crumbling sewers in 2013. While much of this work will occur underground, continued improvements in the Water Services Department should be a top priority for James and the City Council.
In Mission, work will start on a new city pool, thanks to a voter-approved tax increase in 2012.
On the private side, the largest construction project nearing completion is the $590 million National Nuclear Security Administration’s new weapons parts operation in far south Kansas City. About 2,500 people work at the current plant in the Bannister Federal Complex; much of the operations there will be relocated to the new site in 2013.
Cerner Corporation early in 2013 hopes to move into the first new office tower being built for it in Village West in Kansas City, Kan. Eventually, Cerner has promised to add 4,000 jobs on that site, one of the area’s largest ongoing construction projects.
Just west of the Country Club Plaza, a long-stalled project once called the West Edge but now called Plaza Vista expects to open its doors later in 2013 to its main tenants, the Polsinelli Shughart law firm. Once construction there ceases, we can all look forward to all lanes of the abutting streets being reopened at long last.
Finally, attention to expensive road construction projects will be concentrated on the Kansas side of the state line after major improvements to Interstate 70 in Missouri were completed in 2012. In 2013, work will continue on expansions of Interstate 435 and U.S. 69.
On the mass transit front, Kansas City officials expect to break ground for the two-mile streetcar line expected to begin operating in 2015. That project must proceed without expensive delays.
A growing region needs ongoing projects, but they must be smart projects. Kansas City’s convention leaders are still pressing to build a downtown hotel of 1,000 rooms or more; they need to build a more solid case. The economic development border war could continue, leading to construction of more new buildings but unfortunately also leaving empty office space behind. That is not smart.
The next year appears to be one of transition, even while Kansas City area officials actively look to tackle more big projects to enhance the quality of life in this region.