OP's Prairiefire helped by excessive public subsidies
The Kansas City Star
When the doors open this fall at the Prairiefire retail project in south Overland Park, shoppers will be charged a premium to subsidize the private development.
The sales tax will be a stunning 10.15 percent — or an additional 1.5 percent over the city’s regular sales tax.
Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach and the City Council supported placing this high burden on the public to help finance Prairiefire in one of the most affluent parts of the city, along 135th Street between Nall and Lamar avenues.
Combined with the city sales tax support and STAR bonds from Kansas, the shopping center will get almost half of its backing from the public, or $61 million out of $130 million.
Overland Park’s decision to impose its highest sales tax on Prairiefire shoppers conflicts, at least partly, with the city’s preferred way of doing business. It usually tries to give no or low public incentives to economic development deals, especially when it comes to retail.
Gerlach, in a statement, contended the project was worth it, partly because Prairiefire eventually will feature exhibition space for the American Museum of Natural History. That section will get millions in public assistance from the state. “In two years, hundreds of thousands of people will find in Overland Park something that today only exists in New York City,” he said.
Gerlach was not available to comment early this week on the tax incentives handed out by the city, and why they had to be so large.
The extra 1.5 percent sales tax will help finance a community improvement district at Prairiefire. By comparison, the city has approved higher sales taxes to be collected for two transportation districts — a half percent at Oak Park Mall and 1 percent at Deer Creek Woods.
Overland Park’s decision to boost the completion of the long-delayed Prairiefire is yet another example of how local governments are excessively using public money to benefit private developers.