Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2005

Towne Center developer bows out

September 22, 2005, 12:00 a.m.

Updated: September 22, 2005, 6:58 a.m.

Six months after it entered into a much-heralded agreement with a Kansas City, Mo.-based firm, the city is looking for a new developer of record for Towne Center.

Kessinger/Hunter & Co. last week sent the city a letter withdrawing from the agreement, City Administrator Mike Smith said. The action comes less than a month after the Lansing City Council served notice that Kessinger/Hunter was in breach of its contract.

Asked what the city's next step would be, Smith said, "We're courting another developer for Towne Center."

Kessinger/Hunter in March became the first developer of record since Towne Center's launch in 2001. The firm was hired after a falling out between the city and Overland Park developer David Christie, who owns most of the 32-acre site along the west side of Kansas Highway 7 between West Mary Street and 4-H Road.

"It just didn't work out," with Kessinger/Hunter, Smith said. "But we'll continue to be aggressive and march forward."

Kessinger/Hunter was required under its contract with the city to purchase the property from Christie, but Smith said Kessinger/Hunter ultimately would "not commit financially for the purchase of land," or at least put its commitment in writing.

The withdrawal does not mean Kessinger/Hunter is completely out of the picture for developing Towne Center.

"They may go in with somebody else," in a development partnership, Smith said.

He added the city would be interested in working with Christie, too, under the right circumstances.

"If Christie would come up and bring something to the table we think has merit : we'd certainly entertain that," Smith said.

City officials are looking to recreate a downtown Lansing on the site. They're hoping for a large "big-box" retailer to anchor the area -Target, Kohl's or the like - and also attract more shops, restaurants and perhaps a movie theater. For its part, the city already has invested about $2 million in infrastructure improvements on the site.

Smith made it clear what he doesn't want to see going into Towne Center.

"Competition for our existing businesses," he said. "We're not here to damage another business here in town."

Jeff Dozier, vice president for retail development with Kessinger/Hunter had said earlier this year he had been in talks with "three or four big names" interested in Lansing. Dozier did not return a phone call for comment.

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