Archive for Thursday, February 22, 2007

Towne Center expansion possible

February 22, 2007

The city's quest to lure retail development into Towne Center is close to being realized. And depending no what transpires, it could mean an even bigger Towne Center than previously envisioned.

The Lansing City Council will hear presentations in a work session tonight from Neil Shortlidge, a city attorney, and Chase Simmons, an attorney with the Kansas City, Mo., law firm Polsinelli, Shalton Flanigan Suelthaus regarding tax-increment financing and how it could be used to bring two big-box stores and other retailers to Towne Center and an area on Main Street stretching from West Mary Street north to Kay Street.

City Administrator Mike Smith said Simmons represents a group of developers that is ready to go forward with building plans.

"These talks started eight months ago and have evolved from there," Smith said earlier this week. "They've spent serious money doing due diligence, and they're ready to move forward."

The city has been through numerous disappointments in which officials have been teased with various plans for the development of Towne Center, a 32-acre site that stretches from West Mary Street to 4-H Road along the west side of Kansas Highway 7.

Smith isn't guaranteeing the latest plans will go through, but he is optimistic.

"Things could change. They could back out," Smith said.

But he said the city has been involved in serious negotiations, and this time the developers have something previous interested parties didn't.

"They think they can buy the property from (current owner David) Christie, and I'm pretty sure they can, too," Smith said.

The deal also will hinge on tax-increment financing. A TIF, as it is called, looks at how much tax revenue a particular area is generating today, and then looks at how much tax revenue it generates once the project is complete. The additional tax dollars generated by the project are captured and set aside to pay for public infrastructure related to the project, such as parking, streets or groundwork produced by the city to facilitate the project.

Also key to the deal would be the purchase of 22 houses now in the area north of West Mary to Kay Street. Owners of most of those properties already have been contacted about selling to the developers.

"It sounds like most of them are willing or have signed on the dotted line," Smith said.

If council members like what they hear tonight, Smith said he would place items on the March 1 council agenda so the project could move officially move forward.

Conducting the necessary hearings and actions for a TIF could take six months, Smith said, noting there are resolutions required, findings of fact, hearings involving the Lansing Planning Commission, School Board and Leavenworth County Commission.

The beauty of a TIF, he said, is the city would not have to put out any cash outlay as an incentive.

"There's no money directly out of our pocket," he said. "It's not like we have to write a check for $500,000 or $700,000 or whatever."

Smith said although the developers have a plan solely for the existing Towne Center, their preference is for the project to be extended north to Kay Street.

"They've looked at another piece with just one box store in Towne Center, but I think they're leaning like they've got to have it this way (to Kay Street)," he said.

The council's work session is at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 800 First Terrace.

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