Basehor City Council debates how to lure tenant to former grocery store building
The Basehor City Council will consider in the next few months whether to dangle a tax-incentive carrot in front of a retail business interested in moving into the former site of the Wolf Creek Marketplace grocery store.
But area residents hoping for another grocery store at the location probably shouldn’t get their hopes up.
The council discussed the possibility of offering tax incentives at its work session Monday after city administrator Mark Loughry said a group had shown interest in opening a retail store in the former Wolf Creek Marketplace building, on Wolf Creek Parkway north of U.S. Highway 24-40 and east of 155th Street.
Loughry said he could not say what the business would be because First National Bank of Olathe, which owns the property, wished to keep negotiations confidential. But he noted that all the building’s furniture, equipment and other remnants of the former grocery store were sold off in an auction earlier this year, which made it unlikely that someone would try to operate another grocery there anytime soon, he said.
“I’m not sure, now that they’ve sold everything in it, that it has a good chance of being a grocery store,” Loughry said.
Craig Nichols, a senior vice president with First National Bank, confirmed on Tuesday that the bank is negotiating with a potential occupant.
At the work session, Loughry said the bank was looking to sell the building to an operator, but the bank and the interested group were not close to a deal, even though the bank was asking for less than half of what the Wolf Creek Marketplace operators had owed on the property.
“It’s clear that nothing’s coming in there very quickly,” Loughry said.
An offer of incentives on property or sales taxes, he said, might speed up the negotiation process and move the bank and the potential occupant close enough to strike a deal.
Mayor Terry Hill said at the meeting that it was vital for the city to make sure that a new business moves into the building, in order to encourage further development along Wolf Creek Parkway. No fast-food franchisee, for example, would want to build a restaurant near an empty 40,000-square-foot building, Hill said.
“No matter how this unfolds, with or without incentives, it’s imperative that we get something in that building, so it’s not empty,” Hill said.
The building is certainly empty now. A webpage announcing the January equipment auction on the website Qicbid.com listed everything from shopping carts to a rotisserie oven as up for bidding. Even the “Marketplace” sign from the front of the building is gone now, leaving only the words “Wolf Creek” below the former store’s howling-wolf logo.
Council members who spoke about the issue at the work session said they would be willing to consider tax incentives for a new occupant of the building, but they wanted to be cautious about giving up potential revenue for the city.
Member Jim Washington said he would prefer for an offer of incentives to be made as part of a negotiation process with a specific group looking to move in, rather than making an open offer of incentives to any potential business.
“You can’t negotiate against yourself,” Washington said.
Loughry said the interested group had not asked the city for incentives. Rather, he said, he was asking for the city to proactively offer the incentives in an effort to fill the building.
“What I’m looking for is something we can just put out there to anybody who’s interested, saying, ‘This is what the city would do for a retail establishment that will generate this much money,” Loughry said.
He suggested the city could require that the new business generate a certain amount of annual sales for the tax incentives to kick in, perhaps $2 million.
Member Dennis Mertz noted that, because the city was already collecting sizable property taxes on the building even as it lies empty, a reduction on taxes for a new occupant might mean that a new business would generate little extra revenue for the city.
“There’s a double-edged sword here,” Mertz said. “It could possibly bring more businesses into that area and be an anchor, so it would be an investment by us.”
Loughry said the bank was currently on the hook for more than $50,000 in annual property taxes on the building and the land, paid to the city, the county and other taxing entities.
Also during Monday’s work session, the council:
• Discussed two requests from Consolidated Water District No. 1 regarding the construction of the district’s new water tower.
The district asked the city to waive the excise tax paid for the construction, which was about $3,900, and to pay for the painting of a “welcome” message on the tower, which will cost about $5,200, according to the water district.
Basehor-Linwood School District superintendent David Howard spoke earlier in the meeting, asking the council to consider including a Basehor-Linwood High School Bobcat logo in the city’s design for the water tower.
The council will consider those issues at its regular meeting later this month.
• During a special regular-meeting session, approved, 5-0, a resolution establishing a public meeting for May 16 regarding the planned annexation of three lots in the Cedar Falls subdivision.