Tax-abatement supported for downtown redevelopment at Third and Market

rpulley@lsjournal.comOctober 2, 2013 

Orthodontist Craig Grider won a recommendation for a 10-year tax abatement to help him redevelop a site to move his practice to downtown Lee’s Summit.

He’s asking for incentives under the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority to help with costs of demolishing a former gas station and constructing a new 3,000-square-foot clinic at the southwest corner of Third and Market streets.

The LCRA board voted Sept. 25 to recommend abatement for part of Grider’s redevelopment costs, such as costs of removal of a waste oil tank and environmental remediation, but said some costs such as asphalt replacement should be borne by a developer.

“We’re looking for redevelopment of a corner that’s been an eyesore for a long time,” said Keith Asel, chairman of the LCRA.

Grider told the LCRA board that he would incur extra expenses erecting a new building and replacing the parking lot, while meeting the city’s downtown design standards. The City Council is to have a public hearing on the development plan on Thursday Oct. 3 and on the tax abatemetn Oct. 10.

There is a vacant shell on the site, and Grider said he could have expanded that existing building (while improving the exerior) and used the existing parking lot at much less expense. City staff had strongly urged him to renew the site and build his office to conform to the newly adopted downtown design standards, he said.

Grider’s project is to cost $759,800 and the LCRA is recommending a 100-percent real property tax abatement (above the land value of $94,000) for 10 years but not to exceed $141,000. A qualification of expenses shall be submitted prior to the issuance of the certificate of qualification for tax abatement.

Christine Bushyhead, a lawyer representing Grider, said the project could result in new visitors to downtown, as he has patients from as far away as Odessa or central Kansas City, which could help add to sales taxes downtown.

The final design and costs are somewhat in flux, so Grider may apply to amend the abatement.

Grider said that after the Planning Commission recommended denial of his project, he’s changed the design of windows so the spacing is more even. He said there is ongoing discussion of moving the building farther east on the lot, closer the corner of Market, to help the site resemble older buildings on corner lots.

City staff had previously asked him place it on farther west in order to keep two street entrances, and the shift might require rebuilding an entrance, another extra expense.

The LCRA board discussed which costs were appropriate for abatement.

Asel said that because the City Council indicated it expects downtown abatements to offset extra costs compared to “green field” development, for him it is acceptable to include work required to meet the downtown standards. Member Troy Pfiefer noted that requirements such as switching from stucco to all-brick would about double the cost for the exterior walls. Member Bill Brown said he could see those points, but warned that the city should be cautious about setting a precedent, although he voted for the abatement.

“Are we going to start incentivizing every building because the city passed new standards?” Brown asked.

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