Friday, March 16, 2018

Soccer complex needs $8 million investment from Grandview in order to proceed

by Mary Wilson,

The developers of Gateway Village are asking the City of Grandview for an investment into the private development before the project can proceed. On Tuesday, March 6, representatives of the project met with the Grandview Board of Aldermen, leaving an $8 million question on the table.

“Basically, we are at the end of our rope, to be brutally honest,” said Greg Cotton, President of PG, LLC, Gateway’s development company. “Hopefully we can move this project that has been a big dream for the past several years into reality. Quite candidly, we’ve heard that there might be some bad blood between the Board and our development group and maybe some deal fatigue setting in. It’s a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar deal, and that takes a lot of time. That’s not the type of partners we want to be.”

Cotton added that his team believes in the power of a public-private partnership. Gateway is asking the City of Grandview to make a contribution into the infrastructure of the development, including roads, lighting, grading, gas and sewers that would in-turn be owned by the city.

In 2016, the Board of Aldermen approved a tax-increment financing (TIF) plan, and while the project scope has stayed roughly the same since then, there have been a few changes. The 250-acre site, owned by PG, LLC, located off of 150 Highway and Byars Road, will feature 15 synthetic soccer and sporting fields, a multi-sport fieldhouse, approximately 400,000 square feet of retail, 540 hotel rooms, 864 new residential units for over 2000 new residents in Grandview, and would bring in roughly 1.8 million visitors annually.

“We had an agreement a year and a half ago, and now you’re asking for something different,” said Mayor Leonard Jones.

Currently, the property generates $1000 per year in property taxes. Over the lifespan of the TIF, Cotton said that the City could see $155 million in projected new tax revenues from the development. PG also estimates around 400 new jobs will be created between the construction of the project and openings associated with the commercial retail and soccer operations.

“This is a project that is fully designed and shovel ready,” said Cotton. “The reason that this project is here is that we, as a development team, are the beneficiaries of a 25-year market-rate lease with Heartland Soccer Association. That is, without a doubt, the most lucrative youth sports contract in the United States. That supports a certain amount of debt repayment.”

All of the money from the Heartland lease has been pledged to repay the private debt that will be incurred to pay for the fields. Heartland Soccer Association requires, according to Cotton, that those fields be opened as soon as possible.

“They want it by the fall of 2018,” said Cotton. “We are under intense time pressure to get that done.”

According to Cotton, every other area soccer complex has been paid for using public funds. Because the market has been accustomed to these developments being paid for publicly, bank underwriters have not seen a private development of this scale.

“What we’re talking about here is the very first live, work, play and entertainment zone complex, truly, in the country,” said Cotton. “We’re calling this Soccer 3.0. It will attract a huge volume of people that are all looking for commercial opportunities.”

The development will be constructed in phases, and the first phase was discussed last Tuesday. The first part of phase one, called project one, includes the soccer field installation and commercial development that is ancillary to the soccer portion of the complex. Approved in 2016, the pay-as-you-go $43.7 million TIF agreement and CID (community improvement district) plan must be pledged to the lending organization in order to repay private debts incurred, according to Cotton.

“The developer, as the plan is situated today, takes 100 percent of the risk of operating this facility,” said Cotton.

After the TIF was approved, the developer was unable to obtain financing on the entire phase one. Multiple lenders suggested that the first phase be broken down into two projects. The construction costs for project one came in around $38.5 million, which included $9.2 million in infrastructure expenses.

“The consensus was, after meeting with 15-18 different lenders, that the city didn’t have any skin in the game up front in terms of real cash,” said Matt Webster, Senior Vice President of George K. Baum and Company, who has served as a financial advisor for the developers. “The banks didn’t really have any interest in lending on the roads and improvements to those roads that would ultimately be dedicated to the city.”

The $9.2 million infrastructure cost was shaved down to $8 million in order for the developer to feel comfortable with the repayment sources, and the banks felt that an infrastructure contribution from the city was vital to financing the development, according to Cotton.

“We are asking the City for $8 million in infrastructure cost improvements, whether built by the city, built by us, or whatever process the city would allocate or create,” said Cotton. “We came to that number from the total infrastructure costs being $9.2 million, then meeting with the banks and our experts and getting the loan to cost ratios to a level that the banks would say yes. This $8 million is critical.”

Cotton said that while the City’s TIF agreement with the developers is a significant investment, underwriters do not view that as a direct contribution into the project. Besides the pressure to complete the fields from Heartland Soccer, the developers are also feeling pressure from the banks, as the predevelopment line of credit has been exhausted. $7 million of the developer’s private funds have been invested into the project as payments continue to be made on that preconstruction loan.

“We were at the end of our rope when we met with the Aldermen last time, and we’re even more now,” said Cotton. “Over the past seven or eight months as we’ve tried to get this project started, that’s real money that has racked up.  $7 million of private investment in Grandview is a significant amount of money. We can no longer afford to continue making those payments.”

With the $8 million ask, the City of Grandview’s total investment into phase one of the project would be around 21 percent, or three percent of the completed development. The total development expense for the entire Gateway Village project is $234 million. The City of Grandview previously suggested that a neighborhood improvement district (NID) be implemented in order to help cover the investment costs the developer was requesting of the city. According to Cotton, lenders viewed this is a developer debt and not equity. In February, the developers received a final offer from the City of Grandview that included $3.7 million of infrastructure costs, which the developer deemed insufficient.

The developers suggested that the City of Grandview carve out portions of funds from other allocated sources to cover the $8 million infrastructure costs. According to the City of Grandview’s economic development director Troy Nash, the city does not wish to incur any new debts for the project and create liability or obligation. Alderman Sandy Kessinger stated that the developer should consider decreasing the already-agreed-upon TIF amount by $8 million, which already included reimbursable infrastructure costs.

“I work at a bank, and I know that infrastructure costs are usually factored in,” said Kessinger. “I think it’s interesting that you say you’ve talked with 20 banks who say they won’t finance the infrastructure. To my knowledge, since I’ve been on the Board, we’ve had a lot of private development projects come across and we’ve never had another company ask us to finance infrastructure.”

Previously, the City has been told that the developer did not wish to change the initial agreement, and that the $8 million infrastructure costs are over and above the agreed-upon TIF plan. Through conversations last Tuesday, the developer has now agreed to adjust the TIF plan accordingly should the City of Grandview decide to fund the infrastructure for the development.

Cotton said that the project is unique and should be considered a community amenity, which will benefit more than the private developer.

“Deron Cherry is giving a gift, in many ways, to the citizens of this city,” said Cotton. “He is putting his own private money where public entities have only put their money before. There are probably 8 million reasons not to do this. We know and we’ve been told that the city can’t afford it since day one. This is a city that prides itself on fiscal conservatism and has managed its budget extremely well over the years, and you should be proud of that. But, at the end of the day, this is a project that doesn’t land in your lap very often. This is an opportunity to create a project that is truly transformative.”

The City of Grandview’s general fund, which has not seen an increase in the last 10 years, is approximately $15 million annually. City Administrator Cemal Gungor said that because the City is responsible for taking care of 26,000 residents who have other needs than soccer fields, $8 million is a scary figure to try and allocate out of that general fund. Ultimately, a decision will be made one way or another by the Board of Aldermen later this month on how they plan to proceed with Gateway’s request.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Grandview Schools focus on district safety

Partnerships with the community are key to student safety, and the Grandview School District, according to Assistant Superintendent Ann Marie Cook, has a great relationship with the Grandview Police Department. Recently, as part of PREP-KC’s career day activities, Grandview Police Officer Monica Romero talked with students at Martin City Elementary School.

by Mary Wilson,

With the tragedies in Parkland, Florida, still fresh in the minds of community members, administration from the Grandview School District provided a timely discussion to the Board of Education regarding safety in schools during their regular meeting on Thursday, February 22.

According to Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Finance Ann Marie Cook, the district is still working to utilize bond funding to complete safety enhancement upgrades throughout the district. In the last two years, there have been parking lot improvements and fire alarm system upgrades.

“We have Martin City slated for this summer, which will be the final upgrade or replacement of all the fire alarm systems,” said Cook. “This has been a multi-year project that includes camera systems and intercom upgrades. We’ve done a lot, but we still need to do a lot of things as it relates to safety.”

Over the last year or so, the district has maintained a focus on student reporting, and has implemented security scans and completed staff, student and parent surveys regarding safety.

“Probably the thing I’m most excited about is that the safety committee has really evolved over the years,” said Cook. “It was focused more on doing walkabouts to make sure we didn’t have slip trip hazards and those sort of things, and it really has changed in where we are focusing our efforts. It is now much broader.”

The district is currently in the process of reframing the safety committee, creating what they refer to as “safety silos,” which include physical safety, student safety and staff safety. While there may be some overlap, according to Cook, the intent and desire is to share ideas and implement programs that will ensure safety while students and staff are in the district’s buildings.

“I think this will provide us an opportunity to dig a little deeper and improve some of our practices,” said Cook. “I think we’ve made a lot of improvements over the last several years, but there’s always more that we can and should be doing.”

The district has a strong partnership with the Grandview Police Department and the Grandview Fire Department, which are both part of the district’s safety meetings and conduct various trainings throughout the year. Every year during spring break, Grandview Fire Marshal Lew Austin does a walk-through in all school buildings to ensure their safety.

“We are extremely fortunate to have those partnerships because they help us create and keep a safe environment for our staff and our kiddos,” said Cook.

Grandview also continues to work on updating its crisis plans, looking for consistency and alignment with safety standards. While physical safety is important, the district continues to look for ways to increase the feeling of safety for students and staff in the buildings.

“Student reporting is critical in helping minimize or eliminate threats to the schools and other students,” said Cook.

Since becoming superintendent, Dr. Kenny Rodrequez has worked to implement a change in the way staff thinks about safety.

“As superintendent, I’m taking matters of student safety very seriously,” said Rodrequez. “I think we pushed the envelope quite a bit over the last year with things that we’re doing. I’m not a big fan of us constantly having to be reactive. I want to be as proactive as possible. We can’t resolve everything and we can’t stop everything; however, there are a lot of things that we can prevent.”

While he says that the district is on a good path, Rodrequez added that the district isn’t anywhere near where they should be. In a conference he recently attended, safety was a widely-discussed topic. One session focused on the importance of a relationship with the first responders in the community, which Rodrequez said is strong in Grandview. 

“I’m very proud of the work that we have done,” said Rodrequez. “We will continue to do everything we can to make sure everyone is as safe as possible.”

Friday, February 23, 2018

Local mom creates clever way to hang laundry

by Mary Wilson

One Grandview family is hoping to change the way you hang your clothing with their invention. Majigeez (pronounced similar to thingamajigs) are flexible attachments that Jessica Del Rosario and her husband, Larry San Nicolas, came up with to prevent shoulder bumps and clothes falling off of everyday hangers.

“It all started with my son’s NFL jerseys, which he wore a bigger size in, that were really high dollar and we had to save money for,” said Del Rosario. “You can’t dry them and you don’t want to fold them, so we started modifying our hangers. We did that, just waiting for something to come out in the market so we could hang his clothes.”

Over the years, Del Rosario and her family continued to struggle with hanging their clothes properly, and instead of using hangers, she noticed her son would just stack his clothes on a table. Later, when another sibling was in junior high, Del Rosario noticed that her daughter’s clothes were all over the floor of her closet and not hanging up where they should be.

“I was rewashing things she hadn’t even worn because they’d been on the floor and had gotten all wrinkled,” said Del Rosario. “I told her I’d just start throwing all her clothes on the floor because that’s where they end up anyway. She then showed me that when she moved her clothes around on the hangers, they would fall off.”

It was then that Del Rosario decided to go back to the drawing board for her hanger modifications. From that point on, the family got busy making a prototype. Together with their son, Frank Arceo, they came up with the hanger attachments. Using materials around the house, San Nicholas came up with the first prototype that satisfied both Del Rosario and Arceo.

“Once we had the way, we tweaked it some and went to a patent attorney in 2011,” said Del Rosario. “After several years of battling, we finally landed our patent in 2016. We trademarked the name just before that. Our attorney kept giving us deadlines, and told us we had to come up with a name before we had the patent, so we had to figure out what to call it.”

Majigeez were born. With a background in drafting and design, Arceo worked with a manufacturer to come up with several different working prototypes that lived up to his mom’s idea and his dad’s model. During the design phase, they determined what current hangers were lacking. They discovered that hangers are rigid, too short for larger clothing; velvet hangers can cause bunching; toddler hangers are too small after a certain time; and wood hangers caused bumps in sweaters, leathers and jerseys.

Their product is the only resilient and flexible hanger attachment in the world. Majigeez are the only attachments that will fit on almost every household hanger, and they adapt to the weight of sweaters, shirts, jackets, blouses, and delicates to provide a natural curve. By attaching Majigeez to hangers (velvet, store, plastic, wire, and toddler), users can get the most out of hangers they already have. The product prevents shoulder bumps, and provides added benefits of hang-drying wet garments, extending the length of hangers (men’s 7XL and women’s 4XL), holding garments up to 10 pounds, and maximizing the longevity of toddler hangers into adult sizes.

“My mom, who is 89-years-old, can work these,” said Del Rosario. “We used her as our tester to make sure that anyone can attach them to hangers they have in their homes.”

The family has traveled to invention conventions, where their product was favorably received. While they eventually would like to seek out potential investors, Del Rosario said they hope to keep Majigeez in the family for as long as possible.

“We talked about partnering with a big company, but we decided not to go with them because it was a royalty type of agreement,” said Del Rosario. “That company would essentially own it all and give us a small percentage. We decided we want to try it out on our own; and in fact, our manufacturer encouraged us to.”

Majigeez will be sold in pairs of eight for $19.99, and their online retail store will be launching soon. In the meantime, Del Rosario and her family hope to sell their product at different merchandise shows and events. For more information, visit their website at, or follow Majigeez on Facebook. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Area’s oldest operating auction house to close its doors

by Mary Wilson

After 40 years, England’s Auction in Grandview will host its final sale on Friday, February 16. Over the last four decades, hundreds of buyers from all corners of the metro have spent their Friday evenings with Mike England.

In 1977, England, with his brother and father, purchased the auction business that began in 1960, at 1530 Duck Road in Grandview. Four years later, England purchased his family’s shares of the business. England’s Auction is the oldest operating auction house in Kansas City, a status that England is proud of.

“We’ve probably been the best kept secret in Grandview,” said England, a 1964 Grandview High School alum. “We have seen customers from all over the city. We’ve had thousands of customers.”

Early on, the auctions were twice a week, but eventually the sales were scheduled once weekly on Fridays. England’s four daughters grew up working in the family business, and he said the work is hard but never dull.

“It’s kind of a niche business,” said England. “It’s just what I do. I think this year I’m close to almost 2,500 auctions.”

He now sees the grandchildren of customers who used to come to the auctions years ago. Most weeks, England said he sees roughly 200 people on Friday nights, and some of them are repeat customers who have reserved seating.

England’s Auction received most of their items to sell from estates, moving sales and storage delinquencies. England’s was the first auction company in the area to sell storage, and he handled the advertising and public notices for the warehouses. “I have contracts with storage companies all over the city,” said England. “There’s quite a bit of stuff involved with that. There’s a lot of trash. It’s evolved so much; there are now thousands of mini storage units.”

England’s Auction hauls the contents to their facility and prepares them for the weekly auctions. Each week on Mondays, England has walked into a nearly-empty building and is tasked with filling it with auction items in three days.  Items sold run the gamut from household items to furniture. England says they don’t sell anything pretentious and it’s never been fancy. Some nights England’s has done $200,000 in sales, and other nights $4,000.

“I’m probably the craziest auctioneer in Kansas City,” said England. “People come here for entertainment. Years ago, the Mayor would come up and hold stuff for me; then it was the Chief of Police. A lot of people know who we are.”

He doesn’t plan to retire completely, and will continue to piddle with auctioneering now and again. With his children grown, he is looking forward to spending some quality time with his wife of 51 years, Sheila.

“We’ve had only one vacation in 40 years,” said England. “When you work for yourself, you’re pretty much married to the business.”

According to England, his building has been sold to a local real estate rehabilitation company. As he prepares for the doors to close for a final time on Friday, England said that leaving his 40-year business is a little bittersweet because he built the company and it’s as if his best friend is dying.

“An auctioneer is a bit like a doctor,” said England. “All these people, they think I’m their best friend. Though, I’m not sure I’d want to invite them to dinner. But this business becomes personal. I wanted to quit while I was still vertical.”

When people would ask England how business was doing, he would always say, “It’s as good to me as I am to it.” He believes that if he wasn’t good to England’s Auctions, it wouldn’t have been good to him. Many folks in the community have spent their Friday nights at the auction, and England’s business has certainly been good to Grandview for 40 years. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Candidates prepare for April election

*Editor's Note: In the February 8, 2018 published edition, we incorrectly stated that Clifford Ragan had resigned from the Hickman Mills Board of Education. We apologize for the misprint. 

by Mary Wilson

Filing for those seeking office in the upcoming April local elections closed last month in Grandview and South Kansas City. The City of Grandview, Grandview C-4 School District and Hickman Mills C-1 School District were all open for potential candidates to run.

In the Grandview C-4 School District, there were three positions open. The Grandview Board of Education has had a vacancy since former president Wayne Terpstra resigned late last year. His seat was available for a two-year term, and Monica Terry, Grandview resident and district parent, filed for that position unopposed. Incumbents Leonard Greene, current board president, and Chuck Cornforth filed to continue serving another three-year term, also unopposed. Due to no opposition, the school district will not hold an election in April.

The Hickman Mills C-1 School District will see five candidates on their ballots on April 3. There are two seats open for a three-year term and one seat available for a one-year term, due to the vacancy created by the resignation of Byron Townsend. Luther Chandler has filed for the one-year term, while Sandra Sexton, current president Carol Graves, incumbent Alvin Brooks and William Young have filed for the two open three-year seats.

The City of Grandview Board of Aldermen had three openings for the three respective wards. Sandra Kessinger, Annette Turnbaugh, and James Crain each filed to retain their seats on the Board. Grandview voters will have the opportunity to suggest write-in candidates, or vote for the incumbents.

“Since I am running uncontested, I will begin my third term in April,” said Kessinger. “In the time I’ve been in office, I have been privileged to be a part of some very exciting activities in the City, including the renovation of Truman’s Marketplace and downtown Main St. I am humbled to continue to be a part of the forward momentum that is helping to reshape our collective identity.”

The last day to register to vote for the April 3, 2018, general election will be March 7. Those wishing to register can do so online at the Secretary of State’s website,

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

KC history comes alive in Grandview classroom

by Mary Wilson

Not all high schoolers have the opportunity to learn about their own communities, but students at Grandview High School are receiving an education on Kansas City culture and history. Teachers Diane Euston and Mike Stringer, who teach English and history respectively, have combined forces to offer Grandview juniors and seniors a fresh and different perspective on local history and the influence of various cultures, events and circumstances that impacted the development of the area.

The course, Crossroads of America: Survey of Kansas City, exposes students to a seminar style, interdisciplinary study environment where both a social studies and an English teacher co-teach the class, offering insight to genealogical research with a secured grant through, primary and secondary sources, document-based questions, scholarly publications and a culminating activity that will include a formal research paper over a chosen aspect of local history.

“We sort of handpicked the students,” said Euston. “It is an elective. We promised these ‘recruits’ that it would be fun and worth it. So far, so good. We were just so excited to have this opportunity to merge our passion of the history of Kansas City and share it in a unique way. We want students to be excited to learn about history, and challenge them as well. Even in Grandview, there is such a cool backdrop to the city. It's our goal to take these students back and time and have them uncover the past, survey the area and reflect on where we go from here.”

By partnering English and history together, the course develops a strong and mutually-supportive focus to benefit the students, school and community. The 25 students enrolled in the class will also have the opportunity for field experiences, including tours of local areas like Watts Mill, New Santa Fe, historical homes, the Battles of Westport and Island Mound, and the Grandview Bushwhacker Conflicts.

“I am really excited for when we do a tour of Grandview area, and I can show the kids where all these bushwhackers lived and the shady stuff they did back in the day,” said Euston. “Tim Reidy, Rockhurst High School teacher, guided us. He has been teaching a class on this for a while, and though we aren't doing the same thing as he is, there is no other public school that I know of in the metro area teaching a class like this; and certainly not with two teachers in this type of setting.”

This week, students in the class were creating a map of the Kansas City area from the 1850s, labeling key landmarks such as Kaw Point, Westport Landing, Fort Osage, Red Bridge and New Santa Fe, and the rivers that flow through the region.  Students can be creative and artistic, while learning about the community they are from.

“I’ve always wanted to learn more about our history. I’ve lived here for years, so why not learn more about the place you live in,” said senior Christabella Ramirez. “When I first came to the class, I didn’t even know anything about the Oregon Trail. We played the game and it was pretty fun. I did die a few times, but then I finally made it all the way through the game.”

Junior Nick Johnson said that while growing up in the area, he and his family would drive past different monuments or historical places, and he is getting the chance to learn the history behind them now.

“The high school I was at before didn’t really have a class like this, so it’s nice to be exposed to something new,” said Johnson. “I hope I can learn things and pass the experience onto my children and my family.”

Euston and Stringer knew of the need for new, innovative classes in the district, and thought that an interdisciplinary class proposal would fit the bill.

“The work that our teachers do each and every day is the driver in preparing our students for their futures,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Juan Cordova. “Grandview C-4 empowers teachers to find ways to reach today's students.  Our work in cultural competency, innovation classrooms, and a number of other initiatives are all designed to empower our teachers to be equipped for the students of today and prepared for those students to come.  By having teachers be a part of the curriculum and instruction process, we tap into those closest to students and all parties benefit from the work.”

“We were passionate about making this happen, and I think that passion shows when we teach together,” said Euston. “We wrote a class proposal, met with a committee and were approved last year. We hope that we can continue to learn and develop this class so it exists for years to come.”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Grandview man charged in weekend homicide

On Sunday, January 14, Grandview Police were dispatched to the Arbors of Grandview apartment complex on report of a burned body found near a dumpster. The officers responded to 6715 E 119th Street, where they discovered a 27-year-old female victim from Grandview.

The victim, Lynnette Williams (dob: 05/26/90), suffered traumatic injuries and was burned. On Tuesday, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker charged 27-year-old Kasanova Callier, of Grandview, with Murder 2nd Degree and Armed Criminal Action charges.

When officers arrived on the scene, they extinguished the fire and tracked where Williams’s body was dragged in the snow from an apartment complex stairwell nearby. They also found blood and heard from witnesses of a disturbance in the apartment where police had responded previously on domestic disturbances involving the victim and the defendant. The Medical Examiner advised the victim had suffered deep cuts to her throat and a stab wound to her abdomen. Callier's shoe was matched to a unique shoe print found near the drag marks at the crime scene. Evidence of blood was found in the apartment. Callier told Grandview detectives that Williams was a bad mother and she had tried to stab him so he had to kill her.

Prosecutors requested a bond of $250,000 cash.