Thursday, March 24, 2011

Main Street Inn Fails to Sell at Auction

Contents Sell for $5,000 to one owner

By Seann McAnally
Main Street Inn does not have a new owner, despite a public March 16 auction of the property. 

The Internal Revenue Service seized the once-famous family restaurant and gift shop when the current owner, Shawn Sanders, defaulted on state and federal taxes. 

The minimum bid for the restaurant real estate was $12,500 – but there were no takers. 

“Folks, I’ve never seen this happen before,” said IRS auctioneer Robert Brown. He opined the tax lien on the property – some $140,000 – kept buyers from bidding, because they would have been responsible for those back taxes in addition to the minimum bid. 

But the contents of the restaurant were quickly auctioned off to a single bidder. 

“We just came up for fun and bought the whole thing,” said Ernie Timbrook. He and his business partner, Jim Wolters, are hot air balloonists from California, MO. They bid $5,000 for everything in the restaurant – all the fixtures, furniture, kitchen equipment, and dozens of bins of toys and collectibles from the old Main Street Inn gift shop. It was the collectibles that drew Timbrook to the auction. 

“I buy and sell stuff on Ebay on the side,” Timbrook said. Minutes after his successful bid, hopeful auction-goers crowded around him making offers for individual pieces of merchandise as Wolton handed cash to IRS agents.
“I need to think this through,” Timbrook told the crowd. “Just give me your numbers and what you’re interested in and we’ll work something out.” 

Some of those people had already made bids on equipment in the restaurant. But because no one bought the real estate, the rest had to be sold for “one money,” as Brown put it. That is, if the real estate had sold, the IRS could have parceled up the rest of the items and sold them piecemeal. Without a real estate sale, the restaurant’s contents were an all-or-nothing deal. 

Liane Dobbins, a former cook at the restaurant, said she was disappointed. She’d bid on an antique gas stove, two smokers, and some other kitchen equipment. But when the real estate failed to sell, her bids were void. 

“It’s all going for a lot less than it’s actually worth,” she said, adding that it was too bad no one bought the real estate itself. 

“I was really hoping someone would buy this place and reopen it,” Dobbins said. “It was a hopping place once…there are a lot of great memories here. I’m trying not to cry.” 

The real estate now reverts to Sanders and his mortgage holders, and will remain – for the time being, at least – a vacant storefront. 

Jan Martinette, former mayor, alderman and state representative, said the closed restaurant was a “shame.”

“I hoped we’d have something nice here,” she said. “This is just a sign of the times.”

Slay James New KC Mayor

After what is already being called one of the friendliest elections in local history, Kansas City has a new mayor, and his name is Sly James. Though early results from the Northland favored his opponent, Mike Burke, James surged ahead once all precincts began to report. James took 54 (38,265) percent of the vote, while Burke garnered 46 percent (32,117). The close numbers match those of February’s primary, when only  28 votes separated the two candidates.
James said his top priorities as mayor would be what he called the “Four E’s” - Employment,  Enforcement, Education, and   Efficiency.
“We’re facing some very real challenges right now. We need to create jobs, get tougher on crime, improve our schools, and make City Hall work for the people who live here,” James said during the campaign.
Burke was gracious in defeat.
“We have so many things to be proud of. And I’m pleased that as a result of tonight’s election, we will have a mayor that will help tell that Kansas City story and make us proud again.”
Meanwhile in City Council’s 6th District, voters gave incumbent John Sharp another term with a comfortable 67 percent of the vote (8,808) to 33 percent (4,401) gained by challenger Terrence Nash.
The 6th District At Large seat will stay in the family, as Scott Taylor took 61 percent of the vote (37,295) to win election to the council seat being vacated by his wife, Cathy Jolly. His opponent, Tracy Ward, took 39 percent of the vote (23,808).
The 5th District At Large race went to Cindy Circo, who had 74 percent of the vote (46,061). Her opponent, Charlie Angel, took 26 percent (16,132).
In the 4th District, the At Large seat went to Jim Glover with 55 percent (34,788). His opponent, John Crawford, got 45 percent of the vote (28,388).
The 3rd District’s At Large seat was retained by incumbent Melba Curls, who did so with 57 percent (35,231) of the vote. Her challenger, Brandon Ellington, took 43 percent (26,577).
In the 2nd District At Large race, Ed Ford was given another term by voters with 57 percent of the vote (35,465). His challenger, Allen Dillingham, had 43 percent (27,167).
The 1st District At Large seat went to Scott Wagner, who had 70 percent of the vote (42,469). His opponent, Daina Kennedy, had 30 percent (18,365). 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Candidates Face off at SCC

By Andrea Wood

Two things were made clear last Wednesday about the candidates in Kansas City’s upcoming election:
Mayoral candidates Mike Burke and Sly James agree. A lot.
But the differences were distinct between 6th District at-large candidates Scott Taylor and Tracy Ward, as well as 6th District candidates Terrence Nash and John Sharp, during the Southern Communities Coalition candidate forum.
On the topic of the new Bannister redevelopment plan for The Trails, both John Sharp and Scott Taylor felt the plan--with its mix of retail and office space-- was good for the community.
“I live here, and I’d like to be able to shop here,” Councilman Sharp said in support of the recently announced plan.
His opponent, Terrence Nash, said that retail hadn’t worked there in the past, so he found fault with the project.
“We need to get rapid rail in there [at Bannister] first,” Nash said.
The candidates for 6th District at-large also disagreed.
Taylor pointed out that private developers have already invested millions into Bannister through property acquisition and demolition. Therefore, he supported tax incentives to help the project become a reality.
“We need to take this chance while we have it,” he said.
Ward said she would not support city incentives for the redevelopment of Bannister.
“These are big corporations, let them pay for it,” she said. “I don’t want to add any more to taxpayers’ backs.”
Meanwhile, both mayoral candidates said they would support incentives for the project if that was what residents wanted.
“In a perfect world, this project wouldn’t need our assistance in order to happen,” Sly James said. “In reality, this is a competitive environment and sometimes you have to create incentives for businesses to come.”
Burke agreed, and said that he felt the Bannister area was a key opportunity for South Kansas City.
“We don’t want to have what happened with the Wizards,” Burke said. “We need a mayor who knows how to close a deal.”
The candidates fell along the same lines when asked about their support for incentives to bring a hotel to downtown Kansas City to help bring more conventions back to the city.
Councilman Sharp, Taylor and both mayoral candidates said they felt Kansas City needed a downtown hotel, but must be cautious not put the city’s general fund at risk to fund it.
Nash said he did not feel a downtown hotel was economically feasible.
Ward said she would not support incentives for it.
Ward was also opposed the earnings tax, and said that even if the tax is approved by voters in April, she would work to erradicate it.
“The world’s not going to fall apart if we don’t pass the earnings tax,” she said.
Her opponent Taylor, conversely, said that Kansas City must pass the retention of the earnings tax in order to maintain its public safety and infrastructure.
In closing, Taylor pointed out that while he had spoken to the Southern Communities Coalition on a number of times, it was usually to provide updates for his wife, the current 6th District at-large Councilwoman Cathy Jolly.
“You know me, you know my wife, you know my son, and you know I will work hard for you,” Taylor said.
In his closing statements, Nash said he has never run for a public office before, and had never been appointed to any committee due to his at times unpopular opinions.
“Many people disagree with what I say, but it’s a different perspective,” Nash said.
His opponent, Councilman Sharp, said he felt it was important for the 6th District to have have a representative with the education and experience to be effective.
“Otherwise, South Kansas City can tend to be forgotten,” he said.
Both mayoral candidates said they felt their strengths were the ability to be salespeople for Kansas City, to seal deals, even hopping on planes at the last minute to meet with a CEO or politician to help get something accomplished that would be for the benefit of Kansas City.
So what are their differences?
“I dance better than he does, and I know I sing better,” James said about his opponent. “Truthfully, the task of being mayor isn’t about me...it’s about the city.”
Burke  called James a good friend, and noted that they both have an affinity for the people of Kansas City. He said he felt that his strengths were in his knowledge he’d gained both as a former council member and as the chair of PIAC.
“We need a mayor who can hit the ground running,” he said. “I know every part of this city through PIAC.”
Candidates for the other five at-large seats were also in attendance. Their thoughts on the biggest problems facing Kansas City were as follows:
1st District at-large
• Scott Wagner: jobs, more code enforcement officers
• Daina Kennedy: crime, cutting red tape for small businesses
2nd District at-large
• Ed Ford: hallowing out of the urban core
• Allen Dillingham: stop the squabbling at city hall
3rd District at-large
• Melba Curls: safe neighborhoods, better schools
• Brandon Ellington: apathy, crime, education
4th District at-large
• John Crawford: economic development
• Jim Glover: smart budgeting techniques
5th District at-large
• Cindy Circo: vision to tackle multiple issues
• Charlie Angel: jobs, crime

More C-4 Staff Retire

Second Asst Superintendent, two Principals, & Board Secretary to say farewell
 By Paul Thompson
Grandview C-4 said both goodbyes and hellos last Thursday, March 10 at their regularly scheduled meeting.
The district announced their list of retirees last week, and it was revealed long-time employee and assistant superintendent Debra Nelson would be among those retiring. With the recent announcement that Barbara Tate is retiring as well, both of the district’s assistant superintendents are leaving this school year. 
“It was time. I’d been in this business 39 years, and it was time to retire,” said Nelson last Friday.
Nelson was given a warm sendoff at the board meeting, as district staff recorded heartfelt goodbyes that were played on the projector. She also left with some presents from the Board of Education, delivered with great zest by board member Allen Meyer.  Meyer also presented outgoing board member Elliot Threatt with tokens of appreciation from the board.
Nelson, reflecting upon her tenure, acknowledged that she would miss parts of her job.
“I’ll miss those relationships I’ve developed that have turned into friendships. But friendships don’t go away, so I’ll still have that,” Nelson said.
While Nelson’s listed final day was supposed to be last Friday, March 11, the stack of papers on her desk indicated that it would be a little longer until she could ultimately leave her post.
“It was supposed to be today, but as you can see, I’ll be back,” said Nelson with a laugh.
Along with Tate and Nelson, Martin City principal Barbara Schell and Conn-West principal Mary Moore will also be retiring this year. They will be replaced by Johnny Dodge and LaTanya Franklin, respectively. Dodge has been with the district for 16 years, while Franklin is a transplant from the Center School District. Both of the new principals were introduced during the March 10 school board meeting.
Franklin said she was happy to be moving to the Grandview School District.
“I made the decision to pursue another district that would provide more support and more guidance,” Franklin explained. “I feel like I’m moving into another great district.”
Dodge said he was looking forward to getting to get his shot in the district where he’s built years of experience.
“I’ve been here for 16 years and I’m glad that you’ve given me an opportunity to take on Martin City,” said Dodge enthusiastically. “We’ve already started looking at next year.”
Aside from principals and administrators, another notable change has occurred with the position of Secretary to the superintendant. Vicki McGraw, who has been the long-time secretary, will be retiring as well. Filling her shoes is a familiar name within the district, former school board president and real estate agent Kathy Meyers.
“I served on the board for twelve and a half years. I still have a passion for the district, and I recognize that there is a bit of void to be filled,” said Meyers about her new position. “It’s a good time for me to contemplate other business options. It was the right timing for both the school district and for me. I’m excited about it.”

Friday, March 11, 2011

Who's Your Mayor?

See the March 10 print edition for full coverage of the mayoral races in both Kansas City and Grandview, with in-depth candidate interviews. On March 24 we will feature council members and aldermen, and on the 31st we will feature school board candidates.

For a list of where you can pick up a hard copy, or to subscribe (only $22 per year!) click here.

Correction

In the March 10 issue of the Advocate is was inaccurately reported that KC Council members John Sharp and Cathy Jolly were not at a KC budget public hearing at Hillcrest Community Center. In fact, both council members did show up at the meeting. The Advocate regrets the error.

New Bannister Plan Submitted

By Andrea Wood 
Lane4 is back with a new plan for the redevelopment of the Bannister area.
The Trails’ new plan, submitted last week to the Kansas City TIF Commission, calls for 1.6 million square feet of office space surrounding a lake, some 1.2 million square feet of retail, a potential 385-unit apartment or residential complex and a possible hotel.
The hole in the plan left by the subtraction of the soccer stadium and fields is filled in conceptually by “big box” retail facing I-435 and increased space for office complexes.
“The most interesting spark of this revised plan is the incubator space created for the next generation of innovative companies in Kansas City,” said Tim Weaver, Vice-President of Lane4 Property Group. “Those businesses will want places for their employees to shop and eat, so there will be a natural interplay between the retail and office portions of the plan. Combined, this could be a real nucleus of job creation.”
Weaver noted that Cerner, whose CEO Neal Patterson and Vice-Chairman Cliff Illig are among the development group for The Trails, still has 100 acres of the project under contract. City officials have voiced strong support for a potential Cerner campus as part of The Trails.
As part of the new submission to the TIF Commission, Illig and Patterson wrote a letter of support for The Trails, stating that they have invested some $35 million the in project, including land acquisition and the demolition of Bannister Mall.
Developers are asking for less in city and state tax incentives--$191 million for the revised plan, compared to the $273 million requested in the original plan.
“The TIF amendment is an important next step,” Weaver said. “It will take the tenant interest we have now and make it more concrete.”
He encouraged residents to voice support for The Trails’ new plan, and one resident is already vocal about his approval.
“I fully support the revised Trails development plan,” said Lou Austin, director of the 3-Trails Village Community Improvement District. “It updates the now obsolete soccer stadium plan and permits incremental development by multiple developers which greatly expands realistic development opportunities.”
The development is broken into several pieces. Phase A includes three “projects.”
Project 1 focuses on the area where Bannister Mall once stood. It features 812,500 square feet in retail, primarily undetermined “big box” stores.
Project 2 includes 254,000 square feet of retail, including smaller stores and strip-mall type spaces.
Project 3, which overlooks I-435 and connects with 87th Street, includes 100,000 square feet for a potential hotel, and an additional 113,000 square feet of retail.
Phase B of The Trails is located between Hillcrest Road and the Kansas City Southern rail line, and encompasses the former Hypermart building, as well as Benjamin Stables.
Project 4 is dominated by 1.6 million in office complexes, surrounding a lake.
Project 5, the final piece runs along the KC Southern rail line to 87th Street, and calls for four residential buildings with a total of 385 units and a clubhouse.
Phase C, located along 93rd Street and south to Bannister Road, includes a station along the Kansas City Southern rail line, if it were to be included as part of a proposed rapid-rail plan for Jackson County. Currently, federal funding is being used to study the feasibility rail lines stretching east into Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit. A southern line along existing KCS tracks is also part of the proposed rapid-rail plan.
“Long term it is indeed my opinion that the rail potential will not only anchor the development along with a good chunk of South Kansas City, but that it will create the real possibility for sustainable and efficient development that is economically resilient over time,” Austin said. “The rail piece is the ultimate solution – everything else is just short term and transitional – and will not turn South Kansas City’s decline around.”
The TIF Commission has scheduled The Trails hearing for April 13th.
In the meantime, Lane4 is working to improve the Bannister area with additional demolitions. Their website for The Trails states:
“Several older vacant buildings along Bannister Road, and part of the former Bannister Mall project, are coming down! In January, demolition began on the old fire station # 41. While dodging two snowstorms, crews were still able to plow forward. The former Red Lobster and Blockbuster Video buildings are next on the demolition list. Demolition work will continue in the coming months. By removing these ‘eyesore’ buildings and by cleaning up the area we are setting the canvas for beautification of the streetscape along Bannister Road. As the project moves forward plans will be implemented for the new landscaping and new buildings.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Medical Office Slated for 150 Hwy

By Seann McAnally
A developer is poised to receive a 25-year tax abatement to build a medical office complex in Grandview.
LADCO, an Iowa-based developer, has requested a Chapter 353 tax abatement for the project, which would bring the Hickman Mills Clinic to 150 Hwy near Byars Road. The WIC clinic that is currently on the site will be torn down and replaced with a 20,000 square foot medical clinic.
According to city documents, the facility will be the new home of the Hickman Mills Clinic, which will move from South Kansas City. Eight doctors will have offices at the facility. Carondelet Health System will also have offices there, providing specialized medical services, and a pharmacy will round out the tenant list.
The Board of Aldermen held a public hearing Feb. 22 after extensive discussions about the project in work sessions. Board president Steve Dennis said he supported the project.
“I grew up getting shots and care in that clinic, and we’re thrilled they’re coming out here...to Grandview,” he said.
No members of the public spoke for or against the project at the board’s hearing. Sarah Copeland, city planner, said the board is expected to formally approve the project on March 8. In meetings, city staff and elected officials have spoken about the project in “when, not if” terms.
“This is going to be a great addition to the 150 Highway corridor,” Dennis said.
Developer Steve Bessenbacher said he expects traffic along the 150 Hwy corridor to increase with various improvements projects in the area, which will put the clinic “in a highly desirable location to capture traffic between south Lee’s Summit and Kansas.”
Alan Kenyon, director of economic development for Grandview, said the developer has made a verbal promise to help relocate the WIC clinic to another location that is convenient for Grandview residents, but acknowledged that part of the deal isn’t in writing.
Truman Medical Center, which operates the WIC program, was unable to comment by press time regarding where the Grandview WIC clinic might be relocated.
Encompass Medical Group, which operates the Hickman Mills Clinic, did not comment on the move.
The Planning Commission on Feb. 16 voted 5-1 to recommend approval of the project. Commissioner John Maloney voted against it, citing his discomfort with the terms of the tax abatement plan.
City officials said, however, that any taxes at all are better than what the city gets now for the land – nothing. Because of the WIC clinic, it is considered a charitable use and is currently tax exempt. LADCO will receive a Chapter 353 tax abatement for the project. The city and the developer have negotiated the following terms:
• 100 percent tax abatement on the increase in land value and improvements for 10 years;
• 50 percent tax abatement on the same through years 11-17;
• 25 percent abatement for years 18-20
• No abatement in years 21-25
Actually, a 50 percent abatement would technically continue for years 18-25, but the city is also requiring LADCO to pay the full amount in lieu of taxes over that time.
In return, LADCO will:
• By 2.5 acres of the 10-acre site. The remaining 7.5 acres are owned by Carondelet Health Systems, and is currently tax exempt.
• Tear down the existing building – formerly the southland’s Jackson County WIC clinic – and improve the property with a new 21,000 square foot medical office building.
• LADCO will require tenants to make and maintain a $355,000 investment in taxable furniture, fixtures, and equipment, which should result in $6,000 payments for each taxing jurisdiction in the area per year for the first 10 years of the abatement plan. If they fail to do this, they’ll have to pay these “lost” revenues to the city, who will distribute them to the taxing jurisdictions (such as the Mid-Continent Public Library, the Grandview C-4 School District, etc.).
• LADCO’s tenants will create and maintain at least 50 jobs with average wages of $60,000 per year.
• The tenants will provide an annual community health event.
The city hired consultants to review LADCO’s proposal, and according to city documents, find it acceptable and realistic in terms of its financial projections.
The consultants reported that the total abatement to the developer over the life of the program would be some $1.9 million; but payments in lieu of taxes should generate some $1.7 million.