KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Hyatt wants to build a luxury hotel on the Country Club Plaza -- and is asking for tax breaks for the project.
On Wednesday, the global company went before the city's Tax Increment Financing Commission to launch the process of asking for those tax breaks.
Hyatt wants to tear down the Victory Court apartments on Pennsylvania, just north of 47th street, to build a 225-room, 13-story hotel.
Barb and Bill Whitt live on the Plaza and walked over to see the site.
"I think it's be an improvement to take down these old buildings. They're not aesthetically beautiful," Bill Whitt said.
The developer said the site is blighted because of the old apartments that are there now.
It's an $80 million proposal that's asking for $11-13 million in tax breaks.
Two members of the TIF Commission are already raising questions about providing tax breaks when the Plaza hotel business is thriving.
The hotel company's local development lawyer, Doug Stone, says the Plaza is considered the best area for hotels in Kansas City.
But he says room rates here aren't high enough to justify the construction cost.
"The average daily rates that are commanded by hotels in our market don't justify the cost to make the hotel as nice as people want it to be," said Stone.
The hotel would have views of the Plaza's famous Spanish-style towers and is just a half block from the shops and restaurants on the Plaza's main drag.
Taxpayers who also live on the Plaza say it's not a blighted area and they don't want their taxes going to the project.
"While I'd like to see the project come to fruition, but I think it's just silly to give taxpayer money to a private venture like this.... in this area," Bill Whitt said.
Gabriella Hart, who works in a nearby restaurant, said, "I don't know about that, because it's major business. I don't know that they should take from the community to build it."
Hyatt used to operate a hotel at Crown Center, but recently lost out in a switch to the Sheraton.
The hotel's lawyer took pains to cast the proposed tax breaks as what he calls an "investment in tourism infrastructure" rather than a subsidy.
If approved, the hotel could open in about three years.
It would be the second new hotel on the Plaza.
In the meantime, city officials are still hoping to build a 1,000-room convention hotel downtown, but experts say that's a different hotel sub-market.
Together, the two new hotels on the Plaza would have less that half the rooms wanted in a downtown convention hotel.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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