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Compromise passes in deal to bring more apartments to downtown Kansas City

Three Light compromise to go before council
Three Light compromise to go before council
Three Light compromise to go before council
Three Light compromise to go before council
Three Light compromise to go before council
Posted at 2:53 PM, Mar 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-22 20:11:30-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The city approved a compromise Thursday with the Cordish Companies to facilitate the building of Three Light while also adding affordable housing units.

The agreement came amid public outcry over the city subsidizing luxury apartments with no affordable options.

The Coalition for Kansas City Economic Development Reform started a petition against the Three Light project and held up signs with messages like "luxury should not be subsidized" during Thursday's discussion.

"People like me, I make average income in Kansas City, and I'm getting forced out," Lora McDonald, a renter and Executive Director of Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equality, said.

Under the agreement approved by the council, the city would subsidize Three Lights' $17.5 million parking garage. In exchange, Cordish would add 100 affordable units at its Midland Building at 13th and Baltimore. 

The city entered into a 99-year contract with the developer back in 2004. Cordish built the Power & Light District, as well as the One Light and Two Light luxury apartment buildings. 

"It was probably the best deal the city could get at the time. Remember, we could get nobody to invest in downtown Kansas City in 2004, so Cordish deserves a lot of credit. They have spent a lot of their own money," City Manager Troy Schulte said.

Changes to the agreement were prompted by Council members Alissia Canady and Katheryn Shields, who both raised concerns about subsidies for the project and affordable housing. Councilmen Canady, Shields and Dan Fowler were the three to vote against the renegotiated terms.

There were also critics in the housing community.

"When they're talking about affordable, that leaves out a lot of people," Patricia Gilmore-Watkins, Executive Director of the Greater Kansas City Housing Information Center, said.

City Manager Troy Schulte said someone making the Kansas City median income, $47,498, would be able to afford rent at the Midland building. Federal guidelines categorize your housing as affordable if you're spending less than 30 percent of your gross income on rent. For someone making about $47,000 a year, that means spending less than $1,200 a month.

With more than 13,000 people on the wait list for affordable housing in Kansas City, Gilmore-Watkins is frustrated by the city's deal.

"I think they should look at, you know, where it benefits. Who does it benefit?" she asked.

McDonald had even stronger language, saying she was "disgusted" by Thursday's vote.

"I do understand the legal aspect of a contract, but this is a raw deal for Kansas Citians who rent," she said.

We reached out to the Cordish Companies several times by phone and email Thursday, but our requests for comment were not answered.