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Plan offers new hope for KCK’s long-vacant Indian Springs mall site

Posted: 11:00 AM, Apr 26, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-26 23:33:25-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Indian Springs Mall in Kansas City, Kansas, used to be the spot in Kansas City for people to spend an evening or shop on the weekend.

But for the last several years, there hasn't been a good reason to be there at night, and no ability to shop on a Sunday.

For the last several years, the once-gleaming mall has devolved into a great, big empty space with a massive parking lot damaged by weather and years of neglect.

That could be changing.

A local food service company is considering a $140 million headquarters on the site, which sits near Interstate 635, Interstate 70 and State Avenue.

The city tore down the mall in 2016 after it condemned the rundown property and purchased it through eminent domain in 2007.

The original idea was to put a new retail development there.

"I think people have come around to the idea the unfortunately, we're not going to get a big box store or anything like that," Katherine Carttar, Unified Government director of economic development, said.

Instead, long-time local company Scavuzzo's , a food distributor for restaurants in several regional states, has preliminary plans to move from the company's current location on Kansas Avenue in KCK to the Indian Springs Mall site.

Artist renderings provided by the Unified Government show extensive office and warehouse space for the possible $140 million investment.

"Their plan also includes retail and potentially restaurants and other things along State Avenue, so we'll have kind of a mix of uses in that area," Carttar said.

It's been a long and expensive road for KCK taxpayers to get to this point.

They've been on the hook for the mall since the UG bought the rundown property after condemning it and buying it by eminent domain in June, 2007 for $8.8 million.

Just a few months later in December, the economic recession hit, leaving the potential for reinvestment in limbo.

The UG paid to have the mall demolished in 2016.

That same year, the UG hired the Lane4 Property Group as brokers to redevelop the mall.

In 2017, Lane4 introduced a plan for a flex/tech light industrial park which ultimately didn't work out.

"City leaders decided they didn't want industrial office space there and there wasn't the retail demand one would hope," Owen Buckley, Lane4 President, said.

Through early 2019, records obtained by the 41 Action News Investigators show the total cost of owning and demolishing the mall property so far is in excess of $19.3 million.

That figure includes more than $9.6 million on debt service payments alone, from February 2011 through February 2019.

"The amount of debt we accumulated when that property was purchased and demolished was enormous," UG Commissioner Ann Murguia said.

Murguia had just started as a commissioner when the UG purchased the mall property in 2007.

"I saw no long-term vision or long-term plan, or even any interest in that site," she said.

Given the UG's 12-year ownership history, including the unsuccessful Lane4 deal, Murguia is skeptical about the Scavuzzo's plan working out.

But Carttar disagrees.

"I think the big difference with this one is it's not a speculative deal," she said.

As it stands right now, records show the UG owes another eight years of debt payments for the old mall property at roughly $1.4 million per year.

And that payment figure is a $200,000-a-year improvement due to recent refinancing.

"I can certainly assure taxpayers that we are doing everything we can to ensure that this is going to be in good use and beneficial to the community," Carttar said.

Scavuzzo's CEO Richard Scavuzzo declined comment due to ongoing talks with the UG about an incentives package for his company.

The UG had a plan in place to help repay the mall debt with sales taxes from the property called tax increment financing or a TIF District.

But with no businesses at the mall site since 2012, that plan has been scrapped as part of the refinancing.

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