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KCMO council approves Waddell and Reed project, pares back incentives

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Posted at 10:39 AM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 20:51:23-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Waddell and Reed will receive millions of dollars in financial assistance to relocate its headquarters across the state line to downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

The Kansas City Council approved the relocation on an 8-4 vote at its meeting Thursday but pared back incentives for the project, voting to lower the property tax abatement from 75% to 37.5% after the first six years of a 15-year contract.

The initial proposal called for a 75% tax abatement for the full 15 years.

Councilwoman Heather Hall said the amendment had come about only minutes before the council's vote and said she would vote no, calling it a disrespectful process and saying the city had scrambled to reach a deal.

Hall and council members Brandon Ellington, Melissa Robinson and Ryana Parks-Shaw all voted against the project.

Mayor Quinton Lucas said that while it wasn't a perfect process, the parties had come to an agreement and didn't want to destabilize the momentum.

"I think it’s fair to say this didn’t start off the way we’d like, but I think it’s ending the way we would like — agreement from the public schools, agreement from the taxing jurisdictions and a project that’s still bringing jobs to downtown Kansas City," Lucas said.

Other council members believed the city could have managed a better deal.

"Horrible deal for the city," Councilman Brandon Ellington said. "When you have someone who is coming to lease a building for 15 years, they’re not talking about long-term investing in the city, and the amount of money we’re going to be diverting from taxing jurisdictions with no community benefit agreement, no agreement to hire people from the city, none of that is in there. It’s just us giving them money to relocate 10 miles away from where they currently are."

Earlier in the meeting, the council tabled the vote until the end of the agenda.

The financial planning company plans to build a $140 million building at West 14th Street and Baltimore Avenue, nine miles from its current headquarters at Lamar Avenue and Shawnee Mission Parkway in Overland Park.

The company has said that it will share more details on the project once it has a signed lease agreement in place.

Original estimates had more than $100 million in incentives possibly going toward the project, with nearly half of that money coming from the city.

Kansas City Public Schools had previously objected to the amount of incentives but said it was on board with the revised proposal approved by the council.

In a statement late Thursday, the district said it was grateful to the mayor and City Council for their "good faith efforts" to lower the financial incentives.

“Our team and I look forward look to continued collaboration with Mayor Lucas, our elected officials and the Economic Development Corporation to ensure that our incentive programs achieve equitable consideration,” Superintendent Mark Bedell said in a statement.

For the city's portion of development incentives, the original deal included $44 million for the project, $28 million in the form of a property tax abatement. With this new deal, the real property tax abatement was reduced to $19.77 million.

Waddell and Reed was originally based in Kansas City, Missouri, for more than 53 years before moving to Overland Park 29 years ago.

A vote on the move was initially scheduled for last week, but it was delayed for more time to reach an agreement.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.