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Council pares back incentives for Waddell & Reed project, delays vote

Posted at 10:58 AM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-12 19:20:24-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, City Council took action - but also delayed a vote - on the proposed relocation of Waddell and Reed to a new downtown Kansas City headquarters.

The council pared back incentives in the project during years 11 through 15 lowering the abatement amount from 75% to 37.5%. Included in the council’s actions Thursday was to delay a final vote on the project for one week.

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

Some were concerned after images leaked earlier this week that suggested the first 10 floors of the building would be dedicated to parking.

A Waddell and Reed spokesperson told 41 Action News on Monday that the company plans to reveal more details once it has signed a lease agreement:

We remain excited about the possibility of bringing our workforce of approximately 1,000 employees to a distinctive new building inside an enhanced enterprise zone in downtown Kansas City. We are eager to share more details once we have a fully executed and signed lease agreement. 

Documents from city staff indicate the city and company are working together to pursue "various additional economic incentives" related to the project, including a tax contribution agreement, a property tax abatement and the issuance of up to $25 million in industrial revenue bonds. 

Kansas City Public Schools is pushing back on the incentives, saying it will cause the district to forgo $15 million in property taxes. Ahead of the council's vote on Thursday, the KCPS Board of Directors issued a statement saying Waddell and Reed's request "is simply too much for a project lacking financial transparency and accountability."

"We want to be partners in these projects, you know, we’re investing future school district dollars into these projects and we want to make sure that we’re minimizing that and we’re only doing it when it’s necessary," KCPS Director of Planning and Real Estate, Shannon Jaax said.

The board said it asked for a compromise on the incentives, including limiting the abatement period to 10 years and reducing the company's overall request by $10 million, from $106 million to $96 million.

"This $10 million could be used for additional pre-K classrooms, counselors for trauma support, expansion of our Early College Academy and other academic supports," the district's statement said. "Waddell and Reed has rejected this compromise. We are now asking the City Council to re-evaluate the proposal and negotiate a more beneficial package for Kansas City’s children."

Waddell and Reed, which has around 1,000 employees, originally was based in Kansas City, Missouri, for more than 53 years before moving to Overland Park 29 years ago.