A look back at south KC’s business development in 2019

Cerner, Bannister Federal Complex, Wonderscope and many more businesses are making a huge contribution to the economic growth in south KC.

A look back at south KC’s economic development in 2019

By Jill Draper

The South Kansas City Alliance held its 6th Annual Economic Development Summit on Dec. 14 at Avila University. John Sharp, alliance president, introduced seven speakers who gave updates on area projects.

A rail spur at the Bannister Federal Complex was utilized to transport hazardous debris from the site to the specialized landfills that can legally accept such material, enabling less truck traffic to and from the site than many people feared. Photo by Bill Rankin

Former Bannister Federal Complex 

“We project more than 1,500 jobs will be created,” said Brent Miles, chief marketing officer and founding partner of NorthPoint Development, who reported that 100% of the demolition and 50-75% of the environmental remediation work at the old Bannister Federal Complex is completed. His company (which he called “the largest privately-held industrial landlord in the U.S.”) is partnering with KCATA to increase bus routes to the area and has committed to an onsite training center that will partner with high schools and community colleges “so we have workers trained and ready to go.” The neighborhoods surrounding the former complex at Bannister Road and Troost Avenue will be transformed, Miles predicted, adding, “The best thing about this site is the workforce—there are a lot of people within 15-20 minutes.” No tenants were announced, but plans call for warehouse and distribution buildings plus some retail shops.

Wonderscope Children’s Museum

The museum will relocate from Shawnee to just west of the Red Bridge Shopping Center by October 2020, said Roxane Hill, executive director. She said visits to similar museums in four cities (St. Louis, Omaha, Lincoln and Cleveland) were made before deciding on a one-level, 30,000-square-foot manufactured building with a 24-foot climber as the centerpiece. Exhibits on topics such as jazz, barbecue, sports teams, fountains and weather will provide a true Kansas City experience. These are under construction, mostly by Dimensional Innovations, an Overland Park fabricator. Other highlights include a half-acre outdoor exhibit, a treehouse, an art space and a maker space.

The museum still needs to raise $1.3 million of a $50 million capital campaign for the facility, which will focus on early childhood but also be entertaining for older siblings and teenage volunteers. There will be special programs every day plus summer and winter camps. “We want to help children learn through play,” Hill said.

Flood Protection

KC Water is working on two flood control projects in the Blue River corridor, said Matt Bond, chief engineering officer. The final phase of a levee to provide flood control for the Dodson Industrial District is underway. The district, located along and south of 85th Street from 71 Highway to Prospect Avenue, contains a public works facility and 30 commercial/light industrial firms.  To the east, a flood wall is being built for the Swope Park Industrial Area around 75th Terrace east of Cleveland. In 2017 first responders rescued about 40 people from the area by boat after a torrential rainstorm.

Many projects still need to be done and KC Water is hoping for a ballot initiative in 2020 to uncap a monthly stormwater fee set at $2.50 per household. “Our stormwater fund is not solvent,” Bond said, adding that to help keep rates down, local officials were in negotiations with EPA to modify a consent decree requiring a 25-year, $4.5 billion plan to improve the city’s 3,000 miles of sewer lines.

Richards-Gebaur Commerce Park

More than 30 businesses are now leasing space at this former U.S. Air Force base west of I-49 south of 150 Highway. The park is mostly operated by Port KC, and has attracted a variety of local industrial and manufacturing companies. It also serves as an intermodal hub for transferring cargo between KC Southern Railway and semi-trailer trucks. Stephens said the amount of shipping containers going in and out of Kansas City is expected to nearly double by 2030, and the completion of the Missouri River Terminal improvements  downtown should be a boon to revitalizing the region and increasing development along the entire corridor. Port KC hopes to open the rernovated terminal and have it become the nation’s largest inland port by 2023.

Red Bridge Shopping Center

Now that most of the shopping center is leased, Lane4 Property Group will focus on making it into a community resource center and a go-to spot for families, said Owen Buckley, Lane4 president. He reported that last fall’s Halloween activities were a “smashing success” with more than 500 children participating. During the coming year Lane4 is planning a car show, Cinco de Mayo festivities and various live music events. According to Buckley, the center’s holiday lights will remain on until spring to offset the long, dark winter, and he said the old library building is being appraised for possible reuse as a daycare or an office.

Ward Parkway Center

Improvements to the center’s south Pavilion include a new stage for next summer’s outdoor concert season, said Dave Claflin, C2 Creative principal. Performers will include acoustic duos, soul, bluegrass—“a little bit of everything.” The center welcomed Five Below as a new tenant, and both Chick-fil-A and Target built new drive-thru facilities. Meanwhile, the Trader Joe’s at that location is breaking all kinds of records, he said.

SKC business and job growth

Vickie Wolgast, South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce president, said major events during the year included the completion of 135th Street improvements and the opening of Dairy Queen. The Chamber next wants to recruit new businesses to the shopping center that once housed Gordman’s. Other highlights include:

  • Fish Tech now employs about 100 people.
  • Somerset Wine & Cider Bar and Rosehill Garden’s event space marked their first full year of operation, as did Martin City Coffee.
  • Construction has begun on Jack Stack’s remodeling and a new burger restaurant on Holmes.
  • Madison Senior Living at 150 Highway and Wyandotte expects to open in late spring.
  • Developers plan to build two new apartment complexes in Martin City.
  • The city’s GO Bond program will fund improvements to Holmes Road from Blue Ridge Boulevard to 137th Street.
  • Wayside Waifs broke ground on a new canine behavior center.
  • Burns & McDonnell is expanding its headquarters.
  • Cerner is building its third and fourth office towers.
  • New businesses include Big Momma’s Bakery-Café, Cacao, CareNow Urgent Care, World Smart LED, Change Now CrossFit and Aldi.

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