Mallory Herrmann

The city council is pleased to hear that the proposed Cityscape Residential redevelopment project has found a way to save the old church building. The property near Second and Douglas Streets had been home to the Lee’s Summit United Methodist Church for decades. After the church relocated, the property has been on Cityscape’s radar for a multi-family residential project.

Mark Dunning, assistant city manager, emphasized that the presentation to city council Tuesday night was simply a conceptual proposal and that no development application (or application for any financial incentives) has been made. The purpose of the agenda item was to share revisions and updates and to outline the possible request for Chapter 100 tax abatement. No formal action was requested of the council, but their feedback and questions will help guide the developer as they create a formal development application.

The proposal was first heard by the council this summer and was met with concerns from councilmembers and citizens alike for demolishing the 1922 church building. The project has also faced major issues with sanitary sewer capacity. The sanitary sewer problem still hasn’t been resolved, but city staff and the developer both said that they believe they’re close to a solution – and that the fix could create surplus capacity for the downtown area beyond what the development itself will require.

Curt Peterson of Polsinelli Law Firm, legal counsel for the developer, said they’ve been working diligently with city staff to revise the conceptual plan and are thrilled to find a solution to save the building. The change does, he admitted, increase the projected costs of the project. Incorporating the structure into the design will decrease the amount of space originally proposed and will require the addition of ADA and fair housing accommodations.

The development team is currently about $2.4 million over where they need to be to secure financing. As a result, the developer will seek a Chapter 100 tax exemption to create a tax savings of about $1.3 million. The economic development incentive allows developers a tax exemption on certain construction materials and associated costs.

“To be very clear, this is something this project needs,” Peterson said.

Peterson stressed that the Chapter 100 benefit would serve only to finance the construction of the project and is not intended to be a long-term tax abatement. He also noted that, since the property is currently owned by a tax-exempt religious organization, the city will begin benefitting from new property tax revenue as soon as the sale is finalized. Even before construction begins, the property will be assessed and taxes will be collected.

Cityscape does not intend to pursue a historic places designation or associated tax credits, citing the long and tedious process that could delay the project.

Councilmembers Phyllis Edson and Diane Forte were absent from the Dec. 4 meeting.