Steve Bell

News Reporter

Afternoon reporter Steve Bell brings more than 40 years of news experience to the KCUR newsroom. Fifteen of those years he served as a news or program director. His first newscast was at KANU in 1958. He has hosted news and talk programs on five Kansas city AM-FM stations and two commercial TV stations and was for many years the the signature voice of KCPT-19. Since joining KCUR in 2001, Steve has won two  first place awards from Public Radio News Directors International -- for best newscast and best feature reporting.  He has also received a number of awards from the Missouri Broadcasters Association and the Kansas City Society of Professional Journalists.  Steve  has a Ph.D. in psychology and dabbles in guitar and banjo playing.

Ways to Connect

Rendering courtesy of Crawford Architects

Airline consultants have rejected a proposal to renovate existing KCI terminals rather than build a new one.

Consultant Lou Salomon of AvAirPros told the Kansas City Council Airport Committee Tuesday that the renovation plan lacks the flexibility needed for a forecast 40 percent passenger traffic growth by 2040 and underestimates the costs.

“The major renovations are just less efficient,” Salomon said. “And they cost more – and not just from the initial capital costs perspective.  They cost more to operate and maintain and to finance.”

The Royale Inn at 6th and Paseo
Photo from Google Earth Street Views

Residents of the Northeast area of Kansas City have been trying for more than 15 years to get rid of the Royale Inn Motel. 

The now vacant motel was for years an eyesore, a trysting place, transient motel and the scene of numerous disturbances, drug deals and at least one murder.

“The Royale has been a thorn in the side of the Northeast,” is the way Northeast News Publisher Michael Bushnell put it when addressing a City Council committee on Thursday.

file photo

The “East Brookside” redevelopment plan is rolling forward.

The Kansas City Council Planning Zoning and Economic Development Corporation approved basic redevelopment plans for the area along 63rd Street from Oak to Troost Avenue on Wednesday. 

Google Earth

The full Kansas City Council followed a committee recommendation this week and voted down an ordinance that sought to preserve three apartment buildings in the 4700 block of Summit. 

The final vote was 9-3 not to seek historic status to save the buildings.

United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

A downtown Kansas City mainstream denomination church is bucking the trend of declining religious affiliation and shrinking church attendance.

The United Methodist  Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, established a downtown campus six years ago. 

Currently, Resurrection Downtown meets a brick commercial building at 1522 McGee that looks more like an industrial supply company than a church. But like the mega-church that gave it life, the downtown church is no average storefront church.  

A boutique hotel is planned for the Pendgergast Building and old Pabst brewery.
aprium.com

What may have been the headquarters of Boss Tom Pendergast's bootlegging operations during the prohibition era is slated to be reborn as a boutique hotel.

Pendergast was smart enough to cover those tracks, if the bootlegging rumors were accurate. Officially, the building  at 2101 Central St. housed his non-alcoholic beverage businesses.

The building and the industrial-style building adjacent were build for the Pabst Brewing Company in the early 1900s.

kcmo.org

The committee room in Jefferson City was packed with political, public safety, business and community leaders from Kansas City and St. Louis on Thursday. 

The Senate Ways and Means Committee was accepting testimony on a proposal sponsored by state Senator Kurt Schaefer to outlaw the earnings taxes that both cities.

The ban is supported by St. Louis libertarian activist Rex Sinquefield, who has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to Schaefer and other lawmakers who are backing the plan.

Google Earth

Neighbors called the 1927 English Tudor-revival apartments charming and said they fit the character and history of the west edge of  Kansas City's Country Club Plaza.

Historic Kansas City Foundation preservation enthusiasts said the three half-timbered brick, stucco and stone buildings are examples of the work of prominent female Kansas City architect Nelle Peters and should be saved. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Updated after the city council meeting on January 7, 2016.

Now home to the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the historic 18th and Vine District was reborn from crumbling eastside buildings in the early 1990s.  The sales tax that helped finance its rescue bore the name of Kansas City's first African-American mayor, Emanuel Cleaver, who was then in office.

Jackson County government

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders disclosed to The Kansas City Star in an interview Monday that he will resign Dec. 31 after nine years as the top elected official of the county. 

Sanders told the newspaper that he made the decision because he wants to spend more time with his family and has no plans to run for other public office at this time.  Rather, the article says, he would like to resume his private law practice. 

Wikipedia

A Kansas City Council Committee on Thursday endorsed the long-awaited new Midtown/Plaza Area Plan. Though the plan covers an area from 31st to 55th Street, State Line to Paseo and affects 27 neighborhoods, the peak interest was in what it prescribed for Kansas City's landmark Country Club Plaza.

This has been a matter of extra concern to Plaza purists because the second and current owner of the Plaza, Highwoods Properties, is offering it for sale.

Hyatt Hotels

Citizens for Responsible Government, the organization that collected petition signatures to send financing plans for a downtown Kansas City convention hotel has filed suit attempting to force the City Council to put their initiative on a ballot.

KC Aviation Department

An Aviation Department Study presented to the full Kansas City Council on Thursday concludes that Kansas City International Airport's three terminals could be replaced for $964 million, approximately $40 million less than the lowest estimate for renovating two of the existing terminals.

The study was finalized and presented at the request of Council Airport Committee chair Jolie Justus, who was emphatic that it must include dollar-figure estimates for both renovation and replacement.

IAS Partners

Once the driving retail force in Kansas City's Nothland, Metro North Mall has declined over the past 15 years. Now, its pitted asphalt parking lots have become storage space for vehicles produced at the Ford plant awaiting shipment.

Little remains of the past retail environment except a Macy's store. 

"Right now it's the definition of 'blight' because you have vacant buildings that are in a crumbling condition.  said Northland Councilman Dan Fowler. "I saw what happened when the same thing happened to Antioch Mall and it wasn't pretty.”

Rendering of BNIM Crossroads headquarters
Rendering courtesy of BNIM

Opponents of tax breaks for the proposed BNIM headquarters in the Crossroads Arts District may have defeated the proposal by default. 

A committee of petitioners turned in several thousand petition signatures Tuesday afternoon. Even if they were short of the 3,400 needed to let the voters decide on the TIF plan, they likely have 10 more days to submit the rest.

But time, not how the public might vote, is the issue for the $5.2 million in tax increment financing.

Proposed mixed-use development at 34th and Broadway
A and B Architecture

The Kansas City, Missouri, City Council gave final approval on Thursday to a plan that developers say will bring 500 residents to the 34th and Broadway area in midtown.

Phase 1 of the $50 million development is the conversion of the seven-story Missouri Gas Energy Building to 101 upscale market-rate apartments and includes the addition of a penthouse level. 

Later comes construction of a complex of buildings on the five-acre site that will bring the total to 235 units. 

Rendering of BNIM Crossroads headquarters
Rendering courtesy of BNIM

Controversial tax breaks for a building in Kansas City's Crossroads Arts District advanced two days in a row but it will be at least another week before the full city council makes its final decision on it.

Until this week, the $5.2 million TIF for the new headquarters of architecture firm BNIM was on hold until after the first of the year at the insistence of the Kansas City Public Schools and parents in the district. 

The school district and the parents group said the schools could not afford the loss of tax revenue they had previously agreed to.

In the battle over tax breaks for developers of a downtown Kansas City convention hotel, the ball is once again in the city's court.

The committee of petitioners hand-delivered a letter to the City Clerk on Thursday spelling out in some detail legal arguments that the City Council did not have the right to refuse to honor petition signatures calling for a public vote on the city's financial underwriting of the hotel. 

The letter cites specific sections of the Missouri Constitution as well as court decisions in Missouri and federal courts.

BigStock

The governing bodies of both Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, voted Thursday to raise the legal age for buying tobacco and electronic nicotine-vapor products from 18 to 21 in their communities.

Advocates have said studies indicate that as many as 95 percent of adult smokers say they started smoking prior to age 21. 

They also have pointed to studies showing that 18-year-old smokers often become the “connection” for younger members of their high school social network, some as young as 14.

A Kansas City council committee says concerns over the Paris terrorist attacks may help the city to get back on the list of metropolitan areas receiving federal emergency response grants.

The Kansas City area received as much as $8 million a year in Homeland Security money during the first seven years of  the Urban Areas Security Initiative, but the grants dwindled after 2010, with the city getting $1 million in some years and nothing in others, including 2015.

Hyatt Hotels

Only one Kansas City council member voted Thursday to honor the petitions and submit the city's plans for tax incentives and other financial considerations to the voters. 

The Northland's Heather Hall said she simply did not believe the downtown convention hotel would produce the economic benefits developers speak of and that she has concerns about the effect on local businesses, particularly in the catering industry.

Kansas Law Enforcement photo

The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of a convicted serial killer Friday. And the state’s Attorney General considers the decision a big victory.

Robinson was accused of killing seven women and a teenage girl in Kansas and Missouri, and the case received national attention 15 years ago when the bodies of some of the women were discovered in barrels on Robinson’s property and in a rented storage space.

Rendering courtesy of BNIM

The Kansas City council has approved tax breaks for a proposed building renovation in the Crossroads Arts District that has become a focal issue for groups that oppose incentives that the school district cannot afford. 

Ironically, the same project is being hailed as breaking new ground in the sustainability and green architecture movement.

The $13.2 million project would transform an old warehouse building into a headquarters and green architecture showcase for local architecture firm BNIM. 

The legal review committee of the Kansas City Council has accepted City Attorney Bill Geary's opinion and is recommending that the council not honor a recent petition drive that sought to force a public vote on the planned downtown convention hotel.

Geary opined that the state gives the council the power to approve Tax Increment Financing and allowing voters to overrule that would violate the state constitution. 

The Kansas City Council on Thursday grudgingly repealed the minimum wage ordinance it passed in July. 

The council instead endorsed efforts to get the minimum wage increased at the state level.

Council members unanimously said the repeal did not indicate abandonment of the minimum wage cause, and that the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Missouri General Assembly.

Photo courtesy of Hyatt Hotel Corp.

Both groups opposing the planned 800-room convention hotel adjacent to Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City say they are standing their ground.

The City Council heard lengthy presentations on Thursday from city staff as well as representatives of the developers of the proposed hotel and convention and tourism officials.

 

The council is gathering information in preparation for a decision on what to do about a petition drive for a public vote on whether the city should be financially involved in developing the hotel.

 

KCUR

A new proposal to use public financing to renovate a building in the Crossroads Arts District received unexpected opposition this month, surprising the respected Kansas City architectural firm at the heart of the proposal and its developer. 

 

The most adamant objections to the proposed tax increment financing, or TIF, plan were from school district parents and the Urban Summit of Greater Kansas City. But Kansas City School District Interim Superintendent Al Tunis joined in, asking to renegotiate a payment-in-lieu-of taxes agreement on the building.

 

Hyatt Hotels

As the Kansas City Council struggles with whether to honor a successful petition drive for a public vote on a planned downtown convention hotel, developers tell the council a delay for the election could be a deal-breaker.

Among the stakeholders in a lengthy Thursday presentation to city council members was Steven Rattner, a finance specialist with the developer of the 800-room hotel. Rattner rold the council that the developer began spending significant time and money on the project in May, after a detailed agreement was signed with the city.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Updated, Tuesday 7:14 a.m.:

Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi identified the two Kansas City firefighters killed in a blaze Monday night as Larry J. Leggio and John V. Mesh. 

Leggio was a 17-year veteran who worked on Truck 2, Station 17, as a fire apparatus operator. Mesh was a 13-year veteran firefighter assigned to Pumper 10.

An emotional Berardi said Leggio leaves behind his wife and mother. Mesh had a wife and four young daughters.

Kansas City's one percent earnings tax is up for renewal in 2016.  Since the passage of Missouri ballot initiative “Proposition A” in 2010, Kansas City and St. Louis must submit their e-taxes to the voters for renewal every five years. 

Kansas City voters overwhelmingly voted to renew the tax in April 2011. But uncertainty over whether it will be renewed again next year looms over city budgets and the city's credit rating.

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