Proposed Downtown Kansas City Convention Hotel Can Move Forward After Council Vote

Jun 8, 2017

The Kansas City Council Thursday passed an accelerated ordinance for the proposed Kansas City convention center hotel, clearing the way for developers to seek financing and possibly break ground this fall.

The council’s 11-2 vote is seen as the final necessary step before developers can move forward.

Councilmembers Heather Hall and Teresa Loar voted against the ordinance, which approves zoning and designs for the project.  They said they remain concerned about the project’s lack of financial viability. 

Mayor Sly James says that information will come later.

“The reason that there isn’t any financing quite frankly is because at this point there still ain’t no deal. They can’t go out and sell something when they don’t know if they’re going to have anything to sell,” James told the council.

Before voting,  James reminded the council how far the developers have come over the last two years.

He said the plan no longer includes any general fund money, which was an issue with initial plans. The only city funds dedicated to the project are $35 million from the convention and visitor's tax fund.

That means, if for some reason, the finances fall through, the city is not at risk.

The ordinance's accelerated effective date means the hotel is no longer subject to referendum efforts. 

A group called Citizens for Responsible Government, which previously opposed the project’s process, is currently collecting signatures to put the hotel to a city-wide vote. 

Michael Burke of KC Hotel Developers said the current setbacks have already cost the project $20 million. He says each day that goes by puts the city in jeopardy of losing profitable event opportunities, hundreds of jobs and competitive momentum.

Ronnie Burt, President of Visit KC, agreed. 

“Losing the opportunity to move forward with this project stalls any positive momentum on our destination and it puts us at a significant risk for diminishing our competitive advantage to cities like Nashville, Indianapolis, Austin, Texas, Denver and many others,” Burt said.

With the ordinance passed, project developers will begin solidifying finances. Those records will be available by August and construction will start by early October.

Lexi Churchill is a news intern at KCUR 89.3