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BNIM Architects will remain in downtown Kansas City and lease space at Crown Center for its new headquarters, the firm announced today.

The 100-employee company is leasing about 20,000 square feet on two floors at 2460 Pershing Road. 

The decision was made after an earlier $13.2 million plan to renovate an empty warehouse at 1640 Baltimore Ave. in the Crossroads Arts District was abandoned after being criticized for its proposed use of tax incentives.

“BNIM is committed to Kansas City, our city, today and in the future,” Steve McDowell, CEO, said in a statement.

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

The recent failure of a proposal to convert an empty downtown warehouse into a showcase headquarters for BNIM architecture marked a milestone in Kansas City’s ongoing debate over the use of tax incentives.

While incentive programs have been long argued inside City Hall — former Mayor Mark Funkhouser was a major critic — the fact an outside citizens’ petition drive forced BNIM to walk away from the $13.2 million redevelopment plan has added a wild card to the process.

BlueGold73 / Wikipedia

TIF (tax increment financing) is a major tool for encouraging development in blighted areas within the city. As neighborhoods transform and start to thrive, many question whether tax incentives are still necessary to lure new businesses. So what's the future of TIF, and is there a part of town that should benefit from a next round of TIF funding?

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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.

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. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

In the early 1920s, when Walt Disney was in his early 20s, he was heading up a struggling animation studio on Kansas City’s east side.

A small field mouse became his pet, lived in a drawer in his office, and shared his food. That mouse would later provide the inspiration for Mickey Mouse. Disney's studio, where early animators cut their teeth making black-and-white silent cartoons, is still struggling. There are now plans for a green future.

Paying Tribute in Missouri