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Fidelity Security Life Insurance Request for Incentives Testimony: Union Hill Neighborhood

Below is the written transcript for Union Hill Neighborhood Association's testimony.

Mr. Chairman and committee, my name is Adam Gebhardt. I'm here representing the Union Hill Neighborhood Association and the Union Hill Homes Association.

We prepared a letter today that voices are objections to this project and I'd like to read it to you today if I could.

Since the new headquarters building proposed by Fidelity Security Life Insurance Company, as I'll refer to as FSL throughout the letter, first came to our attention in the local news we have communicated with the stakeholders to obtain further information and understanding on the chapter 100 requests for the project and the specifics of the proposed development.

Representatives of FSL were recently invited to a joint meeting of the two Union Hill organizations specifically to present information related to the project and to hear our comments. The presentation was made by representatives of Van Trust Project Manager, BNIM architect and Stinson LLP Law Firm Legal Counsel.

We were presented with an explanation for the basis of the financial incentive request as well as building plans and renderings more advanced than what had appeared earlier in the media, yet incomplete and being able to clearly show its impact to the neighborhood.

There were several comments and opinions expressed by our residents in the meeting which questioned the need for the requested financial incentive to the proposed site plan and design of the building. However, it was obvious that the representatives of FSL, were not there to seek input from the neighborhood and eluded some of the obvious issues that were priorities to the residents, such as how the project would:

  1. Require financial incentives. Incentives to provide Class A office space and parking on one of the most accessible and marketable sites in Midtown, while not providing public benefits.

  2. Meets the goals and intent of the Main Corridor Overlay District Ordinance 171037 and encouraging an appropriate mixture of density and uses around rapid transit stops to increase ridership and support a transit environment.

  3. Enhances the property values of the surrounding neighborhood as a good neighbor.

Immediately following the meeting, a questionnaire was developed and a survey conducted to collect and document the reactions of the neighborhood to the project and to request further input from the residents of Union Hill.

124 residents responded to the survey. Some of the highlights include:

  1. Over 80% of the respondents disagreed that the project should qualify for tax incentives. It was presented that FSL had requested approximately $9 million in Chapter 100 incentives to narrow the financing development cost-gap specifically to provide parking. Most understand that this request for development subsidies is common with urban development projects. However, it is not apparent in this case that the subsidy does anything but support the increase of speculative Class A office space to the inventory of Kansas city, both in the proposed building and the building to be vacated and provide exclusive parking for its occupants. It can be easily shown that there is plenty of public subsidized parking already available in the immediate district and the demand further supplemented by the streetcar extension, also publicly financed. It seems clear that a shared parking plan between Crown Center redevelopment and the major stakeholders of the immediate sites could help control the potential overbuild of parking, increasing the cost efficiencies of the current proposed and future development of this area of the Crown Center district, and taking advantage of the substantial public investment in the streetcar expansion.

  2. 69% of the rest of the respondents were against the project, as it is currently presented with 27% of the total respondents in favor of the project with some changes.

  3. A subsequent question revealed that almost 56% of the respondents felt that our homeowners and neighborhood associations should make attempts to stop this project.

  4. While 86% of respondents were aware that the site is zoned for a 15 story building, approximately 80% of the respondents were concerned about the proposed building impeding views of the Liberty Memorial, the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts and the city skyline. These views are a primary reason why people choose to live in our neighborhood and their loss will greatly impact the property values of a 160 year old community.

  5. The top ranked statement related to the project, of three presented, was, "I want to have a community-friendly, mixed-use building that offers amenities our neighborhood would enjoy, as envisioned by the overarching goal, creating an active transit node at 27th and Main."

I'll wrap up in just a few minutes.

The Union Hill neighborhood has had great hopes that the collective bond with Crown Center would be reinforced and enhanced by the development of the subject site. We have a history of successful relationships with the Crown Center redevelopment, Union Hill redevelopment, Milhouse Development, Federal Reserve Bank and most recently, the KC Streetcar Authority.

It should be noted that our neighbors were vital to the effort of passing the 25 years special assessment for the streetcar extension and work diligently in securing the stops at both 31st and 27th streets.

Our constituency also includes board members on the Union Cemetery Historical Society, Main Street TDD, Union Hill Special Business District and Midtown KC Now, among other civic organizations. We have appreciated the investments our homeowners and neighboring businesses have made in creating a truly unique living experience in Kansas city.

We're very proud of our neighborhood and we continue to work toward ensuring that the new development will proactively impact it's vitality and sustainability and provides a good fit.

In closing, the Union Hill Neighborhood Association enthusiastically support sustainable, pedestrian-friendly, accessible, transit-oriented development at this site.

It is disappointing to say the least that our hopes are not satisfied at the proposed project and that we must collectively stand opposed to the approval of the Chapter 100 requests and the project plans as proposed to date.

We recommend that all approvals related to this project continue to be reviewed and be finely considered concurrently and that each action affects the others.

Please understand that we recognize our position in this matter and we hope that our concerns and comments will be heard and received due consideration.

We remain ready and willing to further discuss the progress of the proposed project with the hopes that a win-win resolution can be found and that continued mutual support of all parties can be restored. Thank you.

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