|By Kevin Collison, The Kansas City Star,
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 5, 2006 - Kansas City will contribute $13 million to renovate the Empire and the Midland theaters, and the Cordish Co. is seeking a new contractor to redevelop the old Jones Store block.
New details about the downtown entertainment district emerged this week when what were described as the last important development amendments were signed by the city and Cordish.
The documents clear the way for a scheduled June 19 sale of $295 million in city bonds and the transfer of the Power & Light District real estate to the Baltimore-based developer.
The amendments cover the addition of a joint venture to renovate the historic theaters, announced last summer by Cordish and AMC Entertainment. The estimated $60 million plan calls for the Empire to be renovated into a six-screen movie theater and restaurant, and the Midland to be renovated as a live music club and restaurant venue.
The renovation of the theaters had not been part of the original Power & Light District plan, and extensive negotiations were required to determine the additional city financial support. In addition, the joint venture entity, Midland/Empire JV, thinks it can obtain state and federal historic tax credits valued at least $7 million.
The sale of the bonds and the real estate transfer had been expected to occur in early May after the Kansas City Council approved the Power & Light District bond issue March 30.
Several sources familiar with the negotiations between the city and Cordish said one reason that the amendments took longer to complete was a late effort by the developer to significantly expand the scope of the Power & Light project.
Cordish wants to attract a W Hotel, a luxurious boutique hotel chain, to the entertainment district, the sources said. The hotel has been proposed for the former Jones Store block, where Cordish plans to build a 240-unit condominium tower, along with a health club, a grocery and a parking garage.
While city officials told Cordish they would be interested in adding a hotel to the development, they did not want to slow progress on the current project.
"I think Cordish is very serious," one source said. "But this hotel would be part of a future transaction."
Blake Cordish, the partner in charge of the Power & Light District project, declined to comment on W Hotel conversations.
The amendment covering the theater renovations also includes language that would cover any third party that may lease the Midland "such as the owner and/or operator of House of Blues."
House of Blues is a major national entertainment company that specializes in live music and "Southern-inspired cuisine." Its venues include New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland and San Diego.
Cordish said the language in the document should not be interpreted to mean a House of Blues would occupy the Midland.
"It's an easy identifier of a concept," Cordish said. "Our plan is to self-operate the venue."
Walton Construction has been selected to be the pre-construction contractor for the Empire renovation and will likely end up doing the entire job, Cordish said. No contractor has been picked for the Midland.
As far as who will build the remainder of 425,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space planned for the Power & Light District, Cordish said J.E. Dunn Construction would do the "vast majority" of the work.
J.E. Dunn has the city contract to build the three parking garages associated with the project and a separate contract to build the H&R Block headquarters building.
"We are extremely pleased with J.E. Dunn, and we fully anticipate them completing the vast majority of the construction of the district in a first-class manner consistent with their reputation," Cordish said.
He added: "One block of the project will likely be completed by another contractor, which is consistent with our planning of a construction job of this magnitude spanning seven city blocks."
That one block is the key Jones Store block, called Block 110 by the city.
Contractors who say they have been contacted by Cordish to develop that section of the project include Walton Construction and McCown Gordon Construction.
"We're pursuing with all the gusto we can, but there probably are a lot of oars in the water besides us," said Patrick J. McCown, CEO of the company that bears his name.
Gregory E. Nook, a representative for J.E. Dunn, said his firm had been unable to reach an agreement with Cordish on the Block 110 development site.
"Our terms and where we wanted to be were not consistent with their goals," he said.
Cordish also confirmed that its lender for the Power & Light District project will be LaSalle Bank of Chicago.
To reach Kevin Collison, call (816) 234-4289 or send e-mail to email@example.com .
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