Welcome to the official blog of Block Real Estate Services, LLC (BRES). BRES seeks to offer insight and news concerning commercial real estate, financial investments, construction and development of the 212 communities we serve locally and nationally.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 4: 12 Days of the KC Market Report: How Streetcars Will Shape Downtown Kansas City

Late October, Jackson County court administrator’s office mailed out ballots Tuesday to 697 downtown registered voters who qualified for the downtown streetcar mail-in election. Today, those ballots are due and the city will see what will come of the Downtown Streetcar Initiative.

This is a key factor shaping the Kansas City downtown landscape that will be reviewed more in depth in the 2013 Block Real Estate Market Report.  For now, we look at what plan has been proposed for the streetcars and what effect it will have on the Downtown community and Kansas City transit as a whole if the ballot passes.

The 2-mile Main Street potential stretch (River Market to Crown Center) for streetcars was approved this summer. Previous plans failed for being too expensive or too complicated. The new KC Streetcar plan is focused is focused on gathering support within the neighborhoods and stakeholders among the area, where  local funding can be leveraged with Federal money.

The Upside
If the ballot passes today, it will be another step to making Kansas City a more cutting-edge, modern city that is a source for vitality and business. Yael T. Abouhalkah of the Kansas City Star says in this article that streetcars could be the way to attract the right audience to the KC Downtown scene:

"The streetcar will deliver customers, workers and residents to the front doors of many buildings. People who won’t ride buses will ride streetcars, boosting their usefulness...many other cities have streetcars or light rail; Kansas City needs to pay attention to young people and their values, to show them that staying in or coming to the city is the right move for them. Entrepreneurs of any age also want to be in a city that’s willing to take risks — just like they are doing."

The Downside
If the ballot passes today, downtown residents will be facing a tax increase within the downtown streetcar boundaries to help pay for the initiative. This would be a 1-cent sales tax increase within the downtown district with a tax increase of 48 cents per $100 of assessed value on commercial property and a tax increase of 70 cents per $100 of assessed value on residential properties.

Some argue that this money would simply be poured into a pipe dream, as David Hunall of the Pitch compares to Tampa's hopes of streetcars:

"Ten years on, the Tampa streetcar is bleeding red ink. Property-tax revenues are falling, ridership is down, and a $5 million endowment it has used to cover shortfalls is nearly dry. It has reduced its hours, operating from noon to 10 p.m. most days, and now arrives at stops only every 20 minutes, making it an unfeasible mode of transportation even for a downtown lunch trip."

Only the ballots will tell what will become of this initiative. Regardless, this is a very exciting time for Kansas City as the city looks forward to the next development phase to continue on the upward path of growth and economic development.