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Cordish Objections Prompt Vote Delay on Downtown Office Tower Proposal

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3 minute read

By Kevin Collison

Objections by the Cordish Co. claiming the proposed Strata office tower at 13th and Main would violate the firm’s 2004 development agreement with the city prompted the developer to obtain a delay from the City Council Thursday.

The $132 million speculative office project is being pursued by a development team that includes H&R Block, Copaken Brooks and Ron Jury of Jury & Associates.

Developers say the 25-story tower, which is seeking significant incentives from the city including a $27 million investment, is needed to help downtown respond more quickly to companies seeking premium office space.

The proposed project site is above an existing retail structure in the Power & Light District that had been reserved in the original 2004 development agreement for a potential second H&R Block office building.

The Strata development team, which calls itself Power Tower, said H&R Block’s partnership in the deal meets the requirements of the 2004 development agreement.

Cordish however, believes the office tower plan is a violation of the agreement that led to the construction of the Power & Light District and has lobbied the Council to reject the deal.

That prompted Power Tower representatives to ask the Council Thursday to delay its vote.

“The misinformation that was brought before the Council over the last week has caused concern for us and we want to make sure the Council is fully educated,” Jury said in an interview after the meeting.

“We’re having discussions with the Cordish Co. right now about what their rights may be and that’s part of the information they’re providing (the Council). Power Tower is still committed to the project.”

The Strata project is planned for the block between Main and Baltimore, from 13th to 14th streets immediately west of the H&R Blocks headquarters. (Image from Google Maps)

Cordish officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

Correspondence from David Cordish, CEO and chairman of the Baltimore-based firm, to city officials and by Jon Copaken, principal of Copaken Brooks, was obtained by CityScene KC  that outlines the two sides positions.

The stakes are high, because if H&R Block does not exercise its option to build on the site by 2027 the development rights would go to Cordish which has expressed interest in building another residential tower there.

In his correspondence to Council members and other city officials, David Cordish states the original 2004 deal was between Cordish, H&R Block and the city, and the new development entity, Power Tower, was not a participant.

Cordish maintains the deal required that H&R Block be a tenant of the potential second office building. He noted the Strata office project is described as speculative and H&R Block would not occupy space there.

He also challenges H&R Block’s description as being a development partner in the Strata project.

Cordish added said his firm has not received architectural drawings for the 250,000 square-foot Strata office project and its 750-space garage, and was concerned about how its construction would affect the retail businesses beneath it.

The site, called Block 124, includes the Yard House restaurant and vacant space formerly occupied by Joseph A. Bank clothing.

Copaken Brooks has been pursuing a potential office project at 13th and Grand for more than a decade.

Cordish suggested in his correspondence that the proposed speculative office tower be built on property currently owned by Copaken Brooks at 13th and Grand north of the Sprint Center.

Copaken Brooks has been pursuing an office project at that location for more than a decade.

In his response to city officials, Jon Copaken described the Strata project as being initiated by H&R Block and Block was a partner in the development team. He said Block officials have been thoroughly briefed on its planning.

Copaken said the proposed tower would not disrupt the retail block during construction, noting the infrastructure to support it already is in place because an office tower was contemplated from the beginning.

He added HOK, the architect involved in the original 2004 development agreement, would continue to be involved in the new project. The building architect is BNIM, and J.E. Dunn would be the contractor.

Copaken acknowledged the project was speculative, but said Power Tower is in discussions with three potential tenants for up to 45 percent of the space; another potential user who could take half the space, or another potential user who could occupy the entire building.

The developer said further delays could jeopardize those potential deals.

In his correspondence to the Council, Copaken also said the Strata deal has been endorsed by the Council Finance Committee and said taxing jurisdictions are supporting the payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) they would receive from the development.

At its meeting Thursday, Council members agreed to delay consideration and have the proposal returned to committee for further review, this time the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee.

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