The Unified Government Commission on Thursday night unanimously approved a development agreement and bond agreement for the URBN development project, next to the Kansas Speedway at 118th and State Avenue.
Mayor David Alvey said the project was attractive in many ways, including its commitment to hire at least 35 percent of its employees from Wyandotte County, and providing transportation and child care.
The $403 million project promises more than 1,000 good-paying jobs in the next five years, according to Katherine Carttar, UG economic development director.
It will provide 1.5 million square feet of distribution space and 60,000 square feet of office space for Urban Outfitters and its companies, according to Carttar.
About 985 full-time jobs will pay about $18 an hour, Carttar said, while about 77 office-related jobs will pay around $35 an hour. They also expect to offer about 739 part-time jobs.
Carttar said it would be a tremendous increase to the starting salary of distribution jobs in Wyandotte County, and she hoped it would push the entire industry to even higher wages here.
The distribution fulfillment center would be the main national distribution center for Office Outfitters and its companies, according to officials. It would serve the company’s 200 stores on both coasts and throughout the nation, and it was previously described as an ecommerce direct fulfillment center. Under the plan, the facility would begin operation in 2022.
The project was worked out by state and local economic development officials, and was announced by Gov. Laura Kelly on Aug. 5.
Carttar said the incentive proposal is a 75 percent abatement over 10 years through industrial revenue bonds. It has a 45 percent base, with a 15 percent investment bonus and a 10 percent goal to hire 35 percent Wyandotte County residents, and five percent for minority, women and local contractors.
It amounts to $13.7 million over 10 years in abatements, she said. The company will be paying $6.5 million a year in payments received over 10 years, she added.
A cost benefit analysis showed all taxing jurisdictions would receive significant, positive returns on investment, Carttar said.
It was a true partnership, where they worked closely with the state and Urban Outfitters to come up with a proposal “outside the box.” The company is very community focused, and has made a commitment for child care, with an investment from state and commitment from UG, as well as a commitment for an express bus route from Indian Springs to the distribution site.
The state will contribute $1.5 million for the initial startup costs of the express route, with the company providing a CID to provide about $300,000 annually to operate the express line, she said. It would benefit their employees as well as the wider community, Carttar said.
David Ziel, chief development officer for Urban Outfitters, said he was proud to plant their largest facility in Wyandotte County.
“This is the center pin of our overall strategy for years to come,” he said.
The selection was based on partnerships, but more importantly, on the people, he said. People were the focus, with attention given by everyone to how to position the project, provide better transportation, continue to support and help the economy flourish.
“We feel it’s the strongest workforce out of our six finalists, three in each state,” he said.
He said he was looking forward to more projects in the region.
“We will hire as many candidates from Wyandotte County who qualify and who apply,” Ziel said. From their perspective, the 35 percent is not a limit on how many local residents may receive jobs. “We could go as high as it accommodates.”
Urban Outfitters’ companies include Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain and the wedding concept.
“This becomes our true Omni channel facility, which supports retail, distribution, as well as direct to consumer fulfillment at the largest proportion,” Ziel said.
Originally founded on the East Coast, Urban Outfitters’ largest expansion was on the West Coast, he said. “We’ve chosen Wyandotte County in Kansas to be the centerpoint of our strategy.”
He said they are excited about universities being in close proximity, and there may be other opportunities to grow the business in Kansas, Wyandotte County and surrounding areas in the future.
He said they would be local-driven on this project.
“I am committed to continue to evolve concepts further,” he said.
Child care in this facility was a huge initiative from the state and local governments, he said. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will be in this facility, but will be located in the community. Transportation also will support their development as well as continued development, providing access to good-paying jobs, he said.
“We are extraordinarily pleased,” Ziel said.
Greg Kindle, the president of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, said he’s been impressed by the company’s culture.
“They’re committed to creating a quality of life for their employees that we believe brings value to Wyandotte County,” Kindle said. “This is not a transactional development deal. What is before you is a transformational development agreement that connects Urban Outfitters to our community in numerous ways.”
Those ways include a long-term commitment to transit, hiring Wyandotte County residents, including those who do not speak English as a first language, creating nearly 2,000 jobs with sector leading wages, commitment to developing health care and child care programs, using local, women-owned and minority-owned firms in construction and connecting with school districts in internships and special projects, he said.
Commissioner Melissa Bynum complimented URBN for asking Wyandotte County what it needs with this project. She said this project was a “game changer,” and may help bring families out of generational poverty.
Commissioner Tom Burroughs said projects like this, with magnitude and long-lasting impact, are catalysts for additional development projects.
Commissioner Jane Philbrook said the community is at a tipping point for a cultural shift to help it grow and make a bright future. “You are a godsend, thank you very much,” she said.
Besides holding a public hearing on the fulfillment center tonight, the commission passed a resolution of intent, a bond ordinance authorizing issuing bonds, the development agreement and bond purchase agreement, and an ordinance releasing the land for the project from the tax-increment financing and STAR (sales tax revenue) bond district. The land was part of the Kansas Speedway property, to the west of the racetrack.