UG Commission approves URBN development project

A drawing of the new $403 million URBN fulfillment center to be located next to the Kansas Speedway at 118th and State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas. (Drawing from UG meeting information)

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.

Police seek public’s help to identify robbery suspects

Police are asking the public to help identify suspects in an aggravated robbery at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, in the 800 block of Kansas Avenue. (Photo from Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department)
Police are asking the public to help identify suspects in an aggravated robbery at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, in the 800 block of Kansas Avenue. (Photo from Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department)
Police are asking the public to help identify suspects in an aggravated robbery at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, in the 800 block of Kansas Avenue. (Photo from Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department)

Police are asking the public to assist to help identify suspects in an aggravated robbery at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, in the 800 block of Kansas Avenue.

According to a Kansas City, Kansas, police spokesman, two suspects entered the store and lingered for an extended amount of time.

One male brandished a weapon and pointed it at the victim, a store employee, according to the spokesman.

The man then ordered the employee around at gunpoint while an unidentified female suspect acted as a distraction, according to the spokesman. The male demanded property and cash, and both suspects fled on foot, the spokesman stated.

The male was wearing a gray “Champion” hoodie, black ball cap with lettering, possibly stating “Business,” and dark-colored Nike tennis shoes, according to police.

The female had her hair up and covered by a black Nike ball cap, according to police.

Both were wearing standard medical masks. The female appears to be several inches taller than the male, police stated.

The gun appeared to be a silver semi-automatic handgun with an extended magazine, police said.

The robbery is under investigation by the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Bureau. Anyone with information was asked to call the TIPS hotline at 816-474-TIPS.

Kansas Speedway to have limited number of fans for Oct. 18 race

The Kansas Speedway announced Wednesday on its website that it would have a limited number of fans at its NASCAR Cup Series race Oct. 18.

The race will be run with safety protocols and procedures in place, according to a news release.

Grandstand seating and select campgrounds will be available, while infield access will be restricted to essential industry personnel, according to the announcement.

The Hollywood Casino 400 starts at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, at the Kansas Speedway, and will be the first in the round of eight in the Cup Series playoffs, the news release stated.

“I know the drivers feed off the excitement of having the fans on hand, and we are enthusiastic for the opportunity to welcome them back to the track, offering a safe, healthy environment for everyone,” Kansas Speedway President Pat Warren said in a statement.

Fans who have already purchased tickets to the race may be reseated to new locations to ensure social distancing, with lower ticket pricing applied, according to the news release.

All guests will be temperature screened and will be asked questions about health before entering the racetrack, and will maintain 6 feet of social distancing, the news release stated. Guests who are age 3 and older will be required to wear face coverings, according to the release.

For this race, re-entry, tailgating and coolers will not be permitted. Clear bags up to 18 inches by 18 inches by 14 inches will be allowed. Concessions will have limited grab-and-go items.

Guests will be directed to parking lots with more space between visitors. Also, there will be an entry and exit procedure to prevent people from being concentrated together.

Camping will be allowed in Turn 1, Turn 3, Turn 4 and backstretch terraces. Outside camping will be limited to select campgrounds. Infield and tent camping will not be available at this event.

The Oct. 18 race will be carried on NBC.

Other races in October at the Kansas Speedway include the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series Kansas 200 at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16; the ARCA Menards Series Championship Kansas 150 at 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16; and the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17.

For more information, see www.kansasspeedway.com.