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.

New $350 million development announced for Kansas Speedway area in Wyandotte County

A new $350 million development bringing nearly 2,000 jobs was announced today for the Kansas Speedway area, at 118th and State Avenue in Wyandotte County.

Urban Outfitters, after evaluating markets across the central United States, selected Wyandotte County for the home for its new ecommerce direct fulfillment center, said Tim Cowden, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council. He made the announcement during a Zoom news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Urban Outfitters has about 200 stores nationwide, Cowden said. The company, with headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will use the new URBN distribution and fulfillment center as a logistics node for the general merchandise and consumer products Urban Outfitters company.

The new development will be an 880,000-square-foot multi-channel distribution center, according to the announcement. There will be 60,000 square feet of office space. Ground will be broken in the fall, and it may begin operating in early 2022.

Gov. Laura Kelly, Mayor David Alvey, NASCAR Vice President Lesa Kennedy, and several other officials participated in the Zoom announcement.

Gov. Kelly said this will be a “transformational project for the state.”

She said Urban Outfitters saw the value in a central location and strong infrastructure. They also found out more about what makes Kansas special – the people, she said. The Kansas work ethic is unmatched anywhere, the governor said.

Mayor Alvey said he was deeply impressed by the company’s vision.

“Urban is the kind of community business partner that we need to attract as we continue to grow our tax base, as we try to provide better and more services to all of our neighborhoods throughout Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County,” Mayor Alvey said.

Urban has committed to a long-term investment, Mayor Alvey said, and will strive to hire 35 percent of its workforce from Wyandotte County, he said. He also said the company is committed to using minority and women-owned businesses in the construction of the project, and will work with the Unified Government to provide transit services to employees. They also will provide child care solutions for employees, he said.

A workforce partnership with Kansas City Kansas Community College is planned.

Mayor Alvey said the company has committed to paying a wage of $18 an hour, which is a significant improvement on the median wage in Wyandotte County.

“We all know the very serious economic challenge that the COVID pandemic presents to all of us,” Mayor Alvey said. But they continue to see new development in Kansas City, Kansas, and the area.

He said they expect $270,000 in additional revenues for the city of Kansas City, Kansas, from this project, which is very significant for the community. Also, Bonner Springs school district would receive $200,000 to $220,000 a year, which is also significant, he said.

He thanked state officials, along with economic development officials, for their work on the project.

Incentives were not announced today, and they are currently working with the company on them, the mayor said in answer to a question at the news conference.

Lesa Kennedy, executive vice president of NASCAR, said they joined with Hillwood Development to find the best and highest uses for land. This property is “absolutely perfect” to do a deal with Urban, according to Kennedy.

Todd Platt, CEO of Hillwood Development of Ft. Worth, Texas, said Urban Outfitters is a strong retail company. He believes there will be a lot more investment in this community in the future. Ross Perot Jr. is chairman.

David Ziel, chief development officer at Urban Outfitters, said it will be a complex facility requiring a talented workforce to run it. He said they have been working on this project for 10 months.

“People first is the No. 1 driver of this decision,” Ziel said. “Kansas wins on the quality of the people.”