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The Lake News Online
  • State: Kansas City's downtown area losing office tenants

  • The massive makeover of the greater downtown Kansas City over the past decade was intended in part to draw businesses, but census figures show the area has lost nearly 20 percent of its private employees over the last decade.
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  • The massive makeover of the greater downtown Kansas City over the past decade was intended in part to draw businesses, but census figures show the area has lost nearly 20 percent of its private employees over the last decade.
    U.S. Census Bureau data from 2001 to 2011, the latest year available, show that greater downtown lost 19.6 percent of its private employees, which is 16,237 fewer private jobs, The Kansas City Star reported.
    That decade covers the period from shortly before the downtown redevelopment boom began, with additions including the Power & Light District, Sprint Center and the Kauffman Center, to just after the major redevelopment projects were completed. The greater downtown area runs from Crown Center and the Crossroads Arts District through the central business district to the River Market.
    "We're supposed to be in the middle of this resurgence, and I'm having trouble finding it," said Bill Lucas, president of Crown Center Redevelopment Corp., which manages 1.4 million square feet of office space at Crown Center.
    Bill Dietrich, president and CEO of the Downtown Council, said he believes it would have been worse for downtown if the city had not reinvested so heavily over the last decade.
    The Downtown Council is a private organization that has championed downtown's revival.
    The office market in the entire metro that has been sluggish, and downtown has also had to deal with Kansas incentives luring companies to the suburbs, Dietrich said.
    "We are trying to change attitudes that have developed over 30-plus years," Dietrich said. "... But the enhancements in downtown have saved downtown. It would have been a lost cause, and we're poised to recover."
    But the exodus from downtown doesn't seem to be improving anytime soon.
    AMC Entertainment is moving out next month, taking 400 jobs to a new building in suburban Leawood, Kan., and 150 lawyers and staff also will be leaving this fall when the Polsinelli law firm consolidates in its new headquarters near the Country Club Plaza.
    There is some help on the way for downtown, however.
    The federal government plans to relocate 1,000 employees from the Bannister Federal Complex by late 2014 and is seeking about 170,000 square feet downtown.
    Ten years ago, said Tim Schaffer, executive vice president of RED Brokerage, said despite the big vacancy rate, what downtown really needs now is new, more modern office space.
    "Companies move to buildings that work for their operations and many of these are older buildings that don't work anymore," he said.
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