An industrial park in Independence's Little Blue Valley, long-discussed by city officials and civic leaders, appears to be on the horizon.
A plan before the City Council calls for the city to issue $37.15 million in industrial bonds for a 34-acre plot that would have about 550,000 square feet of new industrial space in two speculative buildings.
The land off R.D. Mize Road between Jackson Drive and Little Blue Parkway would be conveyed to the city, which would lease the property VanTrust Real Estate. VanTrust would have tax abatement from 2020 to 2041 and would bear all risk in paying back the bonds.
The ordinance for the bonds received its first reading at Monday's council meeting. The council likely will vote on the project on Aug. 5.
“This is what the council and city had been trying to do for years,” Council Member Scott Roberson said. “This creates a lot more money in economic turnover in Independence.”
Assistant City Manager Mark Randall pointed out that even with tax abatement, the city, county and schools will still receive much more revenue from payments in lieu of taxes than they currently do from the farmland. Last year, the property in question had an assessed valuation of $4,570. When construction is complete, according to city project documents, the assessed valuation will be more than $7.6 million.
Grant Harrison, representing VanTrust, said the company does not have tenants lined up for the buildings but that demand industrial space is real. He said VanTrust hopes to start grade work at the site this winter or next spring.
“We'll be marketing the day we break ground,” he said.
Community Development Director Tom Scannell said the land is in a flood plain, but the developer plans to bring in enough dirt to raise the ground level about five feet.
The two buildings could be divided into areas of 80,000 to 100,000 square feet.
Tom Lesnak, president of the Independence Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Council, said the industrial park plan has been the EDC's top priority for four or five years, though it feels like it's been a lifetime coming.
Lesnak agreed with Harrison that the industrial buildings would be not be pie-in-the-sky speculation.
“Most available space is outdated,” Lesnak said. “We think the market's there.”
“We've been in conversations with (VanTrust) for a year, at least, trying to identify a site they were comfortable with.”
“Obviously it's a risk to the developer, but that's why there's some abatement, and everything they do is top of the line,” Lesnak said. “They hold their investments for a long time.”
Early plans for a different business park development on 90 acres on the other side of Little Blue Parkway have not been scrapped, Lesnak said,
“We're still marketing that site, but we don't have a developer on board. If (the VanTrust project) is successful, we think that will really be a launching pad.”