By Gene Meyer | Kansas Reporter
MISSION — Developers who originally sought $63 million in taxpayer money to help build a giant aquarium and hotel complex in this tiny northeast Kansas City suburb have scrapped those plans.
Kansas Commerce Department spokesman Dan Lara confirmed Wednesday that the Cameron Group, of Syracuse, N.Y., did not resubmit its application for state-subsidized STAR bond financing, which was planned to help build the tourist attraction on the now-vacant 26-acre site of a failed shopping mall.
The STAR bonds — Sales Tax Anticipation Revenue — lend future sales tax revenue to real estate developers to help pay for roads, parking lots or other infrastructure that’s needed — theoretically — for their enterprise to flourish.
Cameron is abandoning its 4-year-old quest to incorporate a 2.5 million-gallon aquarium and a 150-room hotel into a mixed-use retail center on Mission’s eastern border.However, it still intends to build a 150,000-square-foot Walmart there, without state help, The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday.
Cameron could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Local Kansas governments, under the supervision of the state Commerce Department, have authorized the sale of more than $850 million in STAR bond sales since 2001 but not all of those bonds have been issued.
Some projects, such as the aquarium here and a planned natural history museum in a proposed Overland Park shopping center, haven’t received the private support Kansas requires before issuing the bonds.
Cameron, for example, has been trying since 2008 to sign tenants to fill 75 percent of the planned space. It failed, and the bonds were never issued, said Lara.
The bonds were instrumental in bringing the Kansas Speedway and clusters of shopping centers to Kansas City, Kan., just northwest of here, during the past decade.
Even so, Kansas legislators in the latest session debated whether to end STAR bonds after this year, because new economic growth sparked by the bonds appeared to be dwindling. Instead, lawmakers extended the program through 2017, citing competition with Missouri for bringing new businesses to the Kansas City area.
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