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Argentine development siteGeorge Brajkovic, UG economic development director, outlined the history of the Argentine development site at the Aug. 15 UG meeting. (Staff photo)
Argentine development site
A former environmental Superfund site that once produced silver and gold now could be lucrative again.
The proposal for a tax-increment financing district to put a Walmart Neighborhood Market store on the site in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kan., had only positive comments made about it at a public hearing Aug. 15 at the Unified Government Commission meeting. There were no opponents.
Five people spoke in favor of the development near 24th and Metropolitan Avenue.
There are no grocery stores now in the Argentine area, and a Save-A-Lot is currently under construction nearby. The Walmart Neighborhood Market carries many grocery items.
Bill Rogers, who lives near 73rd, said he is planning to move to the Argentine area because of all the development going on. He said he would volunteer to work hard to see that persons in the Argentine area get some of the new jobs that would be created. He added that he was speaking on behalf of the Kansas City, Kan., Housing Authority, the more than 2,000 housing units in the Wyandotte County area and more than 500 units in the 3rd District in supporting the development.
Dan Welch said he would like to see a modern interface put between the development and nearby Vega Park.
Also speaking in favor of the development was Marcia Rupp.
The property was owned by a group from El Centro, which is not making any money from the sale, according to an official.
“We’ve owned this land for 17 years and it’s brought us nothing but a set of headaches,” said Kaler Bowl, past board chairman of El Centro. They’ve tried to maintain the property as much as possible and tried to sell it all that time, he said.
“We’d like to see the land sold,” he said. “If not now, when, if not these people, who would have the patience and professionalism that this group of buyers has?” he asked.
Korb Maxwell of the Polsinelli law firm, representing Argentine Retail Developers, said this really is a celebration of bringing additional economic development east of I-635. “We hope that good momentum continues on projects that this commission and other commissions are working on,” he said, continuing to make Wyandotte County a community of choice.
“We also believe this is wise financial decisions for Wyandotte County because for so many years those grocery dollars have been leaving this community,” he said. Looking at license plates in Roeland Park, one can see many Wyandotte County license plates, and know there is buying power in the community but it is not being harnessed here in Wyandotte County, he added.
Most importantly, it takes out a long-term blight of the neighborhood, he said. The property is now safe, but it is a blight in the middle of the neighborhood, he said.
Lane 4 Realty and developers are taking on the project, putting hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, and taking on a project that almost nobody else would, he said. They are taking it not just through a UG process but also through an EPA process, he said.
Source of Argentine name and Silver City nickname
The development is on a former structural steel site, but before that use, it was a smelting site producing silver, gold, and lead, according to George Brajkovic, UG economic development director. The earliest record of it was from 1880.
In 1898, a smelting and refining company produced 8 million ounces of silver at that site, along with 250,000 ounces of gold and 40,000 tons of lead. In today’s dollars, the operation produced $320 million worth of silver, gold and lead, he said.
Subsequently the smelting site was replaced by a steel fabrication facility for more than seven decades, he said. That site was abandoned in 1984, and in 1993, the Environmental Protection Agency moved in and declared it a Superfund site. Four feet of contaminated soil and groundwater were removed and replaced with clean fill, Brajkovic said.
El Centro purchased the property in 1995 from Banc America Commercial Property, which had acquired it in 1994, he said.
There were severe barriers to development of the site, Brajkovic said. That included any use of the property below four feet, plus the contaminated soil was left contained on the southeast part of the property on three acres, he said.
The site plan is 60,000 square feet of retail development anchored by a 40,000 square-foot grocery store.
The $9.5 million investment would have $4.3 million in possible reimbursable project costs, suggesting revenues of $5.9 million, indicating the project would be feasible if there were that much in project costs, he said. The development agreement would spell out more details, he said.
UG Commissioner Ann Murguia was very involved in bringing the development to the Argentine area. During the public hearing, she left the meeting room. After the meeting, she said she was excited about the project, and encouraged that it was almost done. She added that it will be about 45 days until the ribbon is cut for the Save-A-Lot grocery store.
No vote on the project was taken at the Aug. 15 meeting. After details are completed on the negotiation of the development agreement, the TIF plan and a development agreement will come back before the UG Commission later for approval, according to UG officials.