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Olathe OKs tax increment financing plan for hotel conference center

Special to The Star

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The Olathe City Council this week approved a tax increment financing plan for the Olathe Conference Center & Embassy Suites and adopted the 2014 budget.

The Heart of America Group, based in Moline, Ill., plans to build the $51 million hotel and conference center on the southeast corner of Ridgeview Road and K-10 highway in the Corporate Ridge office park.

The 10-story hotel is expected to have 200 rooms, a pool and fitness center, a restaurant and lounge, and a large common space. The development also will include a 25,000-square-foot conference center to hold 750 to 1,000 people.

The project will be funded with the help of a $19.6 million incentive package, consisting of a tax increment financing and community improvement district cap of $14.7 million and a city loan of $4.9 million. A two-percent sales tax in the district will fund the CID.

“This project is going to draw a significant amount of new visitors to Olathe and help businesses flourish in that corridor,” deputy city attorney Ron Shaver told The Star after the meeting. “It’s going to generate a lot more revenue and economic activity for the city.”

Mayor Michael Copeland feels the project will put the city in a new light.

“The demand for a first-class conference facility in our community continues to grow, and we are so excited to see this plan move forward,” Copeland said. “The Embassy Suites brand is synonymous with excellence, and we couldn’t be more proud to welcome them to Olathe. This long-awaited project will set the pace for even more great things to come, and it further establishes Olathe as one of the Midwest’s most dominant business and economic centers.”

Groundbreaking on the project is expected to occur in March, with construction expected to wrap up within 16 months.

Also at the meeting on Tuesday, the council also adopted the 2014 budget, which focuses heavily on enhancing public safety and maintaining infrastructure.

The $79.4 million budget is nearly a five percent increase from the 2013 budget.

Increases to public safety include the addition of staff to police, prosecution, fire and municipal courts.

Earlier this year, City Manager Michael Wilkes told the council that investing in Olathe’s street maintenance program and preservation program was vital.

“We believe we’re moving into a period where we need to maintain infrastructure because if we don’t invest in it now, it will make the problem worse,” Wilkes said.

He also said the city’s stable financial outlook is due to smart choices made during the recession.

“As we approached the economic downturn, we took action in preparing ourselves and we recognized the signs in advance,” he said. “We did it the same way the people in the community had to do — cut cost and repurpose the budget. Now that the economy is slowly beginning to come back, we want to make sure we refocus our attention on the priorities of the community.”

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