BNIM abandons plans for headquarters project at 1640 Baltimore, will consider other locations

BNIM, put off by the ongoing controversy over its proposed Crossroads headquarters building, will stop pursuing it.

The architecture firm announced on Thursday that it was not beneficial to the firm and its employees to continue to be part of the dispute over whether it was appropriate to use public incentives for its headquarters project.

It sought to convert an empty warehouse at 1640 Baltimore, a building owned by philanthropist Shirley Helzberg, into an ambitious new headquarters. It currently leases space at the former TWA headquarters at 18th and Main, but that lease expiresin November.

The proposal was met with opposition from taxing jurisdictions and parents of Kansas City Public Schools students. They saw the diversion of public money through an approved tax increment financing plan as unnecessary when the west Crossroads was thought to be a desirable neighborhood.

That prompted a flurry of compromise offers involving the city, Helzberg, BNIM and taxing jurisdictions to work out a plan that all could agree upon. A group of petitioners who gathered enough signatures to repeal the TIF on the BNIM plan, or at least put the question before the voters, did not stray from its objective.

“[W]e did not anticipate our project becoming a lightning rod in a much larger incentives fight,” said BNIM in a written statement. “In spite of a willingness on our part to make multiple revisions to the proposal, including one that would add millions to the KC public school system, petitioners were unwilling to compromise.”

BNIM said it was committed to Kansas City, Missouri, but would begin exploring throughout the metropolitan area for a permanent headquarters.

“BNIM is committed to Kansas City, our city, today and in the future,” the company said in its statement. “However, with our lease expiring at our current temporary headquarters, we must immediately begin the process of identifying interim and permanent office space within the metro KC area. With our recent growth and planned projects set to increase by 50% in the near future, we will also begin the process of shifting some future growth to our offices in other cities until such time as we have an office plan in the KC metro.”

Helzberg has said publicly that she would consider tearing down her building if the BNIM plan were thwarted, a move that would cost the taxing jurisdiction more future revenue than had it acceded to the TIF plan.

If development proposals are met with the option of either getting incentives or getting leveled to rubble, that’s a sad state of affairs in Kansas City economic development.

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