The city of Gardner ranks in the bottom third of local cities in time and cost of development according to a report card on municipal development in the greater Kansas City area. The report, developed by the Society of Office and Industrial Realtors (SIOR) and business students at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, did not give the 14 metro cities researched actual grades, but asked for time and costs associated with building office and industrial buildings within area cities.
According to Tom Reiderer, president of the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corp., the report gives potential developers a comparison; however, there are more factors beyond time and cost in commercial development.
“If you’re looking at two sites that are kind of a coin flip, (the report) might come into play,” Reiderer said. “The important thing is the ease at which they can work through the process.”
Research teams visited each municipality and presented plans for two different buildings – a 60,000-square-foot office building and a 100,000-square-foot industrial building. The report includes the estimated cost and time associated with building identical buildings in each city. Team members assumed the projects fit zoning requirements for each municipality and that a build site had not yet been selected.
To construct the proposed $10 million industrial building in Gardner, it would cost a developer $215,340 in municipal fees, and the planning process would take about 13 weeks. Gardner ranked 11th out of 14 in terms of cost. Riverside, Mo., ranked first with municipal fees totaling $39,110, while Overland Park, Kan., ranked last with projected city fees totaling $349,073. Gardner’s fees were lower than Olathe and Shawnee in addition to Overland Park.
Reiderer said time was almost as important as cost to many developers.
“The important thing is the ease at which they can work through the process,” he explained. “I think you’ll notice that Wyandotte County seems to have a very quick turnaround on all of their processes. The important thing in a development is that you take all of this together and look at how much time it takes to go through the process, how much money it’s going to cost you, in the long run I’ve found the ability to come in, have assistance during the process and be able to move through the process expeditiously is as important as the financial if cities are in the same ballpark.”
The planning process for an industrial building would take about 13 weeks in Gardner compared to six weeks in Lawrence, Kan. and Independence, Mo. at the top of the study’s time chart. Gardner ranked eighth. The longest planning time frames were in Unified Government of Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Leawood, Kan., where the study estimates planning for a large industrial building would take 20 weeks.
Rankings for times and costs associated with constructing the commercial office building were very similar, according to the report. To build a $9.6 million, 60,000 square foot office building in Gardner, permit and development fees would total $159,273 and the process would take about 13 weeks. Gardner ranked 10th in costs and eighth in planning time. Lenexa, Olathe, Shawnee and Overland Park rounded out the bottom.
Reiderer said Gardner’s primary competition for commercial and industrial development are other Johnson County cities, and Gardner ranked ahead of most cities in the county in fees and time frame categories.
“If you look at the communities in Johnson County, you’ll find us to be fairly competitive and that’s truly what market we compete against,” Reiderer said.
It’s tougher to compete in the short term against places like Kansas City, Mo., he explained.
“In a KCMO area, for example, it’s often very higher subsidized by one of the utilities or by the city to make (development) more attractive,” Reiderer said. “We can’t compete against that. We still have to make up for that in fees. But if you look at the cost in the future, we probably beat them and have in the past.”
The study, he said, is simply a snapshot in time.
“Developers have to not only look at this point of time, but look at how they’re they’re going to be with us and then, we’re competitive in that area,” Reiderer said. “Development is a long-term benefit.”