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If there are, they'll be waiting a long time for those promised 7,127 jobs.
Ten miles from SubTropolis, two white statues meant to evoke the days of Michelangelo face each other. Flanked by wilting shrubs and peeling columns, the forms look like remnants of a lost civilization.
The statues — a male and female, built to approximately 70 percent scale — stand on pedestals in the median of Maple Woods Parkway, a road that bisects what was supposed to become Renaissance North.
Developer Ed Barth proposed the original plan in 1999. He envisioned a development where homes, apartments, offices, beauty salons and a Starbucks would share a dense, 96-acre plot. "This project will be like turning back to the older times, when everything was within walking distance," Barth told the Kansas City Star.
The city approved a TIF plan and issued bonds to pay for streets and other improvements. But the project ran into problems. Homeowners who lived on Northeast 82nd Street didn't want their homes demolished. (Elsa Pagán and others on the north side of the street were able to stay.) A bridge needed to be redesigned. Barth withdrew for health reasons and later died.
A new development team, led by Barth's partner, Kurt Degenhardt, came forward with a plan that tripled the city's financial participation. The city approved the amended plan in 2004, prompting Degenhardt to say the project had "no more excuses," according to an account in the Star.
Two years later, a bank foreclosed on the property.
Three homes were under construction when work stopped. The foreclosure meant that contractors couldn't get paid.
Gary Bringus, a home builder, tells the Pitch that he worked on the project for two months. He's not entirely sure what happened. Degenhardt never seemed to have any answers. "It's hard to know what the truth is with him," Bringus says.
To pay his subcontractors, Bringus has reached into his own pocket. Excavator Carey Halley agreed to take 40 cents on the dollar for work he performed. "He just got blindsided," Halley says of Bringus.
The project is now a mess for the courts to sort out. Fogel-Anderson, which was managing the construction, is suing Degenhardt and his companies for $650,000.
Degenhardt is no stranger to legal action. Since 1996, he's been sued for failure to pay rent, a credit-card balance, a gas bill and a $25,000 note to an asphalt company. (Degenhardt, who lives in a house near Tiffany Springs Golf Club that he's listed for sale at $648,950, did not respond to requests for comment.)
Bank officials who now own the property told the city last year that they would try to bring the development back to life. But the only activity appears to be vegetation growth. The uncompleted houses are beginning to disappear behind weeds.
In addition to missing out on the 889 jobs that were promised, the city pays $955,071 a year to cover the bonds that built the pointless streets and fire hydrants.
The bonds won't be paid off until 2021.