Reardon Center

Two years after the approval of a $23 million mixed-used development to be built on the site of the Jack Reardon Convention Center, no progress has been made on the project many hoped would help kickstart redevelopment in Kansas City, KS’s downtown core. No building permits have been pulled, demolition hasn’t started and not one nail has been hammered.

More than just at a standstill, the Downtown Campus Development approved in early 2020 is in the midst of an old fashion stand-off. The impasse is predominately the result of changing leadership in Wyandotte County – from former Mayor David Alvey to current Mayor Tyrone Garner – who have significantly different visions for downtown KCK. As a result, the project developer may learn a tough lesson about the risks of conducting business in a political environment and KCK businesses find themselves struggling to find a place to hold a gathering of any significant size.


Developer Willie Lanier, Jr., working with then Wyandotte County Mayor Alvey and the city’s economic development team pulled together a creatively packaged agreement for a development on the northwest corner of 5th and Minnesota, the current site of the Jack Reardon Convention Center. The planned development would demolish the existing convention center and replace it with a four- to five-story mixed-use residential building with first floor retail and commercial space. The project was to include a fitness center and 70 to 85 apartments, with five reserved for “workforce housing tenants” who earn less than 70% of KCK median income.

Willie Lanier

Developer Willie Lanier, Jr.

To replace the Reardon Center, the plan included construction of a much smaller, 10,600 sq. ft. multi-purpose meeting space. In addition, on a nearby vacant lot on the southwest corner of 6th and Nebraska, the plan called for the construction of a fenced-in, multi-purpose athletic facility with seating for at least 50 spectators.

To help secure the deal, the Unified Government offered a package of development incentives that included giving the project: sales tax financing (CID), property tax rebates (TIF), $1 million of transient guest tax collected by the county, exemption on sales tax for all project construction material, equipment and furniture as part of an industrial revenue bond financing, title to the Reardon Center to the developer in exchange for the ability to use the new project constructed meeting space for free and/or at a reduced rate and $1 million from the Reardon’s Center’s maintenance fund.

While some of the incentives were capped, the project development plan estimated the value of the incentives given to the project by the county at more than $7 million, or nearly one-third of the cost of the $23 million project.

Favorably, Lanier’s proposal included an aggressive commitment to using local-business (36%), minority business (28%) and women-business (15%) participation on the project. When the project was approved, both sides agreed the project would attract new residents, stimulate the economy, create new jobs, increase tax revenue and increase spending in Wyandotte County.


While the Lanier project had the full support of Mayor Alvey, incoming Mayor Garner, who defeated Alvey in the November election, has made it clear he does not support demolishing the Reardon Convention Center and replacing it with a smaller facility.

Garner is a big supporter of development on the east side of Kansas City, including downtown, but he doesn’t believe development should cost the city its only dedicated convention space.

According to LaVert Murray, chief economic development adviser to UG Mayor Tyrone Garner, the current administration first learned about plans to tear down the convention center and build apartments when the new mayor came into office in November 2021.

“I’ve spoken to a number of people in the community…. and most people said they didn’t know about it [plans to demolish the Reardon Center],” Murray said.

Murray met with Lanier in December and shared a clear message that Mayor Garner “plans to pursue additional initiatives in the downtown area, to continue our revitalization and rebuilding of our downtown that includes maintaining the convention center and renovating the convention center so we can keep it online.”

He also told Lanier the mayor is open to considering other locations for Lanier’s project in downtown KCK, along with a package of incentives.

“Mr. Lanier shared his story that he approached the past administration wanting to build apartments downtown and his plan was to build on the site where the UMB bank drive-in facility is located, on the corner of 6th and Minnesota, and that someone in the past administration steered him from that site to the convention center site,” said Murray.

Murray suggested Lanier submit a revised proposal for a development on that site, which includes the parking lot across from the Reardon Center.


According to Murray, the development agreement between the UG and Lanier and his Lanier United, LLC lapsed on Dec. 31, 2021, the expiration date established in the executed project agreement. According to Lanier, he submitted a request to amend/extend the “drop dead date” for the agreement and the item was set to be voted on by the WyCo commission in December 2021 but the item was pulled from the agenda.

Implying Lanier’s request was excessive, Murray said two contract amendments are rare, and this was Lanier’s fifth request for an amendment.

Although he would consider building on the UMB location, “my first goal is the convention center,” Lanier told us. “I believe the deal I had was a great deal and I could be real productive.”

By real productive, Lanier may mean real profitable, since it will be difficult for the City to offer him a package as financially beneficial on another site, especially without the income he would generate as developer and owner of the new replacement convention center.

Also not transferable to a different site are funds generated by the 2% sales tax that is part levies as part of an existing Community Improvement District (CID) previously created on the Reardon site. The potential benefit from the CID sales tax for the original Lanier project was just over $3 million.

In a March 4, 2022 letter to the Board of Commissioners, Lanier expressed his disappointment with the mayor’s position to not move forward with the original development project.

“As you can imagine, I was discouraged and disheartened by that outcome, as I had incurred approximately $750,000 in pre-development costs over the preceding 18 months to get the project to a point of near commencement, which is no small feat for a relatively small African-American owned development company,” wrote Lanier.

During his meeting with Lanier and his attorney, Murray said Lanier wanted to talk about “reimbursables.”

“I don’t know what that is,” Murray told us.

From Lanier, it appears he’s looking for some compensation from the City for all, or a portion of, the expenses he incurred under the original contract.


Since the end-of-year 2021 little to no progress has been made on the project.

Lanier says on January 4, he received modified terms for a reconfigured project on the UMB site from the Economic Development staff. Although he responded to the revised proposal by email on Jan. 5, so far Lanier says he has not received a response.

Murray says, similarly, he’s waiting to hear from Lanier with a revised development proposal for a project on the UMB site.

What will it take to get things moving forward?

Unified Government Commissioner Andrew Davis says he’s hoping Lanier is given the chance to come before the UG Commission to talk more about how he plans to use the project to uplift the community.

Davis said he would support putting Lanier’s project on the agenda, so the community can give feedback and the commission can make a final decision.

“We need development. We need to particularly show Black developers and other developers of color that they are welcomed here and that we’re going to give them a shot,” Davis said

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Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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