Columbia officials are considering the formation of a city-led transportation development district, bringing together major property owners along Stadium Boulevard near Interstate 70 to oversee a comprehensive overhaul of one the city’s busiest thoroughfares.
The city’s plan is merely the latest twist in the debate over how best to rebuild a road that is a veritable parking lot during rush hour. Already, there are two Columbia developers each seeking to form distinct taxing districts to fund improvements on Stadium.
If any of the plans come to fruition, shoppers will almost surely pay a higher sales tax — probably an additional half-cent on the dollar — on purchases made in many stores along Stadium.
Raul Walters, who owns Crossroads West Shopping Center and the plazas where Circuit City, Toys “R” Us, Best Buy and Hobby Lobby are located, submitted a petition in February seeking formation of a district that includes a $15 million overhaul of Stadium.
Meanwhile, Stan Kroenke, owner of the Biscayne shopping center where Famous-Barr and Wal-Mart are located, has announced plans to raze that Wal-Mart and develop an outdoor mall on the Biscayne lot called the Shoppes at Stadium.
TKG Biscayne, of which Kroenke is a principal investor, filed a petition earlier this month seeking to form a transportation development district that would pay for a new entrance from Stadium Boulevard into the new shopping center. While TKG’s petition indicates the corporation would defer to any effort by the city to form a “master transportation development district,” Walters’ petition includes no such provision.
City officials want to maintain as much control as possible over improvements along Stadium. The city has opposed Walters’ petition in court on the grounds that the funding proposal would not cover all the construction costs. Officials also question whether Walters’ plan is compatible with the city’s Major Thoroughfare Plan.
While the city will not oppose Kroenke’s district, it would like to take a more comprehensive approach to improving Stadium.
By forming its own district, officials argue, the city could develop a more cohesive construction plan, control the rate of the additional sales tax imposed and put itself in better position to negotiate with the Missouri Department of Transportation for help in funding the improvements.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless said the districts proposed by Walters and Kroenke “really address relatively small parts of a much bigger issue. It would be a shame to have several small projects going on over the course of the next decade.”
Prospects appear good for the city’s initiative, given TKG’s stated willingness to work with the city and indications from General Growth, owner of the Columbia Mall, that it would not oppose being part of such a district. Roger Schwartze, Central District engineer for the Department of Transportation, said the agency also “would prefer the master type of approach.”
Whether the city succeeds in uniting the major players along Stadium remains to be seen. All agree, however, that something must be done to break up the jam along the corridor.
“To get good traffic flow is not only important to the businesses but also to the citizens,” City Manager Ray Beck said. “It’s a community interest to improve Stadium Boulevard.”
— Missourian reporters Andrew Zahler and David Shay contributed to this story