CHICAGO – Kansas City, Missouri will continue negotiations with its first choice of a private partner to develop and finance a new $1 billion airport terminal despite the City Council’s initial rejection of a memorandum of understanding last week.
The City Council Airport Committee and then the full council in a 12-1 vote Thursday endorsed a resolution that directs the “city attorney and appointed outside counsel to continue negotiations of a Memorandum of Understanding with Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate LLC for a terminal modernization project at the Kansas City International Airport and establishing a process for review of a Memorandum of Understanding with Edgemoor.”
The committee substituted the resolution for one submitted last week by council member Lee Barnes Jr. that would have ended negotiations on a memorandum of understanding with Edgemoor and instead begin talks with a runner-up in the competitive selection process.
Barnes pushed for the change after the council rejected the MOU in a vote Dec. 14. Mayor Sly James had attacked the Dec. 14 vote as politically driven and he pressed council members to agree to continue negotiations with Edgemoor.
“I believe we should be able to move forward in a very efficient way,” James said Thursday.
Council members will now be given more opportunity to weigh in on the MOU process and will receive frequent status reports on the financial terms under discussion and other provisions such as community benefits that had been under contention in the original MOU. The aim is to reach a revised MOU by late January.
Council members had rejected the MOU over concerns that it left the city on the hook financially should a deal fall through and community benefits and minority participant levels fell short.
Ahead of the vote, the KC Chamber of Commerce board pressed the council to move forward with the original team.
“The actions of these past few days do nothing to reassure Kansas Citians and the business community in the process now underway at City Hall, and is not a good example of how business should be conducted,” the chamber’s letter to city leaders said. “We urge you to negotiate in good faith and in a transparent manner respecting the integrity of the process.”
Edgemoor was chosen to lead the $1 billion project in September, beating out three rivals including AECOM and the hometown firm of Burns & McDonnell, which first proposed the city consider the design, finance, and build P3 model. The two joined forces in recent days to revive their pitch should the council have dropped Edgemoor.
Voters approved the planned overhaul, which will replace three existing terminals with a single modern one, and the use of a P3 in a November referendum.
Edgemoor said it was unaware of some of the council’s concerns ahead of the meeting late last week and believes it “should be afforded the opportunity to continue negotiations and develop solutions.”
The P3 calls for the design, build and financing of a $1 billion renovation of KCI into a single passenger terminal with 35 airline gates and a 6,500-space parking garage. The city would retain ownership and operational control of the new terminal.
The MOU will lay out a framework for the project and financing but a final agreement with the consortium, design work, and approval from the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to take at least a year.