“You can always amend a big plan, but you can never expand a little one.”
Mike Downing, the director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, used that Harry Truman quote Wednesday to congratulate entrepreneur and developer Phillip “Flip” Short on the grand vision behind his $400 million Paragon Star project.
But judging from the pieces not yet in place for the mixed-use project’s $212 million first phase, Downing’s comment could have been taken as a hint of skepticism, as well.
Downing and a host of local dignitaries were among dozens who gathered in a tent on a chilly morning for first-phase groundbreaking ceremonies at Paragon Star’s 130-acre site at Interstate 470 and View High Drive in Lee’s Summit.
Before the event, Bill Brown, project coordinator for Paragon Star LLC, noted that a public-private partnership involving Lee’s Summit had paved the way for the groundbreaking. During the past year, the Lee’s Summit City Council has approved incentives that will cover $40 million of the initial phase’s $212 million price tag, he said, ticking off the $26 million that will come from transportation development district and community improvement district sales tax surcharges, $13 million in tax increment financing and $1 million in city spending for interchange improvements next to the site.
But Paragon Star LLC still is negotiating with lenders in its effort to secure the debt portion of the $151 million it plans to raise through equity and debt, Brown said.
And it is counting on $20 million of the $212 million coming from a Missouri economic development tool that’s never been used: the State and Local Government Convention, Sports Facility, Meeting and Tourism Act of 1989.
Downing touted the Paragon Star project Wednesday as a means to bolster an already strong Missouri tourism industry, which this year will attract 44 million visitors who will spend $12.4 billion in the state. But Gov. Jay Nixon, the man who appointed Downing to his post two years ago, will be replaced in January by Gov.-elect Eric Greitens, meaning there’s a good chance Downing won’t be around to support the Paragon Star grant during the next legislative session.