KU museum in Olathe
If Kansas University officials end up working with a developer to build a museum in Olathe, officials insist it won't divert money from museum projects on the Lawrence campus.
"There will be absolutely zero draining of resources from KU," said Leonard Krishtalka, director of KU's Natural History Museum.
And nothing will change concerning the Spencer Art Museum, officials say.
"I can tell you the Spencer Museum's priorities will always remain on campus," said Saralyn Hardy, director of the Spencer Art Museum.
The dual museum proposal must cross several barriers before becoming reality - and most of those barriers lie in Olathe.
MaeGrace LLC, the developer that approached KU about the museum, presented the idea to the Olathe City Council on Tuesday night through its attorney, John Petersen.
Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland lauded the project's possibilities.
"It has exciting potential to move this stuff from Lawrence to Olathe and allow us to showcase some fine artifacts that right now are boxed up," Copeland said in an interview Wednesday.
But Olathe has outlined conditions for being the host city for the museum.
For one, the city wants KU to own the museum buildings so it can let Olathe taxpayers off the hook for paying ongoing costs of maintenance and operations.
"We're not interested in owning the buildings," Copeland said.
The development also would have to qualify for sales tax revenue bonds, which are more commonly called STAR Bonds.
STAR bonds are a state-approved tax incentives - they were used to build the Kansas Speedway - that are paid with new sales taxes generated by the development.
The trouble with STAR bonds is the state rarely grants them, particularly in Johnson County, where no STAR bond project has gained approval.
Olathe tried in years past to use the bonds to secure an arena and a soccer stadium, neither of which it received.
"STAR bonds are still a very big challenge," said Tim Danneberg, spokesman for the city of Olathe.
To get STAR bonds, developers must show that the project draws significant tourism from outside the immediate area.
Krishtalka said the KU Natural History Museum historically has been among the top five tourism draws in Kansas.
"Obviously, the museum component goes a long way toward meeting the destination requirement for STAR bond consideration," Danneberg said.
The laws authorizing STAR bonds were set to expire this year, but the Kansas Legislature renewed the law for five years.
And among the changes the 2007 Legislature made was allowing the bonds to be used for new museums.
That could bode well for the museum proposal in Olathe.
But KU and Olathe officials insist that they're still figuring out whether the project is feasible, and are not yet focusing on securing STAR bonds.
"That's some of the things being studied - the economic aspects of such a facility and what would be some of the bold and innovative programmatic aspects of the facility," Krishtalka said.