Kansas City, Kan. A decision to move the regional Environmental Protection Agency headquarters from downtown Kansas City, Kan., to a more affluent suburb has stunned city leaders, who accused the federal government of "abandoning the urban core" and damaging efforts to revitalize the city.
City officials plan to file a formal protest against the EPA's decision that it would move its regional headquarters to the Johnson County community of Lenexa. The agency will move into a building that had been headquarters for the Applebee's restaurant chain, the General Services Administration announced Monday.
About 600 people work at the headquarters of the EPA's Region 7, which covers Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Nine Tribal Nations. The agency had been a downtown anchor for 25 years, and worked out of a building that had been erected specifically for the EPA since 1999. An new EPA laboratory is located about a half-block from the current office
"The GSA's announcement (Monday) it was abandoning the urban core is contrary to good public policy and common sense," said Mayor Joe Reardon of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan. "They're rolling back a decades-long effort to revitalize downtown Kansas City."
GSA officials and owners of the current building express frustration with each other over negotiations to renew the Kansas City, Kan., lease, The Kansas City Star reported.
"We worked with them on several different terms and rates from what they were proposing," said Charlie Cook, a GSA spokesman. "After several attempts, we thought it would be irresponsible to accept the offers that were made."
Instead, the agency plans to be in its new headquarters in Lenexa by this time next year, after signing a 10-year lease valued at $121.4 million. He said it was the lowest priced offer the agency had received.
The owners of the current EPA regional office building, UrbanAmerica Advisors LLC, disputed that assessment. A company official told The Star that his firm offered a 20-year package that would have been much less expensive.
Reardon said his office pleaded with the GSA to renew its lease and even offered to build the agency a new headquarters on vacant land nearby if that fell through.
And former Sen. Bob Dole, who helped secure the EPA's move from Missouri to Kansas City, Kan., in 1985, wrote an opinion piece in the Star that urged the agency to stay in the five-story, 200,000-square-foot building.
But Cook said the deal for the Applebee's building "is expected to save taxpayers millions of dollars."
The Lenexa building still houses 350 Applebee's employees but the company will move to a smaller building by Sept. 30, spokeswoman Nancy Mays said.
UrbanAmerica, which owns the current EPA building, offered the EPA a 20-year deal with a flat rent of $25 per square foot, said Richmond McCoy, owner of UrbanAmerica. He also estimated it would cost the agency more than $5 million to relocate from Kansas City, Kan., to Lenexa.
"We submitted nine proposals over two years, and two times we were told we had a deal," McCoy said. He said he found the experience "disingenuous" and lacking in "transparency and integrity."
The lease information provided by the GSA said the rent in Lenexa will be $6.55 per square foot the first year; $27.75 for years two through five; $29.84 in the sixth year; $32.66 for years seven through 10; $34.13 in years 11 through 15; and $35.57 in years 16 through 20, the Star reported.