Superstars of Development

By Dennis Boone

They’re moving a lot of dirt in Kansas, and not just on the farm. Thanks in large part to the influence of STAR bonds, major projects across the state are helping communities redefine significant elements of their business communities.

Not all of the major economic-development projects in the state are linked to that innovative program, which captures new sales tax revenue to help pay a share of development costs. But  STAR bonds have had a hand in many of the very biggest projects that define development in 2019, as they have with many big-ticket items since their introduction a generation ago.

A look around the biggest projects that are either on the drawing boards or in the early development stages reveals considerable activity with development efforts, and not all of it confined to the major metropolitan areas of Kansas City and Wichita. A common thread in many is the reliance on STAR bond financing.

Some of those top out at well more than a billion dollars in project costs, but even those in the sub-nine-figure range offer the promise of profound economic impact when you consider the sizes of the communities involved.

Among the most notable:


Perhaps the biggest single-facility construction job under way is the National Bio and Agro Defense lab in Manhattan. The $1.25 billion research center is projected to be on-line in 2022, but some operations could begin even before then. When they do, federal and local officials say, it will fundamentally alter the economic fabric of the state. Billed as the Silicon Valley of food-security R&D, they say the entire animal-health corridor extending to Columbia, Mo., will benefit from global companies looking to position themselves with that research muscle. Kansas State University, which owned the land, will also leverage the presence of NBAF with its own Biomedical Research Institute, adjacent to the federal facility.

Bluhawk/Overland Park

With a price tag originally projected at $1.8 billion—with a “b”—Bluhawk is the largest multi-use project in the history of Kansas City-area development.  Already, a number of its amenities are open, including hospital facilities, grocery and retailers, sports park with ice rink for skating, hockey and curling, fields and courts for indoor basketball, volleyball and football, a 3,500-seat civic center, 70 acres of single-family and multi-family residential offerings—it’s an extensive and ambitious list rolled out by development firm Price Brothers. The tourist-visitor appeal of Bluhawk is projected to bring 3.8 million people to the 300-acre development every year, leveraging Overland Park’s national reputation for being among the nation’s Top 25 cities in quality of life, places to raise a family, appeal to young professionals and even population health.

Bonner Crossing/Bonner Springs

This $500 million arts-themed district near Kansas Speedway would incorporate with residential, retail and office space, plus arts-themed attractions at 118th Street and State Avenue in Bonner Springs. At 180 acres, it will be roughly half the size of the Village West retail complex and entertainment center that lies on the other side of the Speedway, creating a tourism and entertainment draw that would cover more than a square mile. With venues for both concerts and performing arts, Shawnee-based developer The Solutions Group envisions an e-sports center, for-profit college classrooms and a campus geared toward arts and entertainment.

City Center/Lenexa

With development still well under way two years after opening the city’s new “downtown”, the massive Lenexa City Center project has already transformed more than 200 acres of land and drawn more than $500 million of private investment. The site near 87th St. Parkway and Renner boulevard is a mixed-use neighborhood that already boasts a pair of hotels, plus restaurants and an impressive array of luxury apartments built by some of the region’s leading commercial developers. The office side scored a major victory with relocation of the Kiewit Corp.’s regional headquarters, and the $75 million civic campus produced a new city hall and civic gathering spaces.

Turner Logistics Center/KCK

NorthPoint Development, which played a huge role in thrusting Kansas City into the national conversation on logistics, distribution and warehousing with its Logistics Park Kansas City, is at it again: This time, with the Turner Logistics Center in Kansas City, Kan. Initially a $125 million project, the center could be several multiples of that, sitting on land adjacent to the new Amazon distribution center. Initially, the industrial park would feature eight buildings covering roughly 2.7 million square feet, and ranging from 240,000-541,000 square feet in size, and it would take advantage of a strategic location along Interstate 70 at the Turner Diagonal, just west of the city’s industrial corridor.


It was a case study in how fast life in the retail sector was changing: The Great Mall of the Great Plains opened in August 1997, boasting more than 80 retailers and billing itself as the largest outlet mall in Kansas. The doors closed in September 2015, just 18 years later. But the 100-acre site in Olathe is finding new life as $300 million multi-use center called Mentum. Among its anchoring features are 250,000 square feet of entertainment, retail and restaurant space, a massive 200,000 square feet of office space, 300 multi-family apartments, a pair of hotels and a 4,000-seat multi-purpose arena. City officials say the completed project will produce a domino-effect economic benefit by filling hotels and putting shoppers and diners in other stores and restaurants in the city.

Garmin Expansion/Olathe

One of the biggest employers and public companies in the state—Garmin—is well into a $263 million expansion of both its main headquarters building and warehouse/office renovation at its home in  Olathe. The first phase of its Olathe campus expansion wrapped up last fall, triggering work on the second phase to renovate its warehouse and manufacturing space. When completed, it will be a state-of-the-art research and development facility with an additional 720,000 square feet of new space for R&D and industrial/design teams, and room for 2,600 more associates.

Baseball Stadium/ Wichita

The largest city in Kansas is building a new home for professional baseball: the yet-unnamed park replacing Lawrence-Dumont stadium. While the $75 million project cost is comparatively modest by the standards of big-ticket work in Kansas, the symbolism for Wichita has immeasurable value: The 6,000-seat stadium will restore the city’s ties to pro baseball, as home for the Miami Marlins’ Triple-A league farm team. Unlike the predecessor stadium on the west bank of the Arkansas River, this venue is being designed as a year-round entertainment center. It will be home to sporting events and concerts, and the outfield will accommodate outdoor ice skating. The construction goal is to have the stadium ready for the season opener in April 2020.

Health Science Center/Wichita

Plans for a new osteopathic teaching school would cement Wichita’s status as a regional health-care magnet, building on the academic prowess of the University of Kansas Medical School’s satellite campus there, and producing doctors of osteopathy to complement the M.D.s coming out of KU. But the renovation of the long-vacant Finney State Office Building in Downtown Wichita won’t stop with classrooms: The project calls for construction of a new Marriott hotel, a residential tower, retail and office space.

Downtown Renewal/Salina

The largest public-private partnership in the history of Salina seeks to bring $160 million in total investment to the downtown area, building on successes that brought the city a downtown fieldhouse, new corporate offices for Assurance Partners, and a wave of building renovation that produced second-floor lofts over retail outlets. How big is $160 million in Salina? With a population of 47,000, a per-capita equivalent in Kansas City would require $7.5 billion in investment. That, folks, is big.

Sports of the World/Garden City

Officials in Garden City were delighted this spring to receive approval from the Department of Commerce for a $129 million STAR bond project. The Sports of the World Complex project, five years in the making, is projected to be a two-year buildout that will yield an ice rink/arena, food plaza, park and other community attractions. It would be anchored by a 160,000-square-foot main indoor complex, a new hotel with about 90 rooms, restaurant and outdoor courtyard, with a projected tourism draw of 1 million people a year.