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Stowers' 350-acre biotech park plan heads to City Hall

September 19, 2013

Rob Roberts

Reporter, Kansas City Business Journal


Oxford on the Blue, a project designed to transform a 350-acre swath of south Kansas City into a mixed-used development anchored by biotech research facilities, is headed for City Hall.


Whitney Kerr Sr., a veteran commercial real estate broker with Cassidy Turley who helped assemble the acreage, said project developer Jim Stowers III will seek rezoning for Oxford on the Blue during a Kansas City Plan Commission public hearing within the next couple of months.


Kerr, who gave on update on the project during a Wednesday meeting of the Southern Communities Coalition, said property tax abatements for the project also may be pursued soon through the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.


The law firm White Goss Bowers March Shulte & Weisenfels PC will represent Stowers as the project moves through the process, Kerr said. Civil engineers from Lutjen Inc. are preparing exhibits for the coming meetings, he said.


The largely undeveloped project site is on the north side of 87th Street between interstates 49 (previously U.S. Highway 71) and 435.


Kerr said that during the 1990s while he was chairman of the City Plan Commission, "several people wanted to put trailer courts, storage businesses and auto facilities" on the site. But the planners turned down those applications, preserving the land for a higher and better use.


Kerr said that Stowers' vision for the acreage stems from the work being done by researchers at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, 1000 E. 50th St., which was established in 1994 through the generosity of his parents. Jim Stowers Jr.and Virginia Stowers, both cancer survivors, endowed the institute with gifts totaling more than $2 billion.


In addition, Kerr said, Jim Stowers Jr. decided to share with Stowers Institute researchers 50 percent of any proceeds from the commercialization of their discoveries at the institute.


"Jim Stowers III, who's one of the institute's trustees, said, 'I want to find a place where we can create a college-like campus for the companies that will be wanting to come in and do clinical trials for practical applications of these discoveries,'" Kerr said.


Jim Stowers Jr. is also founder of American Century Investments, which at one time considered developing a suburban corporate campus, similar to Corporate Woods in Overland Park, on the Oxford on the Blue site, Kerr said.


Eventually, American Century decided to remain anchored on the Country Club Plaza. But Jim Stowers III, a former American Century CEO, called Kerr a few years ago and said he'd like to buy and develop the site.


It is at the northern tip of what Kerr and others are starting to refer to as Kansas City's Bioscience Triangle.


On Aug. 1, Cerner Corp. announced that it would acquire the Bannister Mall redevelopment site to the south of Oxford on the Blue and add as many as 15,000 employees there.

The Bannister site will be an extension of Cerner's Innovation Campus at 10234 Marion Park Drive, formerly the home of Marion Laboratories.


Nearby, a large tract has been acquired by partnerships tied to the Stowers Institute. Jim Stowers Jr. has pledged that the institute would add 600,000 square feet of research space every decade in perpetuity. And some think the first expansion, delayed by attempts to outlaw embryonic stem cell research in Missouri, could proceed at that site.


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