KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City officials are praising a plan by medical records software maker Cerner Corp. to build an office park on a 236-acre site formerly occupied by a massive shopping center.
Highly visible on a hilltop along Interstate 435 in southern Kansas City, the vacant lot has been considered an embarrassment by many city leaders since Bannister Mall was demolished in 2009. It was a victim of competition from other shopping centers and fear of crime in the area.
Cerner, a worldwide business based in the municipality of North Kansas City, is one of the region's fastest-growing corporations and has been looking for years for space for a major expansion. The plans it confirmed Thursday include buildings that could potentially house 12,000 to 15,000 additional employees, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/13Fq3uG).
"With this proposed development, we're on the way back," said Kansas City Councilman John Sharp, whose district includes the former mall property.
"The demolished mall site has been a blighting influence on southeast Kansas City because it's so visible," Sharp said. "Our neighborhood has waited for this for so long that I'm overjoyed and I know my neighbors are too."
Mayor Sly James described the Cerner announcement as a "great step forward for the former Bannister Mall site."
Redeveloping what's known as the Three Trails Crossing region into a Cerner property "will turn that area into a beacon of innovation," the mayor said. "Cerner is a valuable community partner and I deeply appreciate the company's commitment to our city. We look forward to working with Cerner to finalize a plan soon."
The announcement coincided with approval the Missouri Development Finance Board of $10.7 million in state tax credits to help clean up the property and prepare it for construction.
Cerner officials had considered the site after Bannister Mall, which once had more than 150 stores, closed in 2007. But a development deal that also included a professional soccer stadium fell through, and Cerner instead expanded at an office complex in the Village West area of western Wyandotte County, Kan.
Village West is also home to the stadium of Major League Soccer's Sporting Kansas City, of which Cerner's top executives are co-owners.
Cerner recently reported a second-quarter profits of $112.9 million on revenues of $707.6 million. The company projects its 2013 revenue to total between $2.95 billion and $3.05 billion.
The health care information technology company has products licensed by about 10,000 hospitals, doctors' offices, medical laboratories, ambulatory centers, pharmacies and other facilities in the United States and abroad.
The new office campus contemplated by Cerner would include on-site daycare, a clinic for employees, fitness facilities, food service and training space. It could also house future data centers as needed.
A portion of the site may also be made available to be developed for retail stores, restaurants or a hotel, according to the Cerner statement.