By Kevin Collison
A 300-unit apartment project that would transform the scale and nature of the Waldo entertainment area received preliminary support from a transit-oriented development agency Wednesday.
EPC Real Estate Group is cooperating with the Lewellen family, the owner of The Well at 7421 Broadway, on the $90 million plan called Waldo74Broadway.
The proposal calls for razing the existing restaurant and bar to help create a site for the development. The Well would then open a new operation on the ground floor of the apartment project.
The big Waldo project was one of two apartment developments to be endorsed by the RideKC Development Corp. committee, an arm of the KCATA. The other was a 163-unit apartment project being pursued at 31st and Gillham Road near Martini Corners.
In his briefing to RideKC, Jeremy Tinkler, an EPC project executive, also raised the prospect the apartment project might spur an eventual extension of the streetcar south to Waldo from its planned terminus at UMKC along the Country Club right-of-way.
“This (apartment) site has always been a transit stop…it was serviced by the Country Club Trolley up until 1957,” Tinkler said.
“When the streetcar extension was studied following the starter line, the Country Club right-of-way was a logical location for that line to continue south to 75th and Wornall
“Fortunately, the KCATA had the opportunity to purchase that right-of-way and preserve that for future transit which we’re excited about.
“It’s kind of a logical extension of the streetcar line to get commuters through Brookside to the Plaza and downtown as well as east-west connections.”
Tinkler said improved transit was supported by the Waldo and Marlborough neighborhoods. The concept of a streetcar extension however, previously has sparked opposition by some residents of the influential Brookside neighborhood.
That Country Club right-of-way is currently used as the Harry Wiggins Trolley Track Trail, a popular walking and jogging recreational attraction that runs through the heart of Brookside.
The Kansas City Streetcar Authority has no current intention to extend the route according to officials.
“We have no active plans for a farther extension of the streetcar south, but we fully expect with the realization of the UMKC extension, there may be increased public interest in a conversation about the potential for future expansion,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of Streetcar Authority.
The Waldo74Broadway project would be six stories tall on the west side facing Broadway and five stories on the east where it would be near the Waldo Tower neighborhood of single-family homes.
“We’re trying to balance the goals of increased density at this key transit node but also balance that with the scale of the neighborhood,” Tinkler said.
The proposed development would have a 373-space garage and 22 surface spots. It would include facilities for electric bikes and other EV vehicles as well as space for a comfort station for bus drivers.
The project would not set aside any units as affordable housing.
The proposed development would occupy most of the block now occupied by The Well, a car wash and other industrial uses. It would stretch from 74th Street to 74th Terrace between Broadway and Wyandotte.
The plan calls for 11,000 square-feet of retail along Broadway, part of which would be the location of a replacement restaurant and bar for The Well.
The developer is seeking a 20-year, 75 percent property tax abatement from RideKC through its new START (Sustaining Transportation and Investing Together) program designed to encourage transit-oriented development.
In July, two other big apartment plans, a 358-unit project at 31st and Main, and a 256-unit project at 39th and State Line Road, were approved for incentive support from the START program.
Tinkler said the current annual property taxes generated at the Waldo74Broadway site are $73,000 and would increase to $321,000 in 2025 with the abatement. It would yield an estimated net revenue benefit of $8.3 million over 20 years.
The developer said Waldo area neighborhood groups and businesses would be briefed about the plan in the coming days.
“We expect to work closely with those folks to ensure the goals are met and feedback is heard and listened to,” Tinkler said.
The RideKC Development committee voted unanimously to recommend the full RideKC board approve the development plan, the first step in the process.
The committee also unanimously supported the proposed $38.6 million Levy at Martini Corners apartment project being pursued by developer Gary Hassenflu.
That transit-oriented development plan calls for the old Velvet Freeze building at the northeast corner of 31st and Gillham to be razed and replaced with a 163-unit apartment project. It would include a 175-space garage and 5,000 square feet of retail space.
Hassenflu told the RideKC Development committee his firm specializes in urban projects. One of its local developments was the renovation of the Cold Storage Building in the River Market into 255 apartments.
“We are an infill developer, we believe in high-density projects that encourage the use of existing facilities, not creating additional roads and infrastructure with public money,” he said.
As with Waldo74Broadway, the Levy project would not include a set aside for affordable apartments. Rents would range from $1,100 for a 500 square-foot studio to $1,900 for a 1,000 square-foot, two-bedroom unit. The one-bedroom units would be 755 square feet.
Hassenflu also said the project would include a swimming pool, fitness room and facilities to encourage bicycle use. The project is located next to a major bicycle route newly-installed on Gillham.
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