(Editor’s note: This article originally was published March 22, 2023)
By Kevin Collison
They were topping off the $140 million Three Light project Tuesday, but big downtown investments are far from over, according to City Manager Brian Platt.
In a wide-ranging interview following the ceremony for the 26-story apartment project scheduled to open in September, Platt outlined several initiatives that could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in new developments over the next few years.
First up, Platt said the city is working with St. Louis-based LuxLiving on that firm’s proposal to build a 30-story combination apartment and hotel building at 14th and Wyandotte.
“We’ve had very productive and positive conversations with that team, but it’s in the very early stages at this point,” he said.
“They’ve got some time before they finalize that deal but it’s an exciting location for high-rise development.”
He said LuxLiving, which has several other apartment developments in the works or under construction in greater downtown and the Main Street corridor, wants to line up support before going public about their exact plans.
Lux had its incentive request for a riverfront apartment proposal criticized by opponents led by KC Tenants, a left-leaning housing activist group that challenges the city’s “prioritization of profits and private property over people.”
“They (LuxLiving) are working on ensuring they’ve got the right community support with respect to the size and design of the building, with respect to community benefits and amenities, and also the right incentive mix and financing structure, Platt said.
On another potentially big project, he said Copaken Brooks is working with the city on a plan to redevelop the property where the Board of Education building was demolished across from City Hall and its garage at 12th and Oak.
“They are working to line up some partners and I think in the next few weeks we’ll have more to share,” he said. “I haven’t seen a proposal yet but, I’m hearing they’re finishing one up and they want to do something big.
“The city has offered our 1,400 space parking garage as benefit to that site if they want to share parking. We don’t use all those spaces.
“We’ve got hundreds of spaces we could provide for that as an incentive instead of them having to build parking. There’s a big opportunity there.”
Copaken Brooks also owns a large development site at 13th and Grand by the T-Mobile Center and has touted it as a potential office tower site. No progress however, has been made for more than a 15 years.
Cordish may wind up taking over another stale office development proposal from Copaken Brooks, the Strata plan. Copaken and partners first proposed building the tower at 13th and Main above the Yard House restaurant in 2018.
“We’re working with Cordish on the Strata site,” Platt said. “It’s a deal from years ago that we’re trying to bring back to life. I think we have to move forward and doing something there.”
The city manager said Cordish already was a partner in the earlier Strata deal, and probably would restructure the plan. The proposal would likely become a residential tower instead of office, he said, another indication of the weak downtown office market.
Platt said if Cordish were to pursue another residential tower there, it would be separate from Four Light, another apartment project the Baltimore-based firm is contemplating on the west side of the Mainstreet Theater along Baltimore.
Another endeavor that may be seeing momentum is the reconstruction of Barney Allis Plaza. The plaza and its underground garage that opened in 1955 are in dire need of repair or replacement.
The city is proposing to shift $7.5 million in surplus funding from the Midtown Tax Increment Financing Plan for design work for the estimated $112.4 million project. The Midtown TIF was used to help build the Costco and Home Depot near Linwood and Main.
As for where the rest of the Barney Allis funding would come from, Platt said the city has come up with a concept that shouldn’t significantly ding the city budget.
“We’ve identified a variety of different sources of revenues related to convention and tourism, and debt rolling off that we’ll redirect it to this project,” he said. “We’re anticipating no net new dollars having to be spent to build this project.”
He said funding for rebuilding Barney Allis would not compete with the planned South Loop Link. That $200 million project calls for building a four-block park above I-670 from Wyandotte to Grand.
“It’s different funding sources, different types of projects,” Platt said. “We need green space everywhere downtown.”
As for the biggest downtown proposal out there, a new ballpark for the Royals, Platt said he and Mayor Quinton Lucas have had good discussions with the ball club leadership.
“They’ve said publicly they’re still evaluating a few different sites,” Platt said.
“The East Village is the location that everyone has contemplated the stadium would go. I don’t think they’ve finalized any agreements for that site.
“VanTrust is the owner of that site and I think they’re preparing it for redevelopment whether it be a stadium or something else.
“Our conversations with the Royals have been positive. They’re thinking about office buildings, residential towers and retail and jobs and all of the things that are important to building a whole community around it wherever it goes.”
And in another important project, Kansas City Southern and Americo want to purchase a city-owned parking lot at 12th and Broadway for what Platt has described as a development that would include an expanded railroad headquarters, housing and retail.
As for the new Three Light project, construction workers from J.E. Dunn hoisted the traditional evergreen tree to the top of the $140 million project to signal it’s reached its tallest height.
During the ceremony, John Moncke, president of the Kansas City Power & Light District saluted the 15th anniversary of the opening of the downtown entertainment district.
“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate 15 years than opening another world class apartment building,” he said.
The Three Light tower already is 20 percent pre-leased, according to officials. An estimated 60 percent of the current residents of One and Two Light also were said have moved here from outside the Kansas City area.
A ceremonial groundbreaking is expected next month for the renovation of the Midland building into affordable housing.
The only thing missing from the topping-off event was the sky bridge originally proposed between Two and Three Lights on the eighth floor above Walnut Street. Moncke said that aspect of the plan was dropped because of cost considerations.
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