By Kevin Collison
Greater downtown enters 2020 poised to tackle a key ingredient missing from an otherwise successful previous decade when thousands of residents, dozens of street-level businesses, and the streetcar line were added to the mix.
That lagging factor has been jobs.
If all goes according to already approved plans, by this summer there should be tower cranes swinging above three office building sites: Strata, at 13th and Main; Waddell & Reed, 14th and Baltimore, and the Platform Venture project at 13th and Wyandotte.
In addition, work should be substantially completed on the renovation of the historic Kansas City Star building into office space, and the $85 million overhaul of the former City Center Square office building, now called lightwell.
You can also include the anticipated arrival of several hundred USDA research jobs at the former State Street Bank property at 805 Pennsylvania, a deal that unfortunately was caught in the crossfire of Washington’s polarized politics.
While only Waddell & Reed’s 1,000-employee headquarters project and the USDA agencies come with named tenants, developers are confident their speculative office projects will find takers.
And Kansas City Southern ended 2019 hinting that growing firm is interested in partnering with the city on a planned convention center garage at 13th and Broadway that could include space for possible expansion.
All the new office projects reward a concentrated effort by the Downtown Council and others in addressing the “work” component of the “live, work and play” mantra of downtown’s revitalization in recent years.
New residential also will continue to play a large role in the coming year.
The Second and Delaware apartment project will test whether a commitment to more durable, environmentally-friendly, quality construction will find a market.
The ongoing residential resurgence along Troost Avenue near Hospital Hill will welcome its biggest project to date in 2020, a 248-unit project at 25th Street.
Cordish’s delayed Three Light project, which is expected to begin construction soon in the new year, will help determine the depth of the demand for high-rise, luxury living downtown.
The REVERB high-rise apartment project at 18th and Walnut will have a head start as its expected to open this year. It will also join two other big Crossroads projects: City Club Apartments at 20th and Main, and the pioneering Artistry KC project at 19th and Oak.
As for retail, greater downtown has shown some progress in recent years with the openings of small boutiques, shops, restaurants and microbreweries, but still is searching for a more solid store that can cater to its growing residential base.
Developers are expected continue to pursue a possible City Target in 2020, and there is a solid rumor that Dollar General plans to open a DGX, its new city store concept, possibly in the Crossroads.
One thing the downtown market has plenty of are new hotel rooms and 2020 promises many more.
The 800-room Loews Convention Center Hotel is scheduled to open in April, and construction on others including a Hyatt House at Ninth and Broadway, and Cambria Hotel at Ninth and Wyandotte will be underway.
And while it may look dormant, a representative of the developer behind the renovation of the historic Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank into a 301-room Embassy Suites by Hilton said that project on Grand Boulevard also is underway.
Up in the air is whether the development team behind the ultra-luxury Hotel Bravo! project will continue pursuing their plan in 2020.
It failed to receive support from the Kansas City Tax Increment Financing Commission last October and it flies in the face of the increasingly negative view of tax incentives, particularly in downtown, by the new mayor and City Council.
On other fronts, key downtown topics in the new year will include whether the KC Streetcar Authority is successful in its quest for federal funding to extend the line to UMKC, and also its plan to stretch the route to Berkley Riverfront Park and perhaps the Isle of Capri casino.
Finally in this far from comprehensive look ahead to 2020, will there be tangible progress on a visionary plan to deck the South Loop? Will a plan for replacing the Buck O’Neil Bridge include features to make it more compatible with the River Market?
And how about downtown baseball? It promises be a dynamic year for CityScene KC to keep you informed.
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