By Kevin Collison
The groundbreaking for the $5 million East Village Transit Center at 12th and Charlotte is being viewed partly as a catalyst to attract more investment to a multi-block redevelopment area that has languished more than a decade.
“We’re looking at getting input from developers for transportation-oriented development, possibly affordable housing, retail…we’d like to spark development in the rest of the area,” said Robbie Makinen, CEO of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
The construction kickoff for the 3,400 square-foot transit center was part of a larger event last week recognizing a $29.9 million federal grant for the Prospect MAX bus rapid transit line. The East Village facility will be the downtown hub for the new MAX line.
Makinen was joined by Jane Williams, acting administrator for the Federal Transit Administration at the event, which also included Mayor Sly James and several City Council members.
“This is a big deal for Kansas City and the region,” Makinen told the audience.
He said the 10-mile Prospect MAX, which will end (or begin) at a new transit center at 75th and Prospect, is part of an estimated $56 million investment in the Prospect Corridor. It also is expected to be where the KCATA introduces the first electric buses to its system.
The KCATA also is upgrading several key bus stops in downtown Kansas City as part of the Prospect MAX project.
Under Makinen’s leadership, the agency also has been more aggressive when it comes to economic development, seeking development proposals for its property along 18th Street as well as continuing efforts to redevelop a parking lot it owns in the River Market at Third and Grand.
The new transit center at 12th and Charlotte will replace the KCATA’s current downtown transit center at 10th and Main streets. Discussions are underway about its future reuse.
“I believe the city and the Downtown Council are talking about making it a green space,” Makinen said. “That being so, we want to make sure the FTA investment is taken out of it.”
KCATA officials say an appraisal is being done, which could value that investment at between $1 million and $2 million.
Makinen also said his agency is in pre-development negotiations with J.E. Dunn Construction for property it owned at 18th and Troost.
That is the site being considered for an initiative called the Keystone Innovation District. It’s backers hope the area because a hub for research and start-up tech industries.
As for the East Village, little has been developed in the eight-block area on the east side of Ilus Davis Park since J.E. Dunn completed its headquarters at 11th and Locust in 2009, and a 50-unit affordable apartment project was built by Swope Community Developers at 950 Holmes in 2011.
VanTrust Real Estate became co-developer of the East Village property five years ago, and was granted full development rights in mid-2017.
The firm continues to quietly acquire properties in the redevelopment area, but has made no development announcements to date.
The new transit center at 12th and Charlotte is expected to serve at least 26 RideKC bus and MAX routes and will include a waiting room for riders and retail space. It’s expected to be completed by late 2019.
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