By Kevin Collison
After decades of scraggly existence, the northwest corner of 18th and Locust has been transformed into a 225-space controlled and paved public parking lot in the heart of the burgeoning food and microbrewery scene in the East Crossroads.
What’s being called Brewers Alley Parking opened about a month ago, but its arrival drove little attention coming shortly before the business shutdown prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But once the all-clear is given, its owner expects the new lot will be a boon to nearby businesses.
“It will help immensely,” said Michael Surface, managing partner at Surface Real Estate Holdings Trust.
“I think once people realize there is low-cost parking that’s well-lit with security cameras, I think they’ll jump all over it. It’s a matter of us keeping it clean and inviting.”
The new lot replaces what had been a gravel lot that had been owned by the Surface family through seven generations going back to the late 19th Century. For about 30 years, it was leased to The Kansas City Star for employee parking.
Then the unimproved lot was leased to Grinders across East 18th Street for about five years for parking.
“When that lease was over, that’s when we saw property getting white hot,” Surface said.
In recent years, the Grinders empire has been joined in the East Crossroads by a score of other businesses including microbreweries such as Double Shift, Border, Casual Animal, Torn Label and City Barrel, and food places including Parlor and Mission Taco Joint.
A new bar and deli on the opposite corner of 18th and Locust also is in the works.
“We recognized all these places need a place to park because every lot around there is dedicated to somebody,” Surface said.
“When we shut the gravel lot down to get it ready, people were saying around the area that their business markedly decreased.”
After an initial parking rate structure that some business owners viewed as exorbitant, Brewers Alley has settled on a rate that starts at $2 for the first hour then $1.50 per hour after that, with a maximum of $24 for 24 hours.
“The cost isn’t outrageous and we’re happy to see that aspect of it,” said John Conway, a brewer at Double Shift, which adjoins the lot. “We’re hoping for the best after this (virus) blows over.
“There is little parking and the Crossroads and this isn’t a ridiculous amount of money compared to other downtown parking lots.”
STRETCH, the owner of Grinders and its companion Crossroads outdoor concert venue, gave a qualified welcome to the new parking lot.
“I’m glad they lowered the prices and I’m hoping they’ll bring business down,” he said. “I think it’s really tight, but I’m hoping people will start parking there.”
He suggested that allowing people to park in the lot and have their ticket validated by participating East Crossroads businesses would be helpful, but no discussions have occurred at this point.
As for the long-term future of his property at 18th and Locust, Surface does not envision developing it further.
“”We’re going to leave that parking because it’s the highest and best use,” he said.
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