By Kevin Collison
A bold redevelopment plan that would transform the forlorn intersection of Armour and Troost into a vibrant hub with hundreds of new apartments and small businesses won approval for tax incentives Thursday.
The $78 million Armour Corners Project planned by MAC Properties calls for five new buildings that will add 450 apartments and 28,000 square-feet of retail. The buildings are planned for the four corners of the intersection and a site at 520 E. Armour.
MAC’s request for incentives won unanimous approval from the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.
“There are transformative projects the PIEA does, but this one has a lot of promise to change a blighted and crime-ridden intersection into a walkable, residential community,” said David Macoubrie, PIEA executive director. “I’m excited about it.”
It’s the biggest project to date in midtown by Chicago-based MAC and it’s intended to push development east and help break the historic Troost Avenue racial and economic barrier in Kansas City.
Over the past decade, the firm has redeveloped 28 historic buildings in a 15-block corridor along Armour from Campbell Street to Broadway. It also opened a new apartment project at Main and Armour last year.
All told, MAC Properties has developed 1,700 apartments in midtown Kansas City reviving what was once a corridor in steep decline into an attractive residential district.
Armour Corners also will feature affordable housing–a major goal of the city–with special discounts for public school teachers and city and county employees.
Developer Peter Cassel said the project is aimed toward proving workforce housing for people employed in greater downtown, midtown and the Country Club Plaza.
Cassel, director of community development for MAC, praised the PIEA board for the assistance the agency has provided since his firm purchased and redeveloped its first several buildings near Armour and Gilliam Road 10 years ago.
Most of the renovations have restored grand, former apartment-hotels built in the 1920s and 1930s.
It’s been three years since the Troost Coalition, a group of property owners and residents living in the Troost corridor, identified the corner of Armour and Troost as a priority redevelopment area.
Cassel said the incentives were needed because of the blighted and polluted nature of the four corners. Three former dry-cleaning establishments left the land contaminated, and there are gas tanks to be removed and obsolete buildings to be demolished.
The PIEA granted MAC a 20-year, 95 percent property tax abatement and a sales tax exemption on construction materials.
The developer also is asking the city for $3.5 million grant from a business interruption fund established in the Midtown Tax Increment Financing District that brought Costco and Home Depot to the area.
The developer and investors plan to contribute $30- to $35 million in equity.
“We are playing with our own cash,” Cassel said.
The average monthly rent for the apartments is expected to be $976.
As part of the negotiations for the property tax abatements with taxing jurisdictions including the Kansas City public schools, MAC also established a 15 percent rent discount for their employees. That would bring the average rent to $829.
“We’d love to see 100 teachers live there, that strikes us as success,” Cassel said.
The breakdown of other apartments and rents: 181, 475 square-foot studios, $825; 181, 695 square-foot one-bedrooms, $950; 80, 975 square-foot two-bedrooms, $1,175, and eight, three-bedroom units, $1,450.
The plan also includes ground-floor retail space below the apartments to be developed around the intersection. From 10- to 20 spaces for small shops and restaurants geared toward start-ups are anticipated.
“We saw the opportunity to create a new retail node for Kansas City and midtown,” Cassel said.
Negotiations over Armour Corners are ongoing with nearby neighborhood associations. The primary concerns are the number of parking spaces being planned and building heights.
Cassel said the buildings planned at the intersection will range from one- to eight-stories, with only one tower planned there. The project at 520 E. Armour would include 110 apartments and be up to eight stories tall.
As for parking, MAC plans to provide two spaces for every five apartments. Cassel said that ratio has worked for the other apartment buildings that have been developed along Armour.
He also pointed out the Armour Corners project will be directly served by the MAX Troost rapid-transit bus, and will be 10 blocks from the planned streetcar extension on Main.
A public bike station also is anticipated at the Armour Corners intersection, and new protected bike lanes have recently opened on Armour.
Still, Allan Hallquist, president of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, said his members are concerned not enough parking is planned for the development.
“We understand there’s wall-to-wall parking and it’s a good problem,” he said. “We’d like to work with MAC, we’d like have dialog with them.”
The next step for the Armour Corners redevelopment plan is a hearing by the City Plan Commission scheduled for June 5. It will then go to the full Kansas City Council for final consideration.
If all goes according to schedule, construction would being in April 2019 with full build-out expected in April 2023.
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