By Kevin Collison
Most of the city block southwest of Main and Armour would be transformed into a major streetcar-oriented residential project that would include several eight-to 10-story apartment buildings in a plan being pursued by Mac Properties.
The $110 million proposal also would renovate the old New Yorker apartment building at 3521 Baltimore, adapt the US Bank office building at the corner into retail, offices and residential, and build two smaller apartment buildings at Armour and Baltimore.
In all, about 425 apartments, many of them intended to serve the workforce and affordable housing market, and 45,000 square-feet of commercial and retail space is being contemplated.
Chicago-based Mac Properties has been going big on Midtown and the Armour Boulevard corridor for more than a decade.
The firm has redeveloped 28 buildings, many of them historic former apartment-hotels, and has built or is building several new ones along a 15-block stretch from Broadway to Troost that will soon total 2,000, mostly market-rate, apartments.
“The new Census saw significant population growth in Kansas City and we’ve also seen a strong demand in Midtown,” said Peter Cassel, Mac director of community development.
“The key point is for Midtown to remain the valuable asset it is to Kansas City is providing workforce housing in the middle, as opposed to the higher-end housing in downtown and the Plaza.
“We think it’s critical to add an affordable and workforce concept so people who want to stay, can.”
If successful in obtaining city approvals, the new development proposed for Main and Armour is expected to be completed by early 2025, about when the streetcar extension from downtown to UMKC is slated to begin running.
A streetcar stop is planned for the corner of Main and Armour.
The Mac proposal is part of surge of new residential investment in the works along the new streetcar route. Last month, Lux Living was approved for a 192-unit project that will reuse the historic Katz Drugstore at Westport Road and Main.
Other residential proposals in the pipeline include a 300-unit Museum Tower project at 45th and Main being pursued by the Merriman family and Burns & McDonnell, and an 80-unit apartment building at 37th and Main contemplated by Exact Partners.
Exact Partners also completed the renovation of the historic Netherland Hotel and Monarch Storage buildings into a 144-unit project near 39th and Main last year.
The Mac proposal, which is expected to be introduced to City Hall next month, would be the first new residential development intended to meet the 20 percent affordable housing goal approved in January by the City Council.
The new city policy called for 10 percent of units in projects seeking tax incentives to be affordable to people making 70 percent of area median income, and another 10 percent to be “extremely” affordable, serving those earning 30 percent of median income.
“We’re targeting a significant affordable component led by the mandate of the City Council,” Cassel said.
The remaining 80 percent of the units would be rented at what Mac called “market rate workforce housing.”
To achieve that 20 percent affordable goal, Mac will be seeking substantial assistance from the city including a 20-year property tax reduction and rental subsidies through the Business Interruption Fund (BIF) program.
The BIF was established as part of the Midtown Tax Increment Financing District that helped build the Midtown Costco, Home Depot and Sun Fresh Market. A portion of the surplus sales tax revenues was set aside to boost Midtown housing.
Cassel estimated that meeting the city’s affordable housing policy would reduce the amount of projected annual revenue by $600,000 that otherwise would have been generated by a completely market-rate development.
“It requires a substantial financial investment to accommodate that affordable goal,” he said.
Mac plans to follow the route it recently took in pursuing its $78 million Armour Crossing residential development now under construction at Armour and Troost with what it’s calling the “SW Armour Main Affordable and Workforce Housing Redevelopment.”
It plans to introduce a preliminary concept next month to the Council, city planners and city development agencies to gauge the response at City Hall.
“Much like we did at Armour and Troost…our plan is to go the City Council and get an early indicator from the Council about whether this is the type of development they want to see,” Cassel said.
“In order to make this a viable affordable project, we need incentives and we need to make sure the Council says yes.
“Then we’ll go back to design the buildings, work through the planning process and get the exact numbers of buildings, parking, heights, retail and office space.”
Right now, Cassel believes the four taller buildings, three on Main, one on Armour, would be eight- to 10 stories. The two smaller apartment buildings planned for southwest of Armour and Baltimore would be in scale and context with the adjoining neighborhood.
Mac has hired Hufft architecture to design its project. Meetings are in the works with the Old Hyde Park Neighborhood Association to seek its input on the redevelopment plan.
The developer plans to renovate the existing 60-unit New Yorker apartment building and locate the bulk of its affordable units there, the remaining spread in the planned new projects.
“We don’t want to displace the affordable housing that’s there, Cassel said. “We want to keep those households already there.”
A commercial building at 3540 Main where the Poncho’s restaurant is located would be demolished.
As for the 60,000 square-foot US Bank building that opened in 1973, Mac has backed off its original idea of demolishing the structure and decided instead to completely overhaul it by replacing its facade.
“We want to give it a new skin and appearance,” Cassel said. “It’s a great place for corner retail with the second and third floors for office and then residential as well.
“The most environmentally sound way to develop is to reuse the old.”
Mac recently renovated and overhauled the facade of the former American Red Cross building at 211 W. Armour into a 62-unit apartment project called ARC on Armour.
The proposed SW Armour Main development would include 187 parking spaces in addition to being next door to the planned streetcar stop.
Cassel said the streetcar will be an important asset, but added the proposed development still will need incentives to meet the city’s aggressive affordable housing goals.
“We think the streetcar is exciting,” Cassel said.
“It will support people getting to work at UMKC and downtown, but a lot will be people being able play more broadly through the urban core.”
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