Midland Project Wins Incentive Approval, Work Starts Early 2020

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Interior rendering of a micro apartment at the Saxon at the Midland project. (Image from Helix Architecture + Design)

By Kevin Collison

Work is expected to begin early next year on redeveloping the historic Midland office building into 117 affordable apartments following approval of tax incentives Thursday.

The Planned Industrial Expansion Authority approved a 25-year property tax abatement to help finance the $24.3 million renovation plan for what’s called The Saxon at The Midland project following a hearing that included support from the Downtown Council.

Sean O’Byrne, Downtown Council vice president, told the PIEA board that greater downtown already has the most diverse population in the city, with 52 percent of its 27,000 residents minorities, and the largest proportion of affordable apartments, 23 percent.
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“This housing stock is what we need to grow and attract more companies,” O’Byrne said.

The renovation of the 12-story Midland office building into affordable housing is part of an agreement Cordish struck with the city last summer in return for incentives to help build its planned luxury towers: the 300-unit Three Light, expected to break ground late this year, and the potential Four and Five Light projects.

Nick Benjamin, executive director of the Cordish-owned Power & Light District, told the board the original redevelopment plan for the Midland called for 67, market-rate apartments.

The new plan for 117 affordable units will significantly increase the amount of payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) going to taxing jurisdictions including the school district and libraries. The PILOT will grow from $102,573 the first year to $173,951 in the 25th year.

The 12-story Midland office building at 13th and Baltimore opened in 1927 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cordish also is renting all the apartments as affordable units when it opens, the agreement reached with the city called for it to be offered as affordable housing in three phases. All the units will be under $1,100 per month, with some rents as low as $700 per month.

To achieve that affordable goal, the Midland is being redeveloped into smaller apartments. According to its PIEA application, the breakdown calls for 33 micro-units averaging 321 square feet; 22 studio averaging 438 square feet, and 62 one-bedroom averaging 518 square feet.

Benjamin said one-third of the units initially would be reserved for residents who qualify for affordable housing, defined as individuals making 80 percent of the area’s median income which is $45,376. The remainder are available to any income level.

The PIEA’s approval of the property tax abatement was the last public step needed for the project. The development does not have to go back the the Kansas City Council for review.

Benjamin added the renovation of the Midland, which has been vacant since 2004, represents the last historic building to be redeveloped in the Power & Light District.

The Midland office building and its ornate theater were built in 1927 and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 3,200-seat theater was renovated in about 2004 as part of the initial nine-block Power & Light District redevelopment project and operates as the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland.

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