By Kevin Collison
Rising from the heart of North Kansas City, a nine-story apartment project is a prominent symbol of the big goals set by this small community just across the river from downtown, including the eventual extension of the streetcar.
“We want to have a vibrant downtown that’s not just entertainment driven,” said Sara Copeland, community development director for North Kansas City, which counts about 4,500 residents.
“We like our breweries and restaurants, but we also think having more residents living in the heart of downtown will help other downtown uses.”
The $49 million apartment project being built by the Sunflower Development Group is called Oxbow. GSSW Real Estate Investments is the co-developer.
It was approved in 2019 to replace what was then a city-owned parking lot with residents.
Construction began last winter and the 208-unit development at East 18th Avenue and Swift is expected to be completed in Fall 2022, Copeland said.
The new apartment building will tower over the surrounding low-rise industrial buildings that now house new venues including the Cinder Block brewery and Chicken N Pickle, a popular recreation destination.
When completed, it will be the third tallest building in North Kansas City and help the community achieve goals set in its 2016 master plan to double the population within its 4.6 square-mile area.
Other big recent apartment projects include the 49-unit Gallery Lofts project near the YMCA at 1999 Iron St. and the 240-unit “The Backyard” apartment development southeast of Armour Road and Interstate 29/35.
North Kansas City believes extending the streetcar into the heart of its community will help it fuel further development by tying it even closer to downtown Kansas City and the revitalization thats been underway since the early 2000s.
“Everybody knows North Kansas City has wanted light rail or the streetcar for a longtime,” Copeland said. “Mayor (Bryant) DeLong has been pushing us to see if the conditions have changed enough for the streetcar.
“We’re a pretty dense community, but there are still redevelopment opportunities in being connected to downtown, the River Market and attracting people to North Kansas City.”
And with Kansas City officials attaching new affordable housing mandates to its incentive policies that some developers say have made projects much less economically feasible, North Kansas City may prove an attractive alternative.
The new apartment project being built by Sunflower received a 25-year, 95 percent property tax abatement from North Kansas City. There was no affordable housing requirement attached to the deal when it was approved by the city, Copeland said.
The Sunflower development will include 35 studio units; 139, one-bedroom; 30, two-bedroom and four penthouse units. A breakdown of expected monthly rents was unavailable.
Centric is the contractor and Rosemann & Associates is the architect.
The project is only about a block away from where a potential streetcar route would end should recommendations of an earlier study form the basis of a future project.
That earlier report recommended an approximately two-mile extension that would cross the river on the Heart of America/Missouri 9 bridge and follow Burlington Road to a terminus in the heart of downtown North Kansas City at Armour Road.
Copeland said her community is not just waiting for the results of the next streetcar study to be completed and is working with Kansas City Area Transportation Authority to explore better transit connections with downtown Kansas City.
“We’re interested in seeing the study options, but we’re not just waiting for the streetcar to be approved,” she said.
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