By Kevin Collison
The Port Authority of Kansas City is making a renewed effort to promote development on the downtown riverfront, seeking to capitalize on a new 410-unit apartment project going up by Berkley Park and a potential extension of the streetcar to the area.
The authority, which refers to itself as Port KC, held two press events Wednesday to tout what it’s calling the new “Berkley Riverfront” brand. It’s the latest effort to attract attention and investment to a stretch of riverfront that’s seen sporadic activity for many decades.
But with construction well underway on the $74 million Union apartment project by Indianapolis-based Flaherty & Collins Properties, part of a major boom in downtown apartment construction, the Port Authority released a new video envisioning an eventual mixed-use “urban village” with residences, retail and office space.
“This one-of-a-kind venue gives visitors an unparalleled park experience within a natural escape only moments from the hustle of the city with 17 acres of scenic riverside green space,” Michael Collins, president and CEO of Port KC, said in a statement.
“It is a lively urban oasis that is stimulating one of the largest economic growth developments in the city, which will improve our quality of life.”
The Port Authority has been working since at least the 1990s to attract investment to the area. In the meantime, smaller cities, notably Omaha, which has a similar Missouri riverfront bordering its downtown, have completed sweeping redevelopments.
The authority spent more than $17 million on an environmental cleanup a decade ago and hired Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland to come up with a redevelopment plan that included 1,200 residences, retail and up to 250,000 square feet of office space.
Among the major office tenants who have been courted over the years to relocate there without success are Sprint, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and in 2007, the federal General Services Administration regional headquarters.
But now, with the construction of the new Union apartment project and the planned opening of a Bar K dog park, restaurant, bar and coffeehouse slated to begin next summer, Port KC believes the time is ripe for further investment. The agency also plans to lease office space at the Union.
According to a release, Port KC has created a new master plan for the riverfront over the past five years that includes Flaherty & Collins Properties, Taliaferro & Browne Engineering, Hardwich Law Firm, KEM Studio, Phronesis, Cushman & Wakefield, KC Crew, Bar K and Friends of the River.
“Since 1971, our riverfront has endured several visions, plans and strategies, all seeking one goal: to attract liveliness and vibrancy for our most undervalued natural asset,” Port KC stated.
“For many reasons, such as macro-economic conditions and misuse, those dreams never became a reality…until today.”
Port KC also pointed to increased recreational use, noting it’s in its second year of a partnership with KC Crew to provide sport activities, including sand volleyball, that’s drawn 3,000 people annually to the Berkley Riverfront. Another group, Friends of the River, has promoted the July 4th Riverfest event and the Riverfront Fitness program.