By Kevin Collison
Two rival apartment plans are being pitched for a public parking lot next to the City Market, one a 12-story tower proposed by an Indianapolis developer, the other a five-story project submitted by a local group.
The two developers, Flaherty & Collins of Indy and locally-based RM Housing Partners LLC, responded to a request for proposals (RFP) released last summer by the city and Port KC for the parking lot northwest of Fifth and Main streets on the west side of the Market.
Both proposals meet the RFP requirement that at least 15 percent of the apartments be set aside for affordable housing, and that any project include at least 160 public parking spaces to replace those lost at the development site.
But that’s where the similarities end.
Flaherty & Collins, which has developed two large apartment projects on the riverfront and the West Bottoms, is proposing a 12-story building that would include about 300 apartments, 45 of which would be affordable.
The $75 million plan also includes 10,000 square-feet of commercial space and an approximately 400-space garage that includes the replacement public parking. The architect is KEM Studio of Kansas City.
“We need more density because it’s not a big site,” said Ryan Cronk, a vice president at Flaherty & Collins.
“The River Market is a great area that has a lot of long-term potential. Being right next to the Market is a cool opportunity for people to live and walk next door.”
George Birt, a partner in RM Housing, has developed several apartment projects over the years in the River Market including Conover Place and the first phase of River Market West.
The other partners are Kelley Hrabe, a veteran affordable housing developer, and Jim Potter.
Their proposal is significantly smaller, calling for 100-unit, five-story wood-frame building that would include 90 affordable apartments. A four-story, 260-space, steel-frame garage would be incorporated into the design.
“We intentionally designed it to be five stories to fit into the character and scale of the neighborhood,” Birt said. “This is a congested part of the area with the City Market and the parking lot there.”
The RM Housing plan also calls for enlivening the alley between the project and City Market with additional shops and vendors. The architect is Hord Coplan Macht of Baltimore.
Plans to develop the City Market parking lot first surfaced early last spring when Port KC approached the city about using the site for an apartment project.
A request was submitted to City Hall to transfer ownership, and at that point, Flaherty & Collins was considered the potential developer.
Port KC already had experience working with the Indianapolis firm on the 410-unit Union at Berkley Riverfront project which opened in 2018.
That exclusive approach however, was opposed by other developers who argued that a competitive process was necessary for any proposal involving the city-owned lot. Last summer, the city and Port KC agreed to issue an RFP.
The deadline for responses was this week and Flaherty & Collins and RM Housing Partners were the only respondents.
Cronk said his firm would like to add a River Market project to its local portfolio. In addition to riverfront project, his firm also developed The Yards, a 232-unit development that opened earlier this year next door to the Livestock Exchange Building.
“We don’t have anything in the River Market yet,” he said. “If we get a chance to do something there, we want to do something special.”
Both development plans would be seeking tax incentives in the form of state and federal low income housing tax credits, and potential property tax abatements.
“From our standpoint, we want to deliver a project that doesn’t exist now in the River Market,” Cronk said. “At the end of the day, we need to make the numbers work.
“There’s a large public component to this. The city and Port KC want the city to grow and affordable housing is a big piece. We have lots of experience doing that in our company.”
In a separate proposal, Flaherty & Collins is teaming with a local non-profit, Twelfth Street Heritage Development, on a plan to build a 124-unit affordable housing development called Heritage Lofts on the riverfront.
The partners are seeking low income housing tax credits from the Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC).
Birt said his $25.5 million proposal also would be financed through the MHDC and utilize 4 percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits in conjunction with tax exempt bonds.
“We can get there quicker with our approach than wait in line with the state for tax credits,” he said.
The proposals will be reviewed by a selection committee that’s expected to include representatives from Port KC, the city, the River Market Community Association and the City Market Oversight Committee, according to a statement from Port KC.
The committee is expected to score the proposals. Once a developer is selected, Port KC staff will work with the firm to prepare a development agreement and then determine timing and next steps.
Cronk said if the Flaherty & Collins proposal is chosen, in a “perfect world” work could begin in late 2021 with completion in mid-2023.
Birt said his project could have a similar timetable with a start in late 2021 and completion in 2023.
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