By Kevin Collison
A planned 13-story apartment project in the River Market may begin construction early next year after its developer and city officials had what they described as a good meeting with federal aviation officials this week.
At the meeting, Federal Aviation Administration officials agreed to ease height restrictions that had inhibited development in the River Market area, according to City Manager Brian Platt.
“The good news is FAA formally rescinded notice of hazard determination at this meeting for the project at Fifth and Main,” he said, referring to the 13-story project planned by Flaherty & Collins.
“We are working through a few potential solutions to minimized the conflicts between air space and development more broadly across the entire area rather than reacting to individual projects.”
Platt, who came here from Jersey City, N.J., two years ago, said the FAA meeting could lead to more of the type of development he believes is needed in the River Market and other areas of greater downtown.
“The FAA has been a good partner to find solutions so we can move forward with denser, high-rise development that’s transit oriented with affordable housing and brings jobs and economic activity to the area,” he said.
David Wingerson, a development associate with Flaherty & Collins, said his firm is optimistic it will receive the necessary clearance after being told to reapply to the FAA.
“They’ve reopened the case, so we’re taking a step back in the application process before they issued the previous determination,” he said.
“They’ll re-evaluate what we presented and hopefully issue a new determination about height. It is very optimistic. It was a good meeting.”
That firm’s proposal for a 300-unit apartment development was approved earlier this year by Port KC. The $75 million project is planned for what’s now a city-owned parking lot just west of the City Market and include a 260-space garage.
The FAA challenge to projects began last year with its proposed apartment tower. Federal officials ultimately decided it would interfere with the flight path of aircraft using the nearby Wheeler Downtown Airport.
Then, last month, the developer of a proposed five-story project at 413 Delaware was turned down by the FAA, also citing height restrictions.
FAA officials say they don’t have the authority to block projects and only determine whether they are a flight hazard or not. However, the agency can withhold federal airport funding if communities don’t follow their guidelines.
Wingerson said pending approvals, construction could begin on the apartment project in the first quarter of 2023.
In a related matter, Wingerson said the second phase of The Yards apartment development in the West Bottoms is expected to break ground in October.
The 224-unit, $47 million project will be built on the east side of the Kaw River in Kansas near the Livestock Exchange Building.
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A 13 Story Apartment building is too tall for the River Market Area on the east side. On the west side, where there are taller buildings, would be more appropriate.
The scale of this building would dominate every other building in the area, destroying the ambiance of one of Kansas City’s prized areas.
More projects will come, and the opportunity will be lost to redevelop in a manner that keeps the River Market a prized area.
Could an apartment building be located at this site? Sure, but not at the expense of what makes the area unique.
Any proposed project for this historic area should reflect the existing architecture and scale to keep a unique district unique. Many locations are in desperate need of redevelopment, the West Bottoms, East of Charlotte, or possibly in Harlem.
Again, approve appropriate development. Even approve an apartment building on this site with a height that fits the area.
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