By Kevin Collison
City officials are working with a private developer to make the River Market an even more urban, mixed-use area by replacing three parking lots with a 400-space garage, and two apartment projects totaling more than 160 units.
The plan is part of a comprehensive redevelopment strategy that includes introducing paid parking in the River Market area, which has been booming–and becoming more congested–with new apartments going up and new customers attracted by the streetcar.
Parking meters are scheduled to be introduced by late July and work on the $10 million garage is expected to begin by the end of this year.
“The City Manager (Troy Schulte) has encouraged us to make this work,” said Claude Page, a senior planner for the city. “We need to densify the area and make it more walkable.”
Page said the city has an agreement with KC Commercial Realty Group to purchase two city-owned parking lots on the southeast and southwest corners of Fifth and Main streets.
He said KC Commercial is planning a 72-unit apartment project on one lot and a 95- to 120-unit project on the other, each with 4,500 square feet of ground-level retail.
In turn, the city will use the proceeds to help build a 400-space garage on a parking lot immediately west of the City Market to replace the lost surface parking. Retail also is planned for the garage ground floor.
The price of the city parking lots being sold to KC Commercial is $2.6 million. The city will issue bonds for the remainder of the garage cost.
KC Commercial recently completed the 56-unit Centropolis on Grand apartment project at Fifth and Grand in the River Market, and is considering another apartment project on property it acquired at 110 E. Third St. by the River Market Streetcar station.
Justin Cottrell, an official with KC Commercial, declined to comment, saying negotiations with the city had not been completed.
The city began pitching the two parking lots at Fifth and Main to developers three years ago. The lots are on the streetcar route, and officials wanted a better use for them. The only condition was that whatever parking was lost would need to be replaced.
That’s where the new garage comes in, Page said.
“The idea is for the city is to partner with the developer by selling the lots to the developer for an independently appraised price and use that money to help build the garage,” he said.
Page also noted the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has plans to redevelop the 193-space parking lot it operates northeast of Third and Grand into a commercial office and retail project. A public garage with at least 600 spaces also is contemplated to serve that project.
In addition to the new garage, the city is planning to begin installing on-street parking meters in the River Market and has asked four vendors to demonstrate equipment options for a 90-day test period. The rate will be $1 per hour with a two-hour maximum.
The city also is budgeting stepped-up parking enforcement, including booting, for the area.
Deb Churchill, manager of the City Market, said introducing paid parking should help free up more spaces for people, particularly on crowded Saturdays at the market.
Parking also has become more difficult as people have used free spaces in the River Market and used the streetcar to reach other downtown destinations.
“It seemed inevitable to us that it would happen at some point,” Churchill said. “We’re on of the few big cities around that don’t have paid parking. It’s been a luxury.
“It will help make turnover of spaces more active and help get more customers for our tenants.”