West Bottoms Flats Begins Work, First to Tackle Trademark Old Warehouses

A soggy kickoff event for the $65M West Bottoms Flats project was held in the alley next to the Abernathy building.

By Kevin Collison

Construction is underway on the $65 million West Bottoms Flats apartment project, the biggest investment to date in the historic warehouse district that until now has been the domain of low-key users such as antique dealers, artists and haunted houses.

On a blustery, rainy day last week, about 50 people gathered under a tent erected in an alley between two of the massive brick buildings for a kickoff ceremony.

“This was the original city of Kansas City and its maintained that authenticity,” said Melissa “Missy” Ferchill of Cleveland-based MCM Company.

“Our goal is not to change that, but to be part of it.”

MCM is renovating three historic buildings on the north side of the West Bottoms: the Abernathy, 1501 W. Ninth St.; the Liberty, 912 Liberty, and the Wyoming, 925 Wyoming, into 265 market-rate apartments.

The Bemis building at 937 Wyoming will become a 201-space garage.

Council members Kathryn Shields and Lee Barnes were among those in the audience for the event.

“What we need in Kansas City and particularly the West Bottoms is this kind of development,” Shields said.

Cleveland developer Melissa Ferchill addresses the audience.

Barnes, who is a member of the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority board that approved tax incentives for the project, described it as a “good development, adding the incentives were essential to closing the financing gap to make the project viable.

Huntington Bancshares of Ohio is the lead bank. The architect is BNIM and Rau Construction is the contractor.

While south area of the Bottoms, the so-called Stockyards District, recently has attracted large investments, including the $39 million Hy-Vee Arena project, and a $41 million, 232-unit apartment project called The Yards, the massive brick industrial buildings on the north side have proven a bigger challenge.

The Abernathy and Liberty Buildings were historically home to the Abernathy Furniture Company. The Abernathy dates to 1880 with additions in 1890, 1900 and 1905. The Liberty was built in 1900.

The Wyoming and Bemis Buildings were historically home to the Bemis Bag Co. The Wyoming was built in 1904 with an addition in 1910, and the Bemis was completed in 1920.

Four historic buildings will be renovated in the $65 million West Bottom Flats project. (Image from MCM Company)

The West Bottom Flats units will range from smaller “micro-apartments” renting at under $1,000, to one-bedroom units going for $1,200- to $1,300. There also will be some two-bedroom apartments as well.

Residents will have valet parking in the old Bemis building. Because of its interior layout, elevators will be installed to hoist cars to their parking spaces.

Other amenities will include courtyards, rooftop patios, bike storage, bocce ball courts, grilling patios and an outdoor theater. The project also includes 10,000 square feet of retail space.

Ferchill praised city officials and development agencies for their cooperation in moving the West Bottoms Flats project forward, describing it as the best public-private partnership her firm has experienced in projects around the country.

“We think it’s really cool down here and we’re excited to be part of it,” she said.

Work on the project actually began in October.

The first apartments are expected to become available by the end of this year and the entire development is expected to be completed by March 2020.

Melissa Ferchill signs the “cornerstone mural” for West Bottoms Flats.

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  1. So much for affordable housing options for low income families/individuals. That’s the thing with younger people, we eventually grow into families and move out and into suburbs. If you don’t create enough infrastructure to keep this momentum going as we grow, then we have no other options but to leave and go to the suburbs or a different state. For some reason the KC leadership fails to understand that we don’t need more apartments, we need existing apartments to become better (no more crappy “renovations”), schools, decent grocery stores, and less brand name franchises and more support for existing mom and pop stores. These management companies suck out all tax incentives and leave what for the community? Less affordable housing for lower income people (of color and white). Why isn’t this push happening to bridge east with west? Wouldn’t all the family style homes on the east side and schools solve the problem of “i lived in the city and now im married and have to move” issue? Not to mention FINALLY having more diverse communities instead of such stark segregation?

    • A $65 million investment reviving deteriorating, semi-abandoned warehouses in the West Bottoms to provide rental housing for a population that wants it is a very good thing. Yes, affordable, family-style housing is important and should also be a goal of the city. But we can do both. Allowing those West Bottoms buildings to fall apart would do nothing to help achieve those other important housing goals. And those tax incentives required to help this project are generated by the project itself. No direct taxpayer cash is involved and it doesn’t take away from the city’s ability to assist the other goals you mentioned.

      • Which population wants to be paying through the nose for LUXURY smaller units compared to buying a house or purchasing a condo? The population with student debt? The population that wants to spend more than 1/3 of their income on housing? The population that has to commute outside of the city for jobs? The incredibly small population of highly skilled workers who could afford these luxury units among a mass quantity of lesser skilled labor? West Bottoms has a very rich culture and some quasi-legal-not-so-legal artist enclaves. Have you ever visited it?

        My beef is not with development, my beef is with priorities in development.

        Also, as per segregation and racial dynamics and populations lacking skills in labor, I suggest you read this article: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/2/18/18217346/work-home-segregation-map

        Also you should definitely support these efforts: https://account.kansascity.com/static/paywall/stop?resume=227086384

        • Great for the city overall!
          If you “think” like AOC does, then you might stupidly believe these tax incentives somehow hurt the city. Dead wrong. More jobs, strong good valued families of mothers and fathers, non-victim attitude, non-govt will help me attitude, hard work… these things will end the spiral of poverty which plagues eastern areas of KC (and many cities)… leftist politicians getting votes from the permanent plantation underclass and then subsequently doing ZILCH for their communities, and the retiring very wealthy is THE driving force behind urban spiral of poverty. The nuclear, monogomous, male-female family with kids and a working father was rapidly on the rise (and not a rare thing) BEFORE the great society and welfare programs kicked in… study history! Spending since then skyrocketed on wars against XYZ… yet total poverty %’s have either stagnated or risen.

          Keep renovating and building partnering KC! It all helps. At the same time, scale the size of govt BACK about 10-fold.

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