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Big Redevelopment Plan in Works for Historic KC Armory on Main Street

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3 minute read

(Editor’s note: CityScene KC is taking a little time off to recharge its batteries in the Black Hills. Following the recent FTA decision to fund the planned extension of the streetcar from downtown to UMKC, the next few days will feature previous stories about the plans and ideas already set in motion along Main Street in anticipation of the new line.)

This story was previously published Aug. 30, 2019

By Kevin Collison

The historic Kansas City National Guard Armory at 3620 Main is slated to be renovated as a food court and boutique hotel, part of the redevelopment wave occurring along Main Street in anticipation of the planned extension of the streetcar line.

Exact Partners, which also is converting the nearby Netherland Hotel and Monarch Storage Building into apartments at 38th and Main, plans to invest $8 million in renovating the old armory.

The building opened in 1923 to house the 110th Engineers Battalion of the Missouri National Guard.

It’s part of an ambitious redevelopment plan for much of the block that includes building a five-story, 80-unit apartment project at 37th and Main, and building a dozen single-family townhouses behind the old armory along Baltimore Avenue.

Developer Caleb Buland estimated the total cost of the Armory Block redevelopment plan at $25 million.

It would be built in three phases and is expected to be completed by late 2023. The current schedule for the streetcar extension, which is seeking federal funding, calls for it to begin operation in 2024.

“I want to make this a vibrant space on Main and give the neighborhood amazing amenities,” Buland said.

The historic armory building at 3620 Main has been vacant for about 15 years.

Along with his partner Ilan Salzberg of Denver, Exact Partners has become a development force in the urban core over the past couple years.

The firm recently completed the renovation of the old Wonder Bread bakery into the Wonder Shops + Flats project at 27th and Troost, and the Acme building at 32nd and Gillham.

For the Armory Block project, the firm has acquired about two-thirds of the properties along the west side of Main between 36th and 37th streets. The three-level former armory has been vacant for about 15 years, Buland said.

The armory renovation plan calls for the main floor, where up to 400 soldiers once drilled, to be renovated as a food hall and bar.

The upper mezzanine level would become a 36-room boutique hotel. A 40-foot wide courtyard would be located on the south side of the building.

Buland said he hopes to attract four “emerging” chefs to open eateries in leased space in the food hall. If successful after two or three years, he said the partners would like to help the chefs open up their own standalone restaurants.

A food hall featuring four “emerging” chefs would be a the center of the armory renovation.

He pointed out the growing neighborhood, which not only includes his Netherland residential project, but the more than 1,700 apartments developed by Mac Properties along nearby Armour Boulevard, needs good places to eat and be entertained.

If the project receives the necessary approvals from City Hall, work could begin before the end of this year on the armory renovation.

Exact Partners does plan to seek tax incentives from the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority to assist in the project and is pursuing historic designation for the building to make the project eligible for state and federal historic tax credits.

The second phase–the new apartment building at 37th and Main–would begin in about two years and would replace a pawn shop currently at that location.

It calls for underground parking for 100 cars and a five-level, 80-unit apartment building above. Buland said the apartments would meet the proposed city guidelines for affordable housing.

The historic armory has been empty for almost 15 years, the project calls for restoring the interior to reveal the original vaulted ceiling.

A proposal now before the City Council would define affordable as units available to households with incomes at or below 80 percent of the median income for all Kansas City households.

Rents, including utilities, could be no more than 30 percent of an eligible household income. The PIEA also recently approved a plan to encourage more affordable housing be included in projects along the Main Street corridor.

The median household income in the city was $50,136 in 2017, according to the Census Bureau. An affordable apartment meeting those city income guidelines would cost about $1,000 per month including utilities.

The third phase of Armory Block, the townhouses facing Baltimore, would then follow completion of the apartments.

In the interim, Buland also plans to clean-up the existing retail strip center next door to the armory and intends to market it for health-related tenants including a possible yoga studio, healthy food shop and chiropractor.

The Kansas City National Guard Armory opened in 1923 to house the 110th Engineers Battalion of the National Guard. (Photo from National Register of Historic Places application)

Diane Burnett, executive director of Midtown KC Now, said her organization, which operates   a community improvement district along Main Street, strongly supports the Armory Block redevelopment plan because it would be streetcar and neighborhood friendly.

“I was so excited they were interested in those properties because they’re visionaries and can see these old structures being brought back to life,” she said. “These are the kinds of things we’d like to see on Main.”

Buland said Main Street was once the bustling artery between downtown and the Country Club Plaza and wants it to resume that role.

“Main Street was historically a vibrant connection between the River Market and Plaza and the colleges,” he said.

“It’s now totally underutilized. We’re trying to bring workforce housing back.”

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