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KCATA Pursues Ambitious Mixed-Use Tower Downtown

Tower Properties Pushes Back on the Proposal

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Above image credit: The KCATA had used its 10th and Main property as a transit center until last summer when it opened its East Village Transit Center at 12th and Charlotte. (Kevin Collison | Flatland)

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority’s (KCATA) development arm is pursuing a potential 26-story mixed-use building at its former transit site at 10th and Main streets. But the ambitious concept already is being slammed by a prominent nearby landlord who would rather see a park there.

RideKC Development Corp. (RDC) is working with a development group comprised of Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate, Community Builders of Kansas City and Parson + Associates to develop a project.

The proposal, still in its preliminary study phase, calls for first floor retail, 30,000 square feet of office space for the KCATA and approximately 200 affordable apartments in the remaining upper floors.

Jason Parson of Parson + Associates said his group responded to a request for proposals issued by the RDC last year.

“We’re looking at doing a quality, mixed-use development downtown,” he said.

The KCATA's development arm is pursuing a potential 26-story mixed-use building at its former transit site at 10th and Main.
The KCATA’s development arm is pursuing a potential 26-story mixed-use building at its former transit site at 10th and Main streets. (Rendering | Gould Evans)

“Our plan is to engage with downtown stakeholders and we’re just now getting going,” Parson said. “This project has to pencil out and we’re in the very beginning stages. I am excited about the possibility of bring something downtown we think is quality.”

RDC and KCATA officials were not available for comment, but released a statement about the proposal through their public relations consultant.

“We are proposing a vibrant, equitable, and diverse mixed-income ‘vertical’ neighborhood which will help KCATA and KCMO achieve their strategic goals by promoting transit usage and delivering housing,” it stated.

“We believe that this demonstration project will be transformational for downtown and will serve as a new model for delivering housing in Kansas City.”

The proposal is opposed by Tower Properties.

Thomas “Buzz” Willard, CEO of Tower Properties, said the KCATA’s development proposal doesn’t make sense from a financial or operational point of view, and urged the half-acre site at 10th and Main be used for a park instead.

“Why the KCATA thinks they need first generation office space when there’s all this available office space downtown is beyond me,” Willard said.

“I don’t understand how this project would work,” he added. “It’s a pretty small site and the KCATA also is obligated to maintain the fountain that’s there in perpetuity. I don’t think it’s financeable.”

Tower Properties’ nearby holdings include the Commerce Bank building at 1000 Walnut St., the Commerce Trust Building at 922 Walnut St. and the 811 Main building.

RideKC Development is an outgrowth of the KCATA’s desire to develop its considerable real estate holdings in the city, although so far it has made limited progress.

A proposal to redevelop a parking lot at Third and Grand, first as offices, then an apartment project, has struggled for several years. A plan to develop land at 18th and Troost for the Keystone Innovation District fell through recently. And RDC continues to negotiate an apartment deal at 31st and Troost.

Parson said more work needs to be done to determine whether the proposed mixed-use tower at 10th and Main is financially feasible.

“We’re looking at how to make it work,” he said.

In the meantime, Willard said potential funding has been identified to maintain and program a park — if the KCATA would transfer the property to the city or parks department.

“We do have money remaining in the Library TIF (tax-increment financing district) that would help program the space,” he said. “And we have soft assurances from some philanthropic community officials to program it if it became a park.”

Willard said arguments by the KCATA that federal law prevents it from transferring the land and requires it to sell it for the best price are “disingenuous.”

“There’s no federal requirement to sell it for the best use and price,” he said. “Federal law indicates it can be transferred to another entity.”

Tower Properties wants the former transit center property at 10th and Main to be used as a park.
Tower Properties wants the former transit center property at 10th and Main to be used as a park. Any plan would leave its landmark fountain intact. (Kevin Collison | Flatland)

Willard also said a park is desired by nearby residents in the Library Lofts and other apartment buildings.

“The neighborhood around this would probably resist any type of city subsidy (for a RDC project) because the neighborhood has spoken that they … want a public park that would be programmed by the Downtown Council,” Willard said.

That assertion however, was challenged by Josh Boehm, the president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

“We’ve always supported the redevelopment of that site with some sort of infill, although we haven’t been particular about the use,” Boehm said.

He said there was less interest in a park at 10th and Main because there already are parks and green spaces in the nearby area.

“We’re not necessarily opposed to that (a park), but an opportunity for a TOD (transportation-oriented development) would be welcome as well,” Boehm said.

Flatland contributor Kevin Collison is the founder of CityScene KC, an online source for downtown news and issues.

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