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Mac Bets Big on Main in Response to Housing Demand and Streetcar

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4 minute read

By Kevin Collison

Mac Properties’ plan for a 325-unit, mid-rise apartment project at Main and Armour is all about responding to increasing population growth in a Midtown that will soon benefit from streetcar access, its developer said Wednesday.

“We’re going to get you a great place for a restaurant, some other goods and services, and help build the economic fabric of the community through small business,” said Peter Cassel, Mac director for community development.

“And oh, there will be some apartments upstairs that will continue to help Kansas City as its work force grows.”

At a briefing to Midtown KC Now about the project, Cassel said the rezoning request for the proposal is scheduled for the Dec. 6 City Plan Commission meeting. Mac is seeking a letter of support from the association of business and property owners.

The “1 W. Armour” development calls for renovating the existing US Bank building next to the planned streetcar stop and constructing a 10-story apartment building in three segments along Main, and a nine-story apartment building on Armour.

The development is a revival of a proposal that was rejected in January when the City Council turned down Mac’s request for tax incentives. The incentives were requested to meet the city’s previous affordable housing requirement.

Instead, Mac is coming back with a revised plan that will seek no incentives, but also will be completely market-rate.

The Mac ‘1 W. Armour” proposal looking northwest with the proposed segmented apartment building in the foreground. (Rendering by Hufft architecture)

In fact, the historic New Yorker building at 3521 Baltimore, which had been slated for affordable units in the previous plan, is now being renovated separately by Mac as a market-rate project.

“If you recall, we had folded it (the New Yorker) into the development back in January with the opportunity to create 50-some affordable housing units there,” Cassel said. “The City Council chose not to.

“We’re now just going through the process of updating the building and will turn it into nothing different from any other Mac rehabs we’ve done over the years.”

Mac Properties has been a huge player developing apartments along the Armour Boulevard corridor in Midtown for more than a decade.

The firm has redeveloped 28 buildings, many of them historic former apartment-hotels, and has built or is building several new ones along a 15-block stretch from Broadway to Troost that will soon total 2,000, mostly market-rate, apartments.

Cassel said his Chicago-based firm believes there will continue to be a strong market for additional apartments in Midtown Kansas City and throughout the region.

“I think the real demand drivers for Kansas City are pointing that more people are coming,” he said.

“We continue to see major growth out of UMKC and Penn Valley, that brings residents to Midtown. We’re also seeing job growth in the Plaza and Crown Center and the downtown office markets.”

A small plaza is proposed along Main at the midpoint of the new apartment building.

The developer said their market reports indicate the Kansas City metropolitan area could still absorb an additional 6,000- to 8,000 apartments.

“All this points to rental rates going upward,” he said. “In order to slow the rental growth rate….we need to build and we need supply.”

The 1 W. Armour project, which is being designed by Hufft architecture, has three components:

–A 10-story apartment building in three, stepped sections to be built south of the US Bank along Main. An open-air “greenwell” notch would be in the southeast corner of each section to provide residents outdoor space. Its exterior would be steel panels.

The project would require the demolition of the Pancho’s Mexican restaurant at the corner of 36th and Main, and another commercial building to the west on 36th Street. There would be retail space at the bottom of each section of the new structure.

The Main Street building also would provide a public square at its midpoint by its retail space.

–The renovation of the four-story US Bank building into a mixed-use project with 18 apartments and 28,000 square-feet of retail and resident amenities.

–The construction of a nine-story, brick building on Armour west of the US Bank. The project would require removing the north bay of the existing garage.

A street-level look at the nine-story apartment project proposed for Armour. (Rendering by Hufft architects)

“We’re maximizing what can be done,” said Jeffrey Kloch, a principal at Hufft.

“This is an expression of where we think Kansas City is going and kind of celebration of all the things that have happened.”

The Mac development plan calls for 183 parking spaces, which would come at an additional cost to residents. The New Yorker currently has no dedicated parking and none is planned as part of its renovation.

In response to questions from attendees at the Midtown KC briefing, Cassel said Mac believes that parking number is adequate for the development.

“We’ve found that in general, our portfolio has thrived one parking space for every three apartments,” he said, referring to Mac’s other apartment projects on Armour.

“From this development’s perspective, we think the .5 ratio is the heathy ration. To create more parking would be the equivalent of killing the development.”

Cassel also criticized a concept being explored by Midtown KC and the Urban Land Institute to introduce shared parking locations along the new streetcar route. The ULI is a professional planning and development association.

In a separate project, Mac is renovating the old New Yorker building at 3521 Baltimore into market-rate housing. The original development plan turned down by the City Council in January called for it to be used for affordable apartments.

“I’ll admit to being completely mystified by the Kansas City parking conversation,” he said. “If you look at any aerial map of the urban core from the river to Brush Creek, the number one land use in all of Kansas City is parking.

“I found the idea that Midtown would provide the downtown and Plaza office landlords park and ride (locations), that whole conversation struck me as bizarre.”

Cassel declined to say when construction would begin on the development if it wins Council rezoning approval.

At one point, he told Midtown KC it might be completed by late 2024 or early 2025, but in a separate interview he said the timetable depends on economic factors including inflation and rising interest rates.

As for rents, Cassel said they will likely be greater than those charged at his firm’s latest 340-unit project at Troost and Armour, The Crosswalks. Studios and one-bedrooms there range from $1,300-$1,800, and two bedrooms go for $1,800 to $2,400.

“We expect there will be a premium for the location on Main…with the vitality and streetcar access,” he said.

The Mac site plan for its proposed development at Main and Armour.

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