Published March 23rd, 2023 at 7:00 AM
Responding to merchant pressure, a City Council committee endorsed an apartment tower in the City Market that restores its original design and replaces 160 public parking spaces being lost at the development site.
The 300-unit City Harvest development is expected to be approved by the full council today. If so, construction on the 13-story project is expected to begin this fall.
The City Harvest development had a bumpy committee hearing two weeks ago after councilmembers and merchants expressed dismay that city staff had altered the deal outlined in the original request for proposals (RFP).
The project is planned for a public parking lot just west of the City Market and the original RFP called for all 160 spaces to be replaced. The RFP also set aside 45 affordable units for households making up to 70% of the area’s median income.
After the developer, Flaherty & Collins, was chosen, however, the design was revamped by city staff to reduce the public parking to be included in the project garage in return for an additional 15 affordable apartments at 50% percent of the area’s median income.
While that change was praised by affordable housing and transit development advocates at the hearing earlier this month, it was roundly criticized by merchants who said the parking was vital for their customers and employees.
The council’s Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee decided to delay its vote.
When the plan returned for its second round before the committee Wednesday, the public hearing was all City Market merchants with no one opposing its return to the original design and the resulting loss of 15 affordable units.
“The bottom line is we have to have parking in the River Market, if we don’t have parking we will die,” said Donna Slaughter of Planters Seed Co. “Do not kill Kansas City’s market because you will if you take the parking away.”
The plan now in place for the development calls for 140 public spaces to be reserved in its 358-space garage and an additional 20 spaces set aside along Main Street, which will be reconnected between Third and Fifth streets.
The project also will keep the 45 affordable units at 70% of the area’s median income. Kansas City’s area median income for a one-person household is about $60,000 and about $69,000 for two people.
While merchants supported the restoration of public parking, there were concerns that spaces in the existing parking lot now leased by businesses for their customers and employees would not be available in the City Harvest garage.
“I think it’s important as we try to keep these businesses alive that they can continue to be able to do that monthly renting of parking spaces,” Councilwoman Katheryn Shields said.
There also was criticism that the 20 parking spaces on a reconnected Main Street would block deliveries to City Market businesses. The stretch currently functions as an alley for delivery vehicles.
While there was no estimate of how many spots in the lot are currently leased to businesses, committee members instructed staff to ensure that there will be a similar proportion of the public spaces in the garage available for leasing.
There also were a couple of speakers who also observed the number of spaces in the garage fell short of the number of apartments planned for the tower. The project is located next to the River Market streetcar stop.
“There’s 300 people moving into this building and there’s a 100 space shortage,” said David Lindahl. “A hundred of those 300 people could potentially use up this publicly available parking.”
In the end, Councilwoman Andrea Bough made the motion to approve the plan.
“I think we all did hear concerns of those who are businesses in the neighborhood and what we have here is the intent to actually do what’s being requested, and that’s to replace the 160 parking spaces,” she said.
It was approved on a 3-2 vote with Bough being joined by Lee Barnes Jr. and Dan Fowler. Council members Teresa Loar and Brandon Ellington voted no.
Also at the hearing, Mario Vasquez, assistant city manager, said in response to a question from the committee that he believed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had approved the building height.
The FAA had objected to the City Harvest plan, saying it interfered with a flight path to the Charles Wheeler Downtown Airport.
City staff and private attorneys had been in discussions with the federal agency to modify the restrictions, not only for City Harvest but other projects envisioned for the River Market.
Flatland contributor Kevin Collison is the founder of CityScene KC, an online source for downtown news and issues.