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Martin City project would combine senior housing, baseball

Updated: 2013-10-02T04:43:49Z

By JENNIFER BHARGAVA

Special to The Star

Baseball and senior housing are being brought together in a project that would help revitalize part of south Kansas City.

The unusual project, proposed for the southeast corner of Holmes Road and 135th Street in Martin City, was presented to residents at the Center Planning and Development Council meeting last week.

The residential side of the project, developed by MRE Capital, would include 20 two-unit duplexes that will be available for rent to people 62 and over. It will include market-value rentals and affordable rentals for low-income residents.

The other half of the project would be a baseball complex for the Barnstormers Baseball organization.

The facility would include a 3,000-seat stadium and youth fields for tournaments. It also would allow the organization to house a college wood-bat team.

“It will be a youth facility with a minor league feel,” said Reggie Harris, director of business development for Barnstormers Baseball. “Don’t just look at us as a baseball field — this is going to be an economic engine for the community.”

Barnstormers Baseball now operates out of an indoor facility in Mission. If the project goes through, the organization is looking forward to moving its headquarters from Johnson County to Martin City.

“There are locally owned shops lining the streets, adding to the area’s small-town character,” Harris said. “Martin City has real appeal.”

The project, however, is still in its infancy.

Developers are applying for Missouri tax credits. Without the financial help, there’s a possibility the project won’t go forward, said Maximillian Howell of Entrepreneurs Enterprises LLC.

When asked how much the project would cost and how much the tax credits would bring in, Howell said he wouldn’t have accurate financial figures for at least a month.

Right now, the developers are mainly focused on winning approval for tax credits, which is an extremely competitive process, he said. But they remain hopeful.

They encouraged residents at the meeting Sept. 24 to write letters of support to Mayor Sly James. The more community buzz around the project, the better chance it has of being considered for the tax credits, Howell said.

The developers have already generated excitement in Martin City. They’ve met with several businesses, including Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue.

“Everyone we’ve talked to is enthusiastic about the project because it will generate more revenue to the area,” Howell said.

The developers also stressed at the meeting that details about the project were not etched in stone. There is still a chance changes could be made, or that the project would not go through at all if the tax credits were not obtained, Howell said.

One resident in the audience who said he was impressed with what he heard was Kansas City Councilman John Sharp. He said it has been well over a decade since south Kansas City has received a tax credit for housing. Plus, the area has a real need for senior housing, he said.

“We have been overlooked,” Sharp said. “We have needs out here. I think this project is great because the more folks who live out here, the more support we will have for our retail and restaurants.”

He also was excited about the baseball aspect. The project as a whole, he said, would make Martin City a popular destination.

“Martin City has some great restaurants, but a lot of people don’t want to drive out there to eat dinner and go home,” Sharp said. “This will bring families into town to see a baseball game as well. It will give the area an economic boost.”

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