When Alex Walter and his girlfriend Carolina Holden decided to get an apartment together, they knew they wanted to be downtown. Walter was living in an old building a few blocks west of their current home in the brand-new 1914 Main building, but it wasn’t close enough to the action.
“I felt like I wanted to be closer to First Fridays, and closer to the streetcar line,” Walter said.
Walter and Holden are part of a growing number of people choosing life downtown to be near its growing arts community, creative venues and great restaurants. It is a style of living attracting native Kansas Citians, like Walter, who grew up in Lenexa but likes urban living. It is also providing a spot for transplants, like Holden, who has lived in many cities around the world, to feel at home.
The inaugural Urban Homes Tour, on Dec. 10, will offer a glimpse of downtown living. The free self-guided tour, part of the larger Downtown Dazzle event, will feature 20 properties with holiday cookies, seasonal cocktails, raffles and contests. Guests are encouraged to ride the KC Streetcar between properties.
Walter and Holden’s apartment is different from Walter’s old place, which was more indicative of the kind of rehabbed buildings and apartments available in much of the area. The 1914 Main building is brand new, completed in April 2016. The interior of the building has a modern, almost gallery-like feel. They loved the location, right on the streetcar line, and signed a lease even before the building was finished.
The 800-square-foot apartment is on the fifth th floor and has a balcony with a downtown view. It is small but manageable for two people, who find much of the appeal of living there the life they can experience outside their front door.
“It’s nice to have friends who are just blocks away. We can take the streetcar and/or walk. Everything is so close together in one central spot,” Walter said.
Scott Richardson is one of the partners of Linden Street Partners, the group that built the new mixed-use retail and residential building at 1914 Main. It has 44 apartment units and retail on the first floor.
Richardson and his partner, Andrew Ganahl, neither of whom lives in Kansas City, decided they wanted to develop urban multifamily real estate in the Midwest. Both had lived in California where they saw former suburbanites and young professionals wanting an urban living option, and believed the trend would hold true in other cities.
The men formed Linden Street Partners in 2013 and brought their first project to Kansas City because they saw development in the area was on an upswing, and the streetcar was coming.
“I spent a few days in town and walked the whole route of the future streetcar. I marked down notes,” Richardson said.
They decided to purchase a parking lot space and build a new building. It was an $8 million project. The building opened in April 2016 and is nearly full.
The partners found 1914 Main to be so successful, they are already working on a second, similar development in another piece of undeveloped property at 1721 Walnut.
Richardson says about two-thirds of their residents work downtown, the other third, like Walter and Holden, live downtown and commute out to the suburbs for work. Richardson says urban dwellers in Kansas City are different from their coastal counterparts in a couple of ways. In Kansas City, they still want a car and are more conservative about how much of their income they want to spend on rent, preferring to keep it between 25 percent and 30 percent of their total income, rather than 40 percent or higher, as on the coasts.
Lower building costs and shorter time-lines for construction have made the return for investors better than it would have been in another city.
“It’s been good. We’ve been impressed at what’s happened,” says Richardson. “There have been more businesses and a lot of offices signing leases for space in downtown. The market has been good for employers bringing people in who want to live in the creative industry.”
Walter says as a resident of downtown, he has seen a growing number of events, happy hours and networking opportunities in the area that make it more appealing as the years go on. It’s evolved from a place to hang out on the weekends to a place where people hang out seven days a week.
“I think we’re proving to people there’s a lot going on that can be desirable to a young professional here in Kansas City,” Walter said.
While the couple still does most of their grocery shopping in the suburbs, they can find what they need downtown. It is about a 10-minute walk to the downtown grocery store from his apartment. On the way, he often runs into people he knows, which is part of what he likes about downtown living.
“In the work that I do now, I work with clients who are just feet from where I live,” says Walter. “So, going for a run or a walk once I get home, I see people out and about and clients I work with. I feel like I’m part of the fabric of the Crossroads community.”
Urban Homes Tour
10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Dec. 10; check-in at Union Station or Visit KC, 1321 Baltimore Ave., to get a passport containing tour sites. Passport holders who visit six or more properties and get their booklet stamped will be eligible to win prizes. Visit DazzleKC.com to learn more about the tour and Downtown Dazzle, on Dec. 2-4, 9-11 and 16-18.