Mark Holland’s not sure the last time there was a from-the-ground-up new construction of a multifamily housing project in downtown Kansas City, Kan. It’s been so long.
That’s why the mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., is pleased that a developer has plans for a mixed-income housing project in downtown Kansas City, Kan.
“It would be the first one in forever,” Holland said this week.
Prairie Fire Development Group, a real estate venture led by Kelley Hrabe, has designed what he’s calling an “agrihood” in the Douglass-Sumner neighborhood in the downtown.
The Prairie Fire Lofts project would include between 70 and 92 mixed-income apartment units alongside an urban agriculture center.
A $15 million first phase would kick the project off at the northwest corner of Eighth Street and Washington Boulevard, close to Sumner Academy of Arts & Science. The overall master plan for Prairie Fire Development’s project covers four city blocks bound by Washington Boulevard to the south, Oakland Avenue to the north and between Eighth and 10th streets.
Prairie Fire Development is not associated with the struggling Prairiefire development in south Overland Park.
Hrabe has a track record in developing mixed-income housing projects, including an affordable loft project in the Columbus Park neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo. He said the Prairie Fire Lofts project allows him to combine affordable housing in Kansas City, Kan.’s downtown setting and provide the community an urban agriculture opportunity.
It’s a fresh approach to multifamily housing for a metro area booming with apartment proposals and projects, many of which are market-rate or luxury units.
“We just think in this market place where there’s new apartments being announced and built every day, it would give us a creative and competitive opportunity, particularly for folks who want to live in an urban environment and get involved in urban agriculture and farming,” Hrabe said.
Prairie Fire Development has requested low-income housing tax credits to help finance the project. The allocation the project receives will influence whether it offers 70 apartment units or 92.
Hrabe said he’s planning on 92 units. According to his plans, two-thirds of the units would be affordable housing with the rest being market rate. The project’s one-bedroom units would rent for between $295 and $695 a month. The two-bedroom units would go for between $350 and $895. The three-bedroom units would command between $895 and $1,100 a month.
The agriculture center would include a farm where residents and others in the community could grow crops, an outdoor classroom, a greenhouse and beehives, among other elements.
Hrabe said his company had been studying the agrihood idea, which blends urban living and farming, when he said the Unified Government issued a request for proposals seeking developers who could plan a project that addressed the area’s need for mixed-income housing and could help create a healthy and sustainable community.
“It was like, holy smokes, this (request) comes out as we’re studying the concept,” Hrabe said.
Prairie Fire Development was selected to carry out the project. Most of the land in the development area is in the Wyandotte County Land Bank.
It’s also close to where Holland wants to develop the Downtown Healthy Campus, an idea that came to the mayor when he learned that Wyandotte County was regarded as one of the least healthy counties in Kansas.
Holland is still raising funds for that initiative.
“They’re definitely part of the larger scope of what we want to do,” Holland said of Prairie Fire Lofts.
He also lauded the mixed-income nature of the project.
“Mixed-income is really the future of urban areas,” Holland said.
No argument from Hrabe there.
“We’re in a nation where one out of every two renters earns less than $35,000 a year,” Hrabe said. “Affordability is more important than it ever has been. Downtown Kansas City, Kan., with the master plan, the Healthy Campus plan and other initiatives that are going on down there, will be attractive to some folks.”
Hrabe awaits the outcome of his tax credit allocation, which is expected in May. Afterward, he plans to hold community meetings to get input on the project and hopes to begin construction shortly thereafter.
Hrabe’s other partners in the project are Clockwork Architecture and inSITE Planning LLC.