A complex including a Whole Foods grocery, a 170-unit apartment building, a student health center and a parking garage is expected to get the green light Wednesday from the Kansas City Council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee.
Formal announcement of the 51Oak plan is set for June 30, also assuming a final nod from the City Council. The project requires rezoning to “mixed use community” land use.
Major details were made public in 2012 for the project on 2.84 acres on 51st Street between Oak Street and Brookside Boulevard. Groundbreaking initially was intended for 2013. But the plan had to work through years of negotiations about what would happen to parking availability, access from Brookside Boulevard across the Trolley Trail and the 1936-era Kansas City Young Matrons clubhouse on the grounds.
Now major questions appear to have been resolved. Of special note is that the philanthropic organization’s clubhouse, a small, colonial-style building, is to be lifted off its foundation in mid August, put on a flatbed trailer and rolled south to a new site on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus at 52nd and Cherry streets.
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The Young Matrons’ public relations director, Susie Womack, said the move — just ahead of the group’s 2017 centennial — will save the one-story, 2,600-square-foot clubhouse plus outfit it with new plumbing, wiring and roof and add a dining room compliant with disability access codes. The 2,200-square-foot room addition will replace space currently used in the clubhouse basement.
The project developers, VanTrust Real Estate, are paying for the clubhouse move. The development team also has spent considerable time communicating with UMKC, nearby businesses and neighborhood groups. Parts of the property are controlled by UMKC, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, Central United Methodist Church and the Kansas City Young Matrons.
Jason Pryor, owner of Pizza51, a restaurant directly across 51st Street from the project site, said that as a business owner and neighborhood resident he compliments the VanTrust team for listening to concerns and working toward compromises. He said he welcomes the development but still plans to speak up in behalf of small-business considerations at the committee meeting Wednesday.
Pryor said Tuesday that small-business operators on 51st Street don’t like plans that show a loss of about a dozen street parking spaces and reduced sidewalk width to accommodate the project. He said that $1.2 million in city taxpayer funds went toward improving the 51st and Oak intersection in preparation for the project and that existing small businesses shouldn’t have to be hurt to accommodate a big-business plan.
VanTrust negotiated with UMKC to lease and develop the university-owned land. The project will raze UMKC’s vacant 51st Street Annex, a red brick building at the Brookside end of the site.
Part of the pact will let UMKC move its student health center from 4825 Troost to the 51Oak site, which is just across Oak from UMKC’s main administration building. The UMKC space will have an entrance off Oak.
VanTrust first planned a 30,000-square-foot, then 40,000-square-foot, then 45,000-square-foot Whole Foods grocery store — a suburban-style supermarket instead of a midtown boutique grocery. Pedestrian entrances to the store are planned on its southwest and northwest corners. Loading dock access will be off Oak.
The supermarket is to be topped by six levels of market-rate apartments, according to submitted documents. The higher-end apartments — not expected to be within a student housing price range — will be similar to another VanTrust development a few blocks away, the $40 million apartment and retail project at 51st and Main streets.
The heft of the project calls for some traffic lane and traffic light adjustments on Brookside as well as construction of a six-level parking garage with about 445 spaces. Developers say the project design will nearly conceal the parking from street view. Residential units will wrap around the parking garage.
Part of the property will continue to have some surface parking. Grocery customers also are expected to have access to the parking garage.
The size of the project requires that developers set aside $34,492.18 for public park usage. The money is expected to be spend on Brookside Park between 56th and 57th streets.
VanTrust officials previously said they hope to begin renting 21Oak apartments in early 2018. Units are to include studios, one- and two-bedroom options.