Midtown developer pursues additional apartment projects

07/25/2013 10:00 AM

07/25/2013 10:00 AM

A developer wants to demolish several historic buildings on West Armour Boulevard in midtown Kansas City and replace them with a 40-unit apartment project, saying renovation is not financially viable.

The developer, MAC Property Management, which has converted dozens of historic midtown buildings into hundreds of apartments the past few years, is seeking permission from the City Landmark Commission to demolish the four buildings at 100-118 W. Armour Blvd.

“We’re sorry to see these buildings go, but we’d like to see people consider this in the context of our having created 1,500 apartments and saved 24 buildings,” Peter Cassel said Wednesday.

MAC Property in recent years has restored a large group of formerly grand apartment-hotels built during the mid 20th century between Main Street and Troost Avenue. It also has plans to renovate two other historic apartment-hotels, the Newbern at 525 E. Armour and the Ambassador at 3560 Broadway.

But after promising the Old Hyde Park Historic District last winter it would try to restore the smaller apartment building and three duplexes on West Armour, Cassel said the company has determined it would be too expensive.

He estimated it would cost $150,000 per unit to renovate the buildings, designed in 1903 by Kansas City architect John W. McKecknie, as opposed to the $70,000 to $80,000 average cost per unit in the larger apartment-hotels farther east on Armour.

The neighborhood, however, believes MAC Property didn’t give other developers an adequate opportunity to determine whether the buildings could be saved.

“Our first priority is to save the buildings and have them restored, and we feel that’s what MAC told us they’d do in December,” said Martin Phillips, president of the Old Hyde Park Historic District. “My take is they should go back to other developers and let them have time to do it.”

But Cassel said his company did allow several other potential developers to examine the derelict properties and none came back with a viable redevelopment plan.

“We didn’t receive any expressions of interest from developers to take the buildings from us,” he said.

Instead, MAC Properties has come up with a plan for replacing the older structures with a 40-unit building that it believes can be built without city incentives. The new building would feature all three-bedroom and two-bathroom apartments along with a 48-space parking lot.

“We feel there’s an opportunity to create a new generation of innovative buildings that are thoroughly 21st century but in context with the neighborhood,” he said.

The architect is Matthew Hufft.

Because the buildings on West Armour are part of the Old Hyde Park Historic District, the City Landmark Commission must approve their demolition. The agency also must approve their planned replacement building. A hearing is scheduled for September.

Kansas City Councilman Jim Glover, whose district includes the project, said he supports the MAC Property plan but added the council has no say on the Landmark Commission review.

“I think MAC Properties really tried, and the cost per unit was very high to restore them,” Glover said. “They have made them available to other developers, and nobody stepped forward.

“The new building is a compromise, the neighborhood didn’t want a vacant lot there. That’s a big thing for midtown, to have someone put up new units without a city subsidy.”

The other elements of the MAC Property development plan are not expected to be controversial.

The New Jersey-based developer acquired the Newbern last year. The apartment-hotel was built in the early 1920s and features twin nine-story towers. The $18.3 million project would create 108 apartments. The developer plans to seek a property tax abatement for the plan this fall.

The plan for redeveloping the nine-story Ambassador building is further along. Cassel said construction is expected to begin on converting that pre-World War II tower into 115 apartments and ground floor retail before the end of the year. The $15.5 million project is expected to be completed by fall 2014.

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