A Chicago developer who wanted to demolish several historic apartment buildings on West Armour Boulevard and replace them with a new apartment project lost its appeal to a city agency Tuesday, leaving the future of the plan and the dilapidated properties in doubt.
Mac Property had asked the Kansas City Board of Zoning Adjustment to overturn a decision last fall by the City Historic Preservation Commission that supported saving the buildings at 100-118 W. Armour Blvd but was denied in a 5-1 vote. Mac had argued it would be an economic hardship to renovate the small apartment building and three duplexes.
The demolition was opposed by the Old Hyde Park Historic District and the Historic Kansas City Foundation. The buildings, vacant and in poor condition, were designed in 1903 by Kansas City architect John W. McKecknie.
“We’re happy with the decision and we hope Mac Properties will go ahead and do the restoration or sell the properties to someone interested in doing it,” said Martin Phillips, president of the Old Hyde Park district. “We feel these buildings are important to the fabric of Armour Boulevard and a gateway to our neighborhood.”
Although Mac Property has redeveloped more than two dozen larger historic former apartment-hotel buildings nearby on Armour into hundreds of new apartments, the firm said the cost of renovating the smaller structures was prohibitive. Charles Renner, an attorney representing Mac, said the firm still thought a new project at the site was the only financially viable solution.
“Our five-year effort to redevelop the buildings is proof of our attempt to preserve them, and we’re surprised at the result of the BZA hearing,” Renner said. “We had been ready to build a new building in conjunction with the neighborhood.”
Mac Property has made no decision about its next move, although the BZA decision can be appealed to the Jackson County Circuit Court. Under city law, the firm would be prohibited from demolishing the West Armour buildings for three years because of the preservation commission ruling.
Renner said an appeal was being considered.
“We have been comfortable in what the law is on this issue,” he said, “so we are certainly evaluating that option.”
Amanda Crawley, executive director of the Historic Kansas City Foundation, said her organization was pleased the zoning board supported the preservation commission and would like to see the reuse of the buildings.
Another local developer, Tim Bowman of Compass Resources LLC, said he approached Mac Property about buying the West Armour buildings but was turned down. Bowman believes he could redevelop the properties into market-rate apartments and estimated the cost at $3.7 million.
“I think what Mac has done in the area is amazing, but I think they see the West Armour properties as different,” Bowman said. “With my construction expertise and team, we’re absolutely confident.”
Bowman said his experience in historic renovation includes being construction manager of the redevelopment 10 years ago of the historic Western Auto building north of Crown Center. The former office complex at 2100 Grand Blvd. was converted to 162 condos.
When asked about the earlier purchase offer by Bowman, Renner said Mac didn’t believe it was a viable proposal.
“At the time when we had the properties available, we were less concerned about a purchase price than having a party with a viable plan and the capacity to pull the redevelopment off,” Renner said. “That has not happened.”