A $50 million, very green apartment development is in the works for the River Market, the final chapter in transforming what was once a gritty railroad yard into a new neighborhood.
Developer Jonathan Arnold is planning an approximately 300-unit development called Second and Delaware that promises the latest in energy efficiency while allowing residents to get their hands dirty working their rooftop gardens.
“We want to make it affordable for downtown workers and students up to empty-nesters from Johnson County who want a great view of the river and downtown,” Arnold said.
The development, which is now before the City Plan Commission, would restore the historic street grid of the River Market, the area where Kansas City was born, by reconnecting Second Street with Wyandotte Street.
It’s also being built to last.
As opposed to many new apartment projects these days, the structural frame of the four- and seven-story buildings comprising Second and Delaware will use concrete, not wood.
The 16-inch-thick walls will not only make the apartments quieter, but require 70 to 80 percent less energy to heat and cool the units.
The green roofs planned for the buildings also won’t be just for show and insulation — they’ll allow residents to grow their own gardens.
“You won’t have to choose between a house and an apartment; you can still get your hands dirty gardening,” Arnold said.
It’s all part of a development approach that Arnold believes will continue the durable precedent of the adjoining historic River Market buildings while also appealing to 21st century real estate investors seeking long-term returns.
Although it may cost more to build upfront, Arnold said the payoff is better rents and cheaper operating costs over the long haul.
“We’re not interested in being a 20-year project,” the developer said.
The lead architect is Jeffrey White of Pawling, N.Y., with participation from Kansas City-based Clockwork and Draw Architecture. The exterior facade will be brick and stone, echoing the style of the late 19th and early 20th century buildings of the River Market.
The layout of the development calls for a four-story building fronting Second Street and a seven-story building on the north side overlooking the Missouri River with a private courtyard between.
Residents will have access to community rooms on both ends of the top floor of the taller building. They will include full kitchens and outdoor terraces with views of the river and downtown skyline.
A 100-foot-wide pocket park open to the public also is planned between the Second and Delaware project and the Market Station apartment development.
Financing has been arranged by Oppenheimer & Co., and Arnold Development Group is applying for a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Once the necessary approvals are obtained, work could begin within five months with completion anticipated in June 2016.
Arnold has an unusual pedigree as a developer.
He came to Kansas City in 2002 from New York City and started a business in the River Market, Arnold Imaging, that specialized in computer-generated architectural renderings for developers including the Cordish Co.
In 2004, along with Chris Sally, he got into the development business, first converting a historic building into the First & Main Lofts and then renovating the nearby Gallo Produce Building at 140 Walnut St. into office space.
Then in 2011, Arnold was hired by the United Nations to help with the organization’s “Rio+20: The Future We Want” environmental conference. It was a follow-up to a 1992 event in Rio de Janeiro where world leaders gathered for an Earth Summit.
Arnold’s role was to take the ideas submitted by people all over the world to a website established for the Rio event, and then translate them into a photorealistic computer animation. Some of what he learned about sustainability and best design practices is being incorporated in his River Market development.
The Second and Delaware apartments also would be a cornerstone project for the northwest edge of the River Market.
It would fill the last gap remaining on Second Street between the First & Main Lofts and the 323-unit Market Station apartments that opened in 2010 at Second and Wyandotte. Arnold has owned part of the four-acre site since developing the First & Main Loft project in 2004.
“I had always considered it for a phase two project, but then the market downtown slowed down during the recession,” he said. “When the streetcar was announced, we decided to expand and gain site control of the entire block.”
The Second and Delaware development is about 11/2 blocks from the route of the planned downtown streetcar.
The project also would be the final chapter in replacing what for many years was an eight-acre rail yard operated by Kansas City Southern. Longtime River Market residents recall the racket created by plastic beads being sucked into hopper cars, and the cinder-strewn muddy tracks that ruined Second Street.
The Market Station project redeveloped a large chunk of the old Kansas City Southern site, but the remaining section has been an eyesore field of stones and weeds since the rail yard closed.
Deb Churchill, the president of the River Market Community Association, described Arnold’s Second and Delaware plan as “phenomenal.”
She also noted it would complete a $3.5 million street reconstruction and landscaping project done by the city in 2008.
“I think it’s great it will finish out Second Street and bring more connectivity to that area,” she said. “It also will continue the landscaping on Second Street.”
Dana Gibson, a pioneer developer in the River Market with Mel Mallin, said the pace has quickened with the addition of so many new residents.
“When Mel and I started 30 years ago, there were 28 people living in the River Market,” Gibson said. “With Jonathan’s project, we’ll exceed 2,000 people. The more the better.”
Arnold said the final number of apartments is still being refined for his project, but there will be between 275 and 308 units. There will roughly be 56 studio units averaging 550 square feet; 119 one-bedroom units from 650 to 850 square feet; and 100 two-bedroom units from 930 to 1,300 square feet.
A two-level underground garage will have 508 parking spaces.
Second and Delaware is one of three apartment projects announced or underway in the River Market.
A 137-unit development called River Market West is now being built at 228 W. Fourth St., and developers hope to break ground soon on the 56-unit Centropolis project at Fifth Street and Grand Boulevard.
Not all the news has been good lately in the River Market. Last month, Populous, a major Kansas City sports architecture firm, announced it was leaving its custom-built headquarters at 300 Wyandotte for new quarters near the Country Club Plaza in late 2015.
Its departure will cost the area daytime customers who are Populous employees, but real estate observers are hopeful new tenants can be found for the 93,000 square-foot building.
To reach Kevin Collison, call 816-234-4289 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @kckansascity