A plan to rehabilitate all four corners of Armour Boulevard and Troost Avenue — and help improve livability of nearby neighborhoods — earned early endorsement Thursday from Kansas City’s Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.
The economic development agency OK’d agreements to work with the city and MAC Properties to acquire five parcels of property. The plan calls for the city to contribute $1 million from its Midtown Business Interruption Fund to help obtain titles to three of the five properties.
MAC Properties is the real estate developer that already has renovated 30 properties along Armour, most of them residential buildings stretching east from Main Street.
In 2010, the company purchased a vacant 16,000-square-foot building on the southwest corner of Troost and Armour but has been unable to find a tenant because of the distressed nature of the intersection as a whole.
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“We want to acquire all five parcels to create a community gathering center,” said Peter Cassel, a MAC executive. “We may succeed if we can market the intersection to four or five tenants. We want to create a mixed-use place” that would combine retail and residential spaces.
The expansion authority already owns a vacant lot on the southeast corner of the intersection. In case the project cannot negotiate the purchase of the three other intended parcels, the agency also authorized an agreement with a lawyer who specializes in condemnation proceedings.
Three neighbors told the authority board that they resoundingly backed the redevelopment proposal. Cathryn Simmons, representing the Troost Coalition, said thousands of hours and many public meetings have been put into reaching consensus about what’s needed to improve Troost.
“This project is stunning and transformative,” Simmons said. “We’ll be in on this project from beginning to end.”
Angie Splittgerber, representing the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, said residents fully support condemnation of the properties, if necessary. She said it could be a “game changer” for the intersection, where people don’t feel safe walking by the gas station on the northwest corner, which is known by police for criminal activity.
Similarly, Amy Crouse, a Hyde Park resident, said a property immediately south of the vacant lot on Troost is a negative “entry point” for Squier Park and her neighborhood. That property, an old hotel building, would be included in the expansion authority acquisition plan.
The fifth property targeted for acquisition is a small building on the northeast corner of the intersection.
The changes require multiple steps ahead. Claude Page, a city planner, is working with MAC and neighborhood groups on the project, which he characterized as “conceptualized but not planned.” He said many more meetings will be held to bring all interested parties together.
One step will be for the City Council to enact an ordinance that gives the expansion authority the $1 million for the intended property acquisitions and business relocation expenses. Page said MAC has agreed to provide additional funds for that purpose.
Cassel said MAC Properties, which already has renovated about 1,500 apartment along the midtown corridor, believes “the physical structures looking east to Troost” are no different from the properties the company already has renovated. But he said the economic and market realities are different east of Troost, and it’s necessary to approach redevelopment differently.
“We don’t know the end users yet,” Cassel said of the Armour and Troost concept. “ Ideally, it will be a market-driven project.”
Cassel works out of Chicago for MAC, the real estate service company tied to Antheus Capital, a private real estate investment company based in New Jersey. The company first obtained property tax incentives through the expansion authority in 2007 to rehabilitate four apartment buildings. Since then, the developer’s continued redevelopment efforts in Kansas City have led the midtown multifamily housing renaissance.