Apartments planned for Kansas City downtown riverfront

06/10/2014 5:49 PM

06/11/2014 5:15 PM

Kansas City’s downtown riverfront is poised to welcome its first private project, a $65 million apartment development that would be the first fruit of a revitalization effort stretching back over 30 years.

Flaherty & Collins, an Indianapolis developer, is planning a project that includes 398 luxury apartments and retail space on a five-acre site adjacent to Berkley Riverfront Park, the Port Authority of Kansas City announced Tuesday.

“It looks like a real opportunity down there that will fit in with the river and everything people want to do downtown,” said George Wolf, chairman of the Port Authority.

Since the early 1980s, the city has striven to clean up what most communities consider prime real estate, its downtown waterfront. Kansas City previously had turned its back on the area, using it as a tow lot, and dumping ground that included toxic coal tar and rubble from the collapsed roof of Kemper Arena.

But after a $17 million cleanup effort that included opening Berkley Park in 1998, and enduring a couple of failed development concepts, among them a pitch to build a federal office building a few years ago, the Port Authority has what it believes is a real deal with Flaherty & Collins.

The firm is known for multifamily projects around the Midwest including Chicago and Minneapolis. In this area, it’s building a $28 million apartment and retail redevelopment project in downtown Gladstone called the Heights at Linden Square.

“We look at the river as a huge asset with lots of green space and plenty of potential,” said Ryan Cronk, vice president of development for Flaherty & Collins.

“We’re excited about this opportunity and we’re planning a project with great skyline and great river views.”

If all goes according to plan — some financial details still need to be resolved — the four-story apartment project, which includes 12,000 square-feet of retail and surface parking for 400 cars, could begin construction by this fall with completion by early 2016.

Amenities would include a pool and sundeck, fitness club and sky bar with downtown views.

Michael Collins, the Port Authority executive director, said his agency plans to spend about $10 million to improve street access, and bring utilities and sewer service to the development site. That work would need to begin relatively soon to allow construction of the apartments.

The plan calls for the authority to lease the property to the developer on a long-term basis, possibly 99 years, and use lease payments to help repay the infrastructure costs. Collins said an improvement district also might be created. The Port Authority also receives revenues from the Isle of Capri Casino.

After several years of trying to interest firms in the entire 55-acre redevelopment area around Berkley Park, the Port Authority divided the property into smaller development tracts. A master plan calls for entire area to eventually become an “urban village” that includes offices, residential and retail space.

“The public-private partnership between the Port Authority and Flaherty & Collins is exciting for the redevelopment of Berkley Riverfront Park,” Collins said in a statement. “It was vital that our initial development partner embrace the history of the river and the future of Kansas City.”

Cassidy Turley was hired about 1 1/2 years ago to represent the authority as its real estate broker.

“We’re really excited about this,” said Gib Kerr, the broker who represented the Port Authority. “This is the first vertical development to take place there in over 100 years. It’s the fruit of a lot of labor.”

More than a year ago, the Port Authority announced plans for a $4 million hydroponic farm on a 5-acre tract just east of the Heart of America Bridge and next to Berkley Park, but that project has not moved forward yet. The developer, BrightFarms, has yet to sign a deal with a distributor for the produce to be grown there.

Mike Burke, an attorney who represented the Port Authority for many years and served as its chairman in the 1980s, said the proposed apartment development has been a “long time coming.”

“It’s been over 30 years since the city has been focused on the riverfront and most of the time it was improving access and cleaning it up,” he said.

“The riverfront can be a very prestigious address for Kansas City. It’s our front door, has a beautiful park and has good access to the rest of the city.”

To reach Kevin Collison, call 816-234-4289 or send email to kcollison@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @kckansascity

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