The Kansas City Catholic diocese’s plans for student housing on Troost Avenue drew a storm of neighborhood opposition Tuesday as a citizens panel reviewed the project.
The City Plan Commission postponed a rezoning decision until Nov. 6 on plans by the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to build a 103-unit building geared toward students attending Rockhurst University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Leaders of the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed site, on the west side of Troost Avenue near 53rd Street, complained the diocese has not communicated fully or honestly with them. They also argued the proposed design is too big, will exacerbate existing parking and traffic problems, and will negatively affect Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church.
“This project is shoe-horned in so tight it doesn’t fit the space,” said Ken Spare, president of the Crestwood Homes Association. “We are vehemently opposed to this.”
Jude Huntz, chancellor of the diocese, said the diocese thought it had addressed the concerns and he was sorry about any miscommunication. He said the next step will be to meet again with the project’s critics to try to find a resolution.
The five-story building would be on the site of the former St. Francis Xavier School, across from Rockhurst and a few blocks from UMKC. The elementary school, empty for a few years, would be torn down.
The building would be owned by the diocese and built by Domus, which has built Catholic residence halls in other cities.
Huntz said the current building is deteriorating and the diocese needs to do something positive with the property that would benefit both universities and the church.
In a letter to three neighborhood leaders, Bishop Robert Finn said the diocese has reduced the number of beds from 370 to 270 and is providing more parking than city code requires. He said the building would also contain new and larger meeting space that St. Francis Xavier Parish clearly needs.
But Chely Scarbrough, a parish member since 2004, said poor communication between the diocese and the parish has fueled mistrust about the project.
“The diocese does not need any more negative publicity,” she said.
Kathy Hauser, attorney for the developer, said she’s hopeful some compromise can still be reached with the neighborhoods.
If not, Finn’s letter noted a willingness to seek a different solution.
“If the current proposal does not go forward for whatever reason,” Finn wrote, “we will certainly work with you and the larger community to discuss viable plans for the utilization of our property.”