Creator of successful Leawood development looking at downtown Lee’s Summit

09/25/2013 10:17 AM

09/25/2013 10:17 AM

Lee’s Summit leaders got their first glimpse this month of conceptual plans for a new 185-unit apartment building downtown, across from City Hall on the east side of Green Street.

The early concept is for a four-story apartment building, built around an interior parking structure, also surrounding a courtyard that would include a pool. It would include studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The Ice House, a historic building, would remain intact on Green Street and adapted for reuse, with apartments behind and next to it. There is a possibility of extending the project along Green Street to Third for retail property, but the apartments are the initial plan.

The project is being proposed by the developers of Park Place in Leawood, who invited the Lee’s Summit leaders there see the completed hotel, multistory retail and office buildings and residential projects now under construction, to impress them with the quality and success of that project.

Melanie Mann, a partner in Park Place, said she has had a summer home for 18 years at Lake Lotawana and has gone to Lee’s Summit’s downtown many times and recognized its special quality. The company wanted to make early contacts to help create the right plan for Lee’s Summit, she said.

“We’re very collaborative, we believe in teamwork, and that’s how these projects get built,” she said.

Mann and her partner Jeff Alpert said Lee’s Summit’s distinctive downtown already provides the ambiance that can make the apartments successful.

Attending the tour were Mayor Randy Rhoads, council members Rob Binney, Kathy Hofmann and Dave Mosby and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Inc., the Lee’s Summit School District and Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council.

When the Park Place team started working on the 34-acre site in Leawood, Alpert said, they were trying to find ways for connectivity to create a 24/7-atmosphere that would be appealing to residents and commercial enterprises.

Leawood didn’t have a downtown to build on, he said. The residential units, in three buildings surrounding a park, are adjacent, a minute’s walk to the commercial area which surrounds a courtyard.

“People like to be here because of the environment,” Alpert said.

The residential units initially were to be condominiums, but the real estate crash undermined that plan. Rents at Park Place will be between $1,100 and about $2,000, depending on size and layout.

That prompted some Lee’s Summit leaders, like Hofmann and LSEDC member Bill Brown, to ask whether Lee’s Summit market could support a similar project.

Alpert said that is one reason the project, with a value of at least $25 million, will need help with tax incentives through the Lee’s Summit Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.

The largest expense causing a request for tax incentives is the parking structure. Surface parking would cost $3,000 to $4,000 a space, while a structure would be $15,000 to $20,000 per space.

To get the density desired, the project has to build skyward, including the parking structure, the developers said.

Alpert envisions residents looking down from balconies to watch festivals on Green Street, or walking to shops and restaurants. He said the City Hall Plaza would be a door front attractive to tenants.

“It can’t be duplicated, what you have in Lee’s Summit,” Alpert said. “We can’t get this stuff in a conventional suburban development.”

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