When Truman Medical Center abandoned plans last June for a major grocery store at 27th and Troost, neighbors and city officials were deeply disappointed.
But now negotiations with two experienced development groups hold new promise for that prominent intersection southeast of downtown.
A selection committee of Kansas City officials, economic development planners and neighborhood representatives has recommended Botwin Commercial Development to develop the smaller southeast and southwest corners at 27th and Troost.
It also recommended a collaboration of Kansas City-based UC-B Properties and Milhaus, an Indianapolis real estate firm, to develop the larger northeast corner, where the grocery would have been.
“Both of the respondents that were selected were very positive about the area and were committed to providing quality, mixed-use development to this important intersection in Beacon Hill,” said Shawn Hughes, a development specialist with the Kansas City planning department, who headed the selection committee.
The board of the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, an economic development agency, recently endorsed the developer recommendation after a closed meeting.
Hughes emphasized contracts still must be negotiated and signed with the development teams, so full details on what is planned are not yet available. He said it may take a few months for a final contract agreement. If all goes as hoped, construction could possibly begin in 2017.
Truman Medical Center halted plans last summer for a healthy-foods grocery at the site, saying it didn’t want to compete with another grocery planned for the Linwood Shopping Center at Linwood and Prospect. That grocery deal is taking longer to complete than city officials had anticipated.
Details for 27th and Troost are sketchy, but the mixed-use projects are likely to include some type of first-floor retail, with housing on top. There’s been talk of trying to include a small neighborhood grocery store, but that remains uncertain and an operator would have to be identified.
Hughes was most encouraged that the developers are seeking just property tax abatement that’s already provided in the area and not additional economic development tax breaks or subsidies.
“It’s a clear demonstration that Beacon Hill is revitalizing when the city is not asked to subsidize things,” Hughes said.
Councilman Jermaine Reed, who represents the district that includes Beacon Hill, was also encouraged.
He said the neighborhoods surrounding that area “continue to be excited about what the development will look like and the continued momentum moving forward.”
Botwin Commercial Development is known for projects in Waldo, the Crossroads and Columbus Park. Managing partner Diane Botwin said this development team would include BBN Architects and A.L. Huber as contractor.
Having just finished an apartment project in Waldo, Botwin said, “I saw the area along Troost as a very exciting next step.” She said she was also looking forward to doing something that will complement UC-B Properties’ project.
UC-B is known for developing upscale, multifamily housing around 29th and 30th streets on Gillham Road, for single-family houses in Beacon Hill and Longfellow, and for collaborating with Milhaus on a master planned development south of Hallmark headquarters.
John Hoffman of UC-B said Milhaus has a great track record nationally and is turning its attention to Kansas City’s urban core, including along Troost Avenue.
“Milhaus has the experience, equity and firepower to be able to do development where others in the past have not been able,” he said.
It’s too early to say just how the mixed-use development will unfold, but it will include residential and retail, Hoffman said.
Randy Kietzman, a Beacon Hill Homes Association representative who served on the selection committee, said neighbors were dismayed when Truman’s plans for a major grocery store fizzled last year. But he said the area doesn’t need a suburban-style superstore. He believes the market exists for a small food market, although he realizes it may be a challenge to find an operator.
He’s eager to see what will unfold from these new developers.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I think we’ve got some really fun possibilities.”