Omaha developer plans apartments near streetcar route

Kansas City’s streetcar line helped to attract an Omaha developer to propose building a 140-unit apartment building on vacant land in the River Market area.

Cornerstone Associates LLC, which owns three senior residence properties in the area, envisions a $24.3 million structure at 531 Grand Blvd. It was granted a property tax abatement and sales tax exemption to improve the project’s finances.

The emerging streetcar line was a “major element” to Cornerstone’s decision to develop the vacant site, said Lawrence Mazzotta, chief executive of the Omaha company.

“It’s a great feature for the city. It is kind of in the wheelhouse of where downtown development is going,” Mazzotta said.

Streetcar access will be only about a block away, which Mazzotta said would add to the appeal of the market-rate apartments. He described the planned studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments as being “upscale” with a swimming pool, fitness center and club room.

The apartments will form a U shape wrapped around the swimming pool atop a parking garage. The building also will have room for 10,000 square feet of commercial space. NSPJ Architects in Prairie Village is designing the building.

Kansas City’s Planned Industrial Expansion Authority last week approved a 15-year property tax abatement for the development. Mazzotta said the first 10 years will waive 100 percent of property taxes on the increased value of the now vacant site. The last five years will provide a 50 percent abatement.

Tax abatement was available under a declaration of blight years ago under the River Market district’s redevelopment plan.

The site had for decades been part of the Pisciotta Fruit and Vegetable Co., said Phil Pisciotta, who sold the business. He said his grandfather bought the land in 1950 and built a warehouse that stood until about 2006.

Cornerstone will pay $12,000 a year in lieu of property taxes during the 100 percent abatement period and continue to pay the current tax on the land, which Mazzotta said was about $31,000.

The expansion authority also will issue bonds to finance the project’s construction, which will extend a sales tax exemption to the materials, Mazzotta said. The value of the exemption will exceed $800,000.

Cornerstone plans to pay a bit more than $1.5 million for the land.

The Omaha firm owns three area senior residence projects: Legacy Senior Residence in Olathe, Washington Heights in Kansas City, Kan., and Wyndam Place in Shawnee. Each is eligible for federal low income housing tax credits.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mdkcstar.