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Tiny houses? How about tiny apartments? They may be on their way to the West Bottoms

Five warehouse buildings at the northeast corner of St. Louis and Wyoming in the West Bottoms might be converted into apartments, some of which will be 400 to 500 square feet in size.
Five warehouse buildings at the northeast corner of St. Louis and Wyoming in the West Bottoms might be converted into apartments, some of which will be 400 to 500 square feet in size. jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Tiny houses have peppered Kansas City’s landscape in recent years. Now tiny apartments might arrive on the scene.

A Cleveland developer wants to refashion five old warehouse buildings on two acres in the West Bottoms into a $60 million, 280-unit apartment project. The project site is at the northeast corner of St. Louis Avenue and Wyoming Street.

Of those 280 units, MCM Co. plans to make 106 of them into what it is calling “microunits,” or apartments 400 to 500 square feet in size.

Apartments like that exist in Kansas City, particularly in historic buildings with studio units in places like the Country Club Plaza, built during a time when tenants made do with less furniture and other belongings.

Less common is the contemporary developer who builds these types of apartments with a purpose.

Melissa Ferchill, president of MCM, believes these microapartments carry appeal for people in their 20s and 30s who would prefer to live on their own.

“In general, the younger generation wants the opportunity to live on their own if they can in a community where you can get all the amenities you can get in a class A property,” Ferchill said.

One Light, the Power & Light District apartment building that represented downtown Kansas City’s first residential high-rise construction project since 1976, offers studios that are just under 600 square feet.

Ferchill’s proposal is her company’s first venture in the Kansas City market. The inclusion of microunits is modeled to some degree on a similar project MCM carried out in Pittsburgh. Tinier apartments than those in MCM’s Kansas City project are more common in the denser metropolises on the Eastern Seaboard, where some units shrink down to 280 square feet.

Can the idea work in Kansas City?

“Everyone we have talked to in the lending community and management community seems to agree with our concept,” Ferchill said.

MCM took an interest in Kansas City thanks to a local investor, whom Ferchill declined to identify, who introduced the Cleveland developer in the local market.

“We frankly prefer projects in emerging areas — we kind of like to set the market and set the feel of the neighborhood,” Ferchill said. “We just felt the West Bottoms had a really cool vibe on its own. It also gave us an opportunity to bring our ideas about what class A, market-rate apartment housing should be in the Midwest.”

Ferchill’s project is due before the Kansas City Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee this week for a rezoning request.

In addition to private equity, the project is seeking state and federal historic tax credits to assist with financing.

Jerry Riffel, a Lathrop & Gage real estate attorney representing MCM, said the project will seek a tax abatement.

Rent for the smaller apartments would top out at $1,000 a month. Rent for one-bedroom apartments will range from $1,200 to $1,500 a month. Ferchill plans to include ground-level retail space in some of the buildings.

MCM’s proposal is among several apartment project proposals in the West Bottoms, an area for years known more for the stockyards, industrial buildings and the occasional flood.

Bill Haw Sr., a West Bottoms developer, built the 11-unit Stockyards Place luxury apartment building across the street from the Livestock Exchange Building. He’s bullish on the growth of residential development in the West Bottoms, particularly in the area south of Interstate 670, which he calls the Stockyards District.

“I’m very optimistic about multifamly in the Stockyards District,” Haw said.

MCM’s project is north of that I-670 divide, near where developers Gary Hassenflu and Wayne Reeder have proposed converting old buildings into large-scale multifamily projects.

The first tiny house in a planned village of the homes was dedicated by the Veterans Community Project May 2, 2016, near 89th St. and Troost Avenue. The 240-square-foot homes will provide transitional housing for homeless veterans.

There are several reasons why the tiny house movement sounds attractive to people. Tiny house home owner Terry Rouse along with Joshua Farmer of the Tiny House Collective Kansas City talk about their reasons for going “tiny” and their vision for K

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt

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