It was the "eclectic mix" of businesses and brands in Kansas City's Crossroads Arts District that inspired developers to plan the purported largest project to date in the historic neighborhood.
And it's exactly that "eclectic, independent vibe" Milhaus Development hopes to retain while adding a "modern touch."
Milhaus, an Indianapolis-based development firm, is planning about 340 market-rate apartments across multiple four-and five-story buildings along with parking and retail and office space for a two-block plot bounded by 19th, Cherry, 20th and Oak streets. The group plans to redevelop an old warehouse on the site into a restaurant.
Brad Vogelsmeier, director of development for Milhaus, said the company hopes to break ground on Phase One of the mixed-use development by the end of the year and finish construction within 18 months after that. Included in Phase One are apartments and retail space facing 19th Street at the corner with Oak Street and the restaurant, which Vogelsmeier said would ideally be a "neighborhood-type hangout spot."
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The $65 million project is a big undertaking.
“It’s certainly the largest-scale single-development proposal we’ve ever seen," said David Johnson, a member of the Crossroads Community Association Board.
Before that, Johnson said, the City Club Apartments development planned for Main Street in the Crossroads was the largest.
Johnson said a development the size of the one planned by Milhaus is new for the East Crossroads. Historic buildings in the West Crossroads were "ripe for adaptive reuse."
"Those kinds of buildings don't really exist in the East Crossroads," Johnson said. "Everything's really small or it's vacant land."
Milhaus' project will be primarily new construction.
Putting something that size in the East Crossroads fills a hole, Vogelsmeier said. There's not much residential space in the area, and the project will spread development east toward the Jazz District at 18th and Vine streets.
"I think everything that's happening there is definitely an attractor," Vogelsmeier said. "I think being three or four blocks from the streetcar is also a major plus for us."
With all the new retail space, restaurants and breweries opening, Johnson said, "it's good to have something there that's stable and not just destination."
The property is under contract for purchase from Kissel Properties, a subsidiary of Hallmark. Milhaus is seeking assistance from the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority, which provides incentives for projects in areas deemed blighted.
The report advocating PIEA help for the project says the area is a "menace" because of problems including environmental issues, vermin, standing water, disease, sidewalk deterioration, trespassing, vandalism and other crime.