Historic West Bottoms warehouses to see new life as mixed-use development

Several historic warehouses in the West Bottoms will be converted into lofts, with a ground-floor restaurant and retail space.
Several historic warehouses in the West Bottoms will be converted into lofts, with a ground-floor restaurant and retail space.

The “vibe” of the century-old West Bottoms warehouses that have become synonymous with First Friday antique shopping and haunted houses caught the eye of a Cleveland-based developer planning a $68 million mixed-use development.

“We did look at buildings in River Market and Crossroads but just liked the vibe down in the West Bottoms,” said Melissa Ferchill, president of MCM Co. Inc.

More than 250 market-rate apartments, a restaurant and a small retail space, like a convenience store or coffee shop, are planned across three warehouses in the historic West Bottoms neighborhood. A fourth building will be converted into a parking garage with a car elevator. Residents of the loft buildings will have valet service, Ferchill said.

A fifth building will be torn down to make room for a courtyard.

The project, called the West Bottoms Flats, targets young Kansas Citians with city living and market-rate rents. Ferchill said some of the apartments would have “live-work” spaces for artists or small retailers.

A rendering shows the courtyard planned for a $68 million revitalization project in Kansas City's West Bottoms. Courtesy of MCM Co. Inc.

“If you want to, they’re devised in a way that you could actually have a retail or workspace in the front of your unit and then private residential space in the back of the unit,” Ferchill said.

Micro apartments will cost about $900 per month, Ferchill said. Rent for one-bedroom units will be about $1,200 or $1,300.

Crews are expected to break ground within a month, Ferchill said. After that, construction should take about 16 months.

The block is bounded by Ninth Street, Liberty Street, St. Louis Avenue and Wyoming Street. Two buildings were part of the Abernathy Furniture Co., a manufacturer that operated out of the neighborhood at its peak.

Bruce Holloway, vice president and board member of the Historic West Bottoms Association, said the West Bottoms had the best location in the region.

“It’s the center of the center of the center,” Holloway said. “It connects the two communities. It’s right in the middle of everything.”

Jerry Riffel, an attorney with Lathrop Gage representing the developer, said the project received state and federal tax credits for historic preservation, a 100 percent property tax abatement for 10 years and a sales tax exemption on construction materials.

David Macoubrie, executive director of the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority, which approved the sales tax exemption Thursday, said the West Bottoms has seen development growth in recent years thanks to projects including the Hy-Vee Arena and revitalization in the Stockyards.

“It’s been slow, but it’s been steady,” Macoubrie said. “We’re starting to see critical mass down there, and with the Hy-Vee Arena, we’re going to see a lot for people coming in and out of there. The restaurant and entertainment facilities or venues around there are going to attract residential demand.”

The West Bottoms attracts big crowds to antique shops and haunted houses held in warehouses across the neighborhood, and Holloway noted the district’s array of eateries.

Ferchill said: “As far as emerging areas go, I think that’s what everybody wants to call it, but I think it’s had a sense of place for a while.”