Three Plaza-area redevelopment plans juggled without final decisions in long, contentious meeting

NorthPoint Development wants to add three stories to the Plaza Parkway Building at 4620 J.C. Nichols Parkway, converting it into 84 assisted living apartments. The plan is one of three projects facing opposition in the Plaza area.
NorthPoint Development wants to add three stories to the Plaza Parkway Building at 4620 J.C. Nichols Parkway, converting it into 84 assisted living apartments. The plan is one of three projects facing opposition in the Plaza area.

Testimony for and against three redevelopment projects proposed for the Country Club Plaza area dominated Kansas City’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee meeting Wednesday with no definitive outcomes for the proposals.

City Council members, dealing with a seven-hour agenda, spent the lion’s share on three plans that displayed the power of neighborhood activism and public testimony.

In the first case, on a 3-2 vote, committee members forwarded the proposal to the full council with no recommendation up or down.

That plan by Block Real Estate Services seeks an amendment to height and density guidelines in the Midtown/Plaza Area Plan and a zoning change to allow a $38 million, 188-unit apartment complex to be built on the southwest corner of 44th and Washington streets.

The project, for 2.5 acres on mostly vacant property west of St. Luke’s Hospital, earned City Plan Commission approval in July, with the requirement that the design be resubmitted with a four-story height stepped back to three stories on its south side to minimize impact on the nearby houses.

Developer Ken Block resubmitted the plan as requested, but several neighborhood representatives said it remained too dense for the neighborhood. The development team countered that four- and five-story buildings and garages exist to the east and north of the project.

Block and others testified that multifamily use is the only economically viable use for the property because land values have risen too high to build single-family homes. The project, named 4400 Washington, would be built without public incentives.

City Council members Katheryn Shields, Heather Hall and Lee Barnes voted against recommending the project. Scott Taylor and Quinton Lucas voted for it.

Shields and Hall suggested that the rezoning request should go before an implementation committee connected to the Midtown/Plaza plan. That procedure has not been used.

Block said he would use the coming week to regroup and decide what to bring before the full council next week.

A second proposal by Pulse Development sought rezoning of a mostly unused parking lot at 46th and Walnut streets to build The Artisan apartments on land purchased from the Community Christian Church.

Neighbors who live in nearby apartments and condominiums testified that parking problems made them fear construction and redevelopment on the site.

The committee agreed to hold the ordinance, asking the developer, neighbors and Shields to meet and iron out some concerns about parking and construction.

The plan includes eventual conversion of a church office building on 46th Street to 33 apartments, but the ordinance would pave the way for a new six-story structure with two levels of parking beneath 98 apartments on four levels.

The City Plan Commission had unanimously approved the project and forwarded the rezoning request earlier this month. City planners had recommended the project, saying the planned parking units were more than sufficient for the number of units and that the proposal complied with the Midtown/Plaza Area Plan according to height and density.

A third proposal by NorthPoint Development — to convert a former medical office building at 4620 J.C. Nichols Parkway to an assisted living facility — also got a 3-2 vote to be forwarded to the full council with no recommendation.

The proposal calls for adding three floors to the Plaza Parkway Building’s existing two floors of offices, which sit atop a three-level parking garage.

City plan commissioners in July rendered no decision on the plan. City staff had recommended against it only because it didn’t comply with height guidelines in Midtown/Plaza Area Plan.

Neighbors opposed rezoning or amending the Plaza “bowl” concept, which some called “sacred” for the area around the shopping district.

The development team said more floors were needed to be economically viable, but the project wouldn’t be higher than the next-door Marriott property. They said the assisted living center was the only reasonable reuse for the building. The project doesn’t seek public incentives.

A deed restriction requires that 105 out of 135 spaces in the garage be available for Plaza patrons on evenings and weekends, which wouldn’t work if the building were converted to market-rate apartments whose tenants would need the garage. Developers said the building no longer was viable for office use.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford