Redeveloper Matt Abbott, who has specialized in acquiring distressed properties in downtown Kansas City, has turned his attention to the southeast, specifically to the area known as the East Crossroads.
As perhaps the largest property owner in the area, he could get a boost — along with other redevelopers who are revitalizing the area — from a proposed East Crossroads Urban Renewal Plan.
The proposal would pave the way for property tax incentives for redevelopment in a 92-acre area generally bounded by Interstate 670on the north, U.S. 71 on the east, the Kansas City Terminal Railway tracks or a section of 18th Street on the south, and Oak or Locust streets on the west.
The city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority took the first step Wednesday morning by finding the area blighted. Next the plan must be considered by the Planning, Zoning & Economic Development Committee of the Kansas City Council, followed by the full council.
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Depending on timing, the East Crossroads could become the first large-area renewal plan considered by newly elected council members who take their seats in August.
Abbott, operating as Crossroads East LLC, is the main proponent of the East Crossroads plan. He said he started to take stock of distressed buildings in the area last December.
“I see opportunities to improve the East Crossroads area like what’s been done in the West Crossroads,” Abbott told members of the Land Clearance board. “I’m eager to take something on.”
Abbott was seconded by Suzie Aron, owner of Aron Real Estate, who is on the board of the Crossroads Community Association.
Aron said the East Crossroads already has attracted many startup entrepreneurs and artists, but the area’s growth is inhibited by the large number of “dilapidated, structurally unsound” buildings and inadequate infrastructure, including poor streets.
“This is a dynamic community,” Aron said. “But the creative people who are attracted there can’t afford to pay high rents. And many buildings there have sat empty for long. To take them on, it has to become affordable, and that’s why we need incentives.”
Many of the buildings in the East Crossroads were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and no longer suited their former commercial and industrial uses. In the last 20 years, artists and entrepreneurs began repopulating some of the structures, but many abandoned buildings remain uninhabitable, and many have environmental abatement issues.
Planners also said most of the buildings would be highly unlikely to qualify for federal or state tax credits for rehabilitation as historic structures, eliminating those possible sources of equity.
The blight study commissioned by the authority found that many buildings were functionally obsolete. It also found that sidewalks and streets were in disrepair, and the area was littered with trash, graffiti and other unsafe conditions.
The plan as proposed includes no specific redevelopment projects. Rather, it would create the opportunity for individual redevelopers, like Abbott, to apply for property tax breaks through the city’s economic development agencies.