Townhomes add new life to KC’s Beacon Hill neighborhood

Kansas City’s Beacon Hill neighborhood east of downtown has gained more than 100 new residents with the completion of 45 new affordable housing units.

Beacon Park Townhomes, located on the Paseo between 25th and 27th streets, is another encouraging sign for a part of town that has seen more than its share of setbacks.

When it was first announced in 1998, Beacon Hill was envisioned as a huge urban renewal project, extending from 22nd to 27th streets and Troost Avenue to the Paseo. The construction phases have taken longer than anyone anticipated, but they are finally bringing in new residents south of Hospital Hill and Crown Center.

The new rental townhomes consist of nine buildings, each with five units. They are already full and have a two-year waiting list.

“We really like the improvement,” said Turner Pettway, a trustee at nearby Paseo Baptist Church, which worked closely with other partners to develop attractive buildings that would complement nearby historic homes. “We like the fact that it’s rebuilding the community.”

Residents are thrilled with the two- and three-bedroom rental units, which feature Energy Star kitchen appliances, a washer and dryer, large closets and spacious rooms. Some include attached garages and full basements.

“I love it,” said Terry Carr, president of the development’s residents association. “These places you can call home.”

Beacon Park was spearheaded by Neighborhood Housing Services of Kansas City, an affiliate of the Kansas City Housing Authority.

John Monroe, director of planning and development for the Housing Authority, said he began working with Beacon Hill resident Cathy Brown in 2006 to revitalize a part of town that had lost population.

“We were originally thinking single-family homes, but I thought, given the location and everything, this would be great for multi-family,” Monroe said. “We like to do mixed-income developments. And people don’t know it’s public housing.”

Monroe also worked closely with Pettway and others from the church, many of whom initially wanted senior housing. Monroe pointed out to them that there was already a glut of senior tax credit housing nearby.

“We needed family housing,” he said.

The total cost of the project was $10.8 million. Plans stalled for a few years when the economy collapsed, but Beacon Park finally was approved for $7.8 million in federal and state low-income housing tax credits, plus tax credit replacement funds, additional public housing stimulus money and local public improvement sales tax dollars.

The development includes five public housing units, 10 market-rate units and 30 tax credit units for families making 60 percent of area median income.

A partner in the project was Michaels Development Co. of New Jersey, one of the leading affordable housing developers in the country. The units were designed by Craig Watson of Timlis Arketekcher, who previously had done projects with barbecue magnate Ollie Gates.

Construction started in summer 2010, and interest in the units quickly blossomed.

Carr, of the development’s residents association, had married in October 2010 and was living with his wife, Vickie, in an apartment at Interstate 435 and Eastwood Trafficway. She worked at City Hall and had watched the construction when she drove to work.

Carr’s wife liked the area, and they put in an application in February. The couple moved into their three-bedroom unit in May, and the last units were finished in the fall.

“I basically went on faith,” said Carr, 54, who said he was glad he took the plunge.

He previously had lived in Kansas City, Kan., and Roeland Park, but “this is the best place I’ve lived in my life.”

He said the rent is reasonable for all the amenities, and the energy-efficient appliances keep utility bills low.

The project also has been attractive for single parents, nursing school students and people working downtown or on Hospital Hill.

Pettway said the church at 2501 Paseo, which has about 300 members, has had some visitors from the development, and members are pleased with the high quality of the buildings.

“It has exceeded our expectations,” he said.

Monroe said the project represents a great partnership between the Housing Authority, the church and the neighborhood.

“I hope it’s a stimulus and I hope it helps build the community further,” he said. “You’ll have people going to church there. You’ll have people getting involved in the neighborhood associations, and we hope they’ll get involved politically.”