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Plans for Apartments Sprout Like Topsy Near City Market

City Ponders Density, Parking and Affordability Issues

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Above image credit: A 189-unit apartment project that would replace two public parking lots on the south side of the City Market at Fifth and Main streets has been proposed. (Rendering | NSPJ Architects)

A 189-unit apartment project that would replace two public parking lots and span Main Street south of the City Market has been introduced to the City Council, part of an ambitious wave of housing proposals in the area.

The City Planning and Development Department is recommending an entity called 500 Main Developers LLC be awarded the development rights to the two parking lots on the southeast and southwest corners of Fifth and Main.

“We’re excited about it,” said Mike McKeen of EPC Real Estate Group, one of the 500 Main partners.

“We’ve been on hold with the city waiting for the development grant and seeing what the city wants on the property.”

The proposed transfer of the parking lots to 500 Main Developers was introduced to the council’s Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee today.

Members delayed consideration until mid-January, saying they needed time to review the public parking situation in the River Market. The two lots where the project is proposed currently have 145 spaces. The development plan calls for replacing 85.

The 500 Main proposal is part of a strategy by the city to offer its City Market area parking lots to residential developers. In exchange, the developers are being required to replace whatever public parking would be lost as part of their projects.

Parking lot at southeast corner of Fifth and Main streets.
The 500 Main apartment project would replace two public parking lots, including this one on the southeast corner of Fifth and Main streets. (Image | Google Maps)

Last month, the city and Port KC received rival apartment proposals for a public parking lot immediately west of the City Market.

The two developers, Flaherty & Collins of Indianapolis and locally-based RM Housing Partners LLC, responded to a request for proposals. Flaherty & Collins is proposed a 12-story, 300-unit apartment tower. RM Housing is proposing a five-story, 100-unit project.

And on the the northeast side of the City Market at Third Street and Grand Boulevard, EPC is working with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority to build a mixed-used project that would include 160 apartments on a surface parking lot owned by the KCATA.

The 500 Main Developers proposal is the result of a solicitation the city released more than six years ago for the parking lots at 500-507 Main St. The effort intensified three years ago when the parking lot on the west side of the City Market was made available.

The 500 Main redevelopment plan is opposed by the Downtown Neighborhood Association. In a letter to the city, the DNA argues that the River Market has changed substantially since the request for proposals was first released in 2014.

Rendering of six-story Ashland on Third apartments
KC Commercial Realty has begun construction on the six-story Ashland on Third apartments on the north side of the City Market (Rendering | NSPJ Architects)

“Since that time, the City has not engaged the neighborhood association on the future of this site, but it is now bringing the proposal before the Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee,” the DNA letter stated.

“This is unfortunate, because publicly owned property should have the highest standard for neighborhood engagement and public benefit.”

The DNA objections include the proposed Main Street “tunnel” in the project design, and the plan to have a blank garage facade facing Independence Avenue, a street that would be reconnected if the recommendations of the North Loop study are followed.

The neighborhood group also says the plan’s call for a large public garage ignores the transit benefits that have occurred since the introduction of the KC Streetcar, and would increase traffic in an already congested location.

The area around the City Market has attracted hundreds of new apartments in recent years, including the Second and Delaware, 531 Grand and Centropolis developments.

On the east side of the City Market, work is underway on the 94-unit Ashland on Third project.

All of the new River Market apartment developments that have been built or proposed also are either on the streetcar line or within a short walk.

One of the 500 Main partners is KC Commercial Realty, the developer of the Ashland project and Centropolis. The other partner is Complete LLC.

Flaherty & Collins of Indianapolis wants to build a 12-story, 300-unit building immediately west of the City Market.
Flaherty & Collins of Indianapolis wants to build a 12-story, 300-unit building immediately west of the City Market. (Rendering | KEM Studio)

McKeen said the proposed 500 Main development would include about 11,000 square feet of retail space. The plan calls for a six-story building along Fifth Street that would bridge Main with several floors of apartments.

The apartment breakdown would be 12 studio; 91 one-bedroom; 39 one-bedroom plus den; 33 two-bedroom; 14 two-bedroom plus den; and four penthouse units.

A 372-stall garage also is planned, but 85 of those spaces would be replacement public parking.

McKeen said the timing of construction would depend on how long it takes the council to review the proposal and other city legal work.

He said the developers anticipate beginning work before the end of next year.

Flatland contributor Kevin Collison is founder and publisher of CityScene KC, an online source for downtown news and issues.

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