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Streetcar Land Rush: Apartment Plan Would Keep Iconic Katz Drug

Main Street Apartment Boom in the Works

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Above image credit: Rendering of renovated Katz Drug Store with apartment building behind it. (Rendering | Hoefer Wysocki)

The iconic Katz Drug Store at Westport Road and Main Street would be saved as the centerpiece of a 192-unit apartment project proposed by a St. Louis firm, the latest in a wave of streetcar-related development announcements.

Lux Living wants to build the six-story apartment project on the surface parking lot behind the historic building and reuse the former drugstore as an amenity center for the residents, including adding a rooftop pool.

The estimated value of the proposed development is between $50 million and $70 million.

“We like the Wesport area,” said Victor Alston, CEO of Lux Living. “It’s historic and I also like it because of the streetcar project going in.

“I also think people are into that Katz Building, for whatever reason.”

The iconic Katz Drug Store opened in 1934 at Westport and Main streets.
The iconic Katz Drug Store opened in 1934 at Westport and Main streets. (Courtesy | Chris Stritzel)

The Katz Drug Store opened in 1934, the first outlet the well-known Kansas City drugstore chain opened outside downtown, according to Historic Kansas City, a local preservation organization.

It was the first major building designed by famed Kansas City architect Clarence Kivett, who used the Art Deco style for the landmark clock tower and Art Moderne for the remainder of the building.

A few years later, Kivett joined Ralph Meyers to form Kivett and Meyers. Their firm designed the Truman Sports Complex, Kansas City International Airport and became the foundation for Kansas City’s world-class reputation for sports architecture.

The building’s future had been in doubt for years.

It was included on the 2019 Places in Peril list by the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation. It’s most recent owner was Redeemer Fellowship and was used temporarily as a studio for artists, but is now vacant.

The Lux Living development plan calls for a six-story apartment building that would use the former Katz Drug as an amenity center for residents.
The Lux Living development plan calls for a six-story apartment building that would use the former Katz Drug as an amenity center for residents. (Rendering | Hoefer Wysocki)

Alston said the old drugstore, which has local landmark status and is part of the National Register of Historic Places Southside Historic District, actually helps make his proposed apartment development feasible.

“We only have eight-tenths of an acre to work with if we preserve Katz,” he said. “The reason it works is because we can use Katz for the amenities.”

The apartment project would be located near the planned 39th Street streetcar stop on the Main Street extension, which was approved for federal funding and is expected to be completed no later than early 2025, possibly sooner.

Alston said the mix of apartments would be mostly studio and one-bedroom with a small number of two-bedroom units. The project also includes a 175-space garage.

The development plan, which will require rezoning, was introduced to the City Planning Department this week. Alston said his firm would like to begin construction in the second half of 2021.

A site plan of the Katz apartment development shows a pool being located on the roof of the historic building.
A site plan of the Katz apartment development shows a pool being located on the roof of the historic building. (Rendering | Hoefer Wysocki)

“We’re trying to get our proposal in front of people to get feedback and advice,” he said. “If  we can keep most of the proposal as its now designed, we can move more quickly.”

Alston said his firm also is considering the use of state and federal historic tax credits to help finance the Katz Drug renovation.

This is the second major residential proposal Lux Living has announced it’s pursuing in Kansas City this month. The firm also wants to build a 228-unit apartment building on the site of the vacant Faultless Linen building at 1923 Broadway in the Crossroads.

It’s also the second, big, new-construction apartment project to surface along the planned route of the streetcar.

Mac Properties confirmed this week it has purchased most of the block southwest of Armour Boulevard and Main where the US Bank building is located and is planning a mixed-use development that could include more than 300 apartments.

The proposed Katz apartment project is the latest development proposal sparked by the planned streetcar extension on Main Street between downtown and UMKC.
The proposed Katz apartment project is the latest development proposal sparked by the planned streetcar extension on Main Street between downtown and UMKC. (Courtesy | Chris Stritzel)

One other major new residential project also is believed to be in the works at the planned streetcar stop at 45th and Main streets.

The former Holiday Inn at that location has been acquired by an entity called Main & Main LLC, which lists the same address as Financial Holding Corp., an entity controlled by the Merriman family.

A demolition permit has been obtained for the vacant hotel, and while no development plans have been filed, there have been persistent rumors a large residential project is being contemplated.

Financial Holding and Burns & McDonnell are the development team behind the Waddell & Reed headquarters project being built at 14th Street and Baltimore Avenue, and the firms also teamed up in what proved to be an unsuccessful bid to build the new KCI terminal.

Attempts to reach a representative at Financial Holding have been unsuccessful.

A map of the current and planned Kansas City streetcar system
A map of the current and planned Kansas City streetcar system was included in the Federal Transit Administration report. (Map | FTA)

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

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