The Urban Land Institute (ULI) wrapped up its The Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) on the former site of the Chouteau Courts earlier this fall, giving insight into potential future uses of the property at the northwest corner of Independence Avenue and The Paseo.
ULI Kansas City members from across the region volunteered their time to participate as panelists on the weeklong TAP, which was created to provide objective, multidisciplinary advice on land use and real estate issues. The panel studied the feasibility of redevelopment on the site with regard to community and stakeholder interviews, existing physical and environmental issues, and other efforts happening in the area such as construction on Route 9, the North Loop, and the Paseo Gateway.
This TAP was sponsored by the City of Kansas City, Mo. Planning and Development Department and the Housing Authority of Kansas City (HAKC), the current owner of the site.
Some of the insights the panel gained from stakeholder interviews included the need for walkability, both affordable and market rate housing, job training, soccer facilities, neighborhood connectivity, medical offices, urban farming and community gardens, opportunities for wealth building, and equitable multi-modal options.
Safety was a concern the panel often heard, including wanting to slow down traffic through the area. They noted the significant immigrant population and that the neighborhood is already rich in social services.
The panel’s key takeaways include connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods, building a community asset that welcomes neighbors, and that highway infrastructure is limiting development potential and sustainability.
“Look beyond the site immediately to the south, on the south side of Independence Avenue, there’s a lot of opportunities [on] that block between Admiral and Independence,” said Bob Langenkamp, Chief Development Officer for Community Builders of Kansas City.
The panel divided the site into three sections: a 5.7-acre southwest section, a 3.6-acre southeast section and a 4.4-acre north section. They concluded that phasing development will be helpful, as will having the City as a partner for readying the site, as it will need a strong road network into the site.
The southeast section has been designated as the community-centric site. It will be mixed-use development with public and civic space that can be activated for community events and open to all. Other possible components include childcare, a small business incubator and entrepreneurial assistance, an international food court and retail spaces, event space and commercial kitchen.
“The goal is to kind of have it as an international community hub,” said Tanece Tyler with the Northeast Economic Development Corporation. “There will be a focus on transit-oriented development with a mobility center.”
Kevin Klinkenberg, Executive Director of Midtown KC Now, said a lot of what the panel discussed focuses on healing old scars and reconnecting neighborhoods.
“It’s critical to not think of this as just one little isolated piece of land,” Klinkenberg said. “This is one of the most isolated islands in the entire greater downtown area. It presents a ton of challenges when thinking about it.”
The panel’s design drivers, or motivations, include restoring connections between urban neighborhoods, positioning the site for Bus Rapid Transit, and reinforcing urban neighborhood patterns, which includes open space and housing diversity.
The panel’s designers felt that the first phase of improvements should begin with immediate work on Independence Avenue west of The Paseo, which includes a potential “road diet,” by reducing the number of lanes and adding medians.
“We need to think about how we can use our infrastructure to create value again, to create really desirable, connected neighborhoods because that’s how we really turn the tide and make this all feel like it’s all part of downtown,” Klinkenberg said.
The panel was charged with a series of questions from the sponsors. They inquired what the current market and potential demand for residential, commercial or other types of development in the project area where.
They were asked to explore how the redevelopment of the project area would assist with the results of the North Loop Study, an ongoing initiative to improve connections into and around downtown while providing economic development opportunities. A key recommendation from the study, which began in 2017, was to reconnect Independence Avenue to the loop.
Also taken into consideration was the future redevelopment of The Paseo and Independence Avenue intersection, Belvidere Park’s inclusion in that project, and what can be done to enhance the city’s historic parks and boulevard system.
The panel’s designers created various options for what future development could look like, including office space and housing. The five-year plan for the development includes repurposing the area that is currently the highway on ramp area between Forest and Troost avenues, developing a corridor reinvestment strategy for the properties on the south side of Independence Avenue, the Paseo Gateway Realignment project, and the addition of bus rapid transit.
In 10 to 15 years, the panel cited plans to decommission the North Loop, bring Route 9 down to grade and extend Independence Avenue to River Market. Klinkenberg also mentioned the possibility of a future Royals stadium in the “East Village” area.
Jason Carter-Solomon with Enterprise Bank noted the effect COVID-19 has had on the housing market and loan rates.
“I think you’ll have some issues with regard to construction,” Carter-Solomon said. “The cost of reduced units continued to escalate pre-COVID. In COVID we’ve seen escalation of materials such as lumber. Lumber has doubled, labor was also increasing pre-COVID.”
Bill Crandall with CBC Realty said it will be important to seek input and host engagement sessions from the community, including the diverse residents, local businesses and organizations.
“This site has a long history of housing and we believe that still is the primary best use moving forward,” Tanece Tyler said. “It used to be public housing and it was on an island of its own, so we want to make sure that does not happen in the future.”
Tyler said the goal is to create a truly mixed-income housing development where the site is integrated into the surrounding neighborhood. She said a coalition of stakeholders should be developed to make this site a priority for the city council.
In these initial stages, the development costs are estimated between $228 million and $342 million, depending on the residential density. Crandall said tax credits and other incentives will attract both commercial and institutional interest.
Katherine Carttar, Director of Economic Development at Unified Government of Kansas City, Kan. and Wyandotte County summarized the TAP’s recommendations, which start with the city beginning its due diligence on RFP’s for and surrounding the site, including environmental, geotech and utilities.
Following the conclusion of the TAP, Joy Crimmins with the Kansas City ULI said as she understands it, the city will put out a Requests for Proposals (RFP) for the site, although she is not aware of a timeline or details of the RFP.
“The City has been in preliminary discussions with HAKC regarding how to proceed forward utilizing the recommendations from ULI,” said Chase Johnson, an Urban Redevelopment Specialist for the City. “ULI will deliver the final TAP recommendation document by the end of the year. Any Potential RFP timelines are [to be determined] at this time but will be narrowed down as the City continues discussions with HAKC.”
The panel also focused on connectivity through infrastructure realignment, taking surrounding parcels into consideration, a phased approach for the three zones, a master developer arrangement, community-centric development with public engagement, and uses ranging from housing to open space and community space.
This article is part of an ongoing series on the Chouteau Court redevelopment project. Find related articles at northeastnews.net, and check back for updates.