The Independence Avenue Community Improvement District hosted a panel of investors for Independence Avenue properties that will soon be built and renovated.
The meeting, which took place on Zoom on Oct. 7, focused on 2807 Independence Ave., 4805 Independence Ave. and 2600 Independence Ave.
Mike Spady, Economic Development Ambassador for the CID, explained that there are certain requirements for businesses hoping to open on Independence Avenue, including use restrictions, materials, setbacks and height.
“Over time, you’ll probably see no cash pawn places on the avenue, no title loan places on the avenue because they’ll probably be prohibited in future development and existing renovation,” Spady said.
“Basically, the overlay districts are for areas of the city that have unique qualities, such as Independence Avenue, requiring special treatment or locations where special focus on development may be warranted,” Spady said. “We’re looking to address specific aspects of land use control or development design that transcend basic zoning district conditions.”
He said the overlay district, which was created in 2016, leads to greater design flexibility, and runs from Forest Avenue on the west end of Independence Avenue, and ends at Ewing Avenue on the east end, about four miles in length.
“The purpose is to promote design excellence and walkability for all parcels on the Independence Corridor,” Spady said.
At 2600 Independence Avenue, the only new construction project discussed, there are six storefronts, with the corner unit designed for a restaurant with outdoor seating and 18 apartments above planned. The project broke ground in early October.
The address was the site of a deadly fire on Oct. 12, 2015, which killed firefighters and Northeast natives Larry Leggio and John Mesh. A memorial area is planned for the site facing the memorial that has been installed on the side of Snyder’s grocery store to honor the firefighters.
“They really worked hard at bringing that into this design,” said Bobbi Baker-Hughes, President and CEO of the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID) manager. “Then you’ll also see a lot of parking, which is something that is so important in our community, especially for those residents and that restaurant.”
There is a nail salon lined up to lease one of the storefront spaces, but one of the goals of the panel was to hear from community members what businesses they would like to see in the building and other properties.
Baker-Hughes said that the former Aaron Rents will be a grocery store.
“I suspect that their ultimate decision will be to move the fresh market from the space that’s currently at Denver and Independence Avenue that they will relocate that grocery store to the old Aaron’s,” Baker-Hughes said.
“But their question is what type of product above and beyond what they currently specialize in would our community like to see in that building.”
Nate Morris, who represents a group of owners with over 100 multi-family units in the area, is currently under contract to purchase the “Mayfair Corner” which includes the old Mayfair Cleaners and Boulevard Bakery. Morris quelled the concerns of community members by adding that the bakery will remain a tenant, and the dry cleaner’s iconic sign will remain.
The building, which has a total of 8,700 square feet, will have approximately 7,000 square feet available which could be broken into three storefronts and about 3,000 square foot in the back that could be potential workshop space.
“Since we have been investigating the property, we have had interest of two breweries that would do both tasting and distribution,” Morris said. “We’ve had interest from pet and pet-related businesses. We’ve had interest from cafe, coffee shop, deli-type businesses, and also from nail salon and hair salon-type businesses.”
Bob Long with the Economic Development Corporation discussed options for tax abatement for developers and business owners in urban renewal areas. The Northeast Chamber has a complete list of business development incentive opportunities on its website, nekcchamber.com.
Davin Gordon with AltCap shared information for creating opportunities for communities to have a stake in their properties through a community investment trust. Since 2012, the Community Capital Fund (CCF) has invested in innovative and measurable community development that aligns with and strengthens the financial, human, and social capital of under-resourced neighborhoods in the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area.
Baker-Hughes introduced preliminary design ideas for 2526 Independence Avenue, the Prospect Center, that the city currently has a contract for facade grant work, and the chamber has a vision for the future of the property.
“I think one of the issues that we have is there are very few places to spend your entertainment dollar in Northeast,” Scott Wagner, Director of Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT), mentioned.
Other community members also focused on goods services they have to leave Northeast Kansas City to find. Suggestions ranged from a health food store to a yoga studio or art gallery, spa services, craft supplies, shoe repair, gardening and lawn care supplies, office supplies and stationery. There was enthusiastic support for the brewery idea.
Jeffrey Linville, Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association President-Elect, said they should be careful to protect the diversity that Northeast has by supporting minority-owned businesses.
Independence Plaza resident Megan Morgan said she usually goes downtown for fitness options, and that is something she would personally utilize if it was in the neighborhood, and suggested a pay-as-you-can model to keep it affordable for the community.
Nael Leno, Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association Board Secretary, suggested some sort of language or tutoring place.
“We have so many immigrants and I think that if we were able to have something also to help with after school programs or a place that would be able to teach,” Leno said. “I do believe we do also have quite a bit of a language barrier as an issue in our neighborhoods.”
Frank Musquiz, a local entrepreneur and DJ, mentioned a place to showcase artists’ and entertainers’ work, especially with the recent addition of the Pendleton Arts Block apartments.
Linville thought of the Kansas City Museum and patrons who will visit once it reopens, suggesting something that will keep them spending money in Northeast after they visit the museum.
The group discussed anchors to attract visitors that other businesses could build around, including places that would stay open past 5 p.m. and potentially attract students from Kansas City University (KCU).
“I’m not saying density is good, I’m not saying that; we just need to have larger stores with wide variety,” Chamber Board Member Gary Goebel said, and Baker-Hughes used the potential restaurant at 2600 as one example.
Wagner noted that although the Northeast may seem small sometimes, Independence Avenue is a long street, and there is potential for more than one business of a type if they were spread apart east to west.
The meeting is available for viewing at nekcchamber.com, along with the materials presented during the meeting. The ideas gathered at the meeting will be shared at the chamber’s quarterly meeting with business and property owners.