A downtown Kansas City, Kan., redevelopment project was proposed at a Unified Government committee meeting Monday night.
Former Mayor Joe Reardon appeared as the lawyer for a redevelopment project at 736 Minnesota Ave. from Loretto Commercial Development.
The Economic Development and Finance Standing Committee unanimously recommended the project, which will go to the UG Commission for approval.
Loretto Commercial Development LLC is redeveloping several downtown properties in the 600 and 800 blocks of Minnesota Avenue, according to James Arkell, vice president of operations with Loretto Development, who attended the meeting.
The building at 736 Minnesota is currently owned by the UG, and would be purchased by the developer for $100,000, according to UG documents. The developer would agree to invest $1 million to $1.5 million in redevelopment improvements in buildings along the avenue.
As part of the redevelopment plan, historic street fronts would be restored of some of the buildings along Minnesota Avenue. The 736 Minnesota project was compared to the recent renovation of the Kansas City, Kan., Chamber of Commerce office nearby.
The developer asked the commission to move up street improvements on Minnesota Avenue, that were scheduled for 2017-2018, to 2014-2015. According to the UG staff, those improvements were an estimated $1.4 million, although the UG will have the option to reduce it by about a half-million. The capital budget will have to be set by the end of July.
The founders of Loretto Properties, according to its website, are Lamar Hunt Jr., whose father founded the Kansas City Chiefs, and Arkell.
Arkell works in operations with the company. Its parent company is Loretto Charities, and Arkell explained to the commission that he came across the Kansas City, Kan., downtown area when he was working with the Little Sisters of the Lamb, which has a new building in Kansas City, Kan.
Arkell told the commission Loretto Properties is currently renovating the old Katz building on Minnesota Avenue, which is near the 736 Minnesota site. His intent is to make the building’s exterior look like it did when it was first built, and also doing an entire new interior. Arkell said he is committed to “do it right.” The cost of renovations to the old Katz building was expected to be $900,000. UG officials said the 736 Minnesota building needed extensive maintenance, so it was to the UG’s advantage to sell it.
Arkell said he is currently meeting with prospective tenants for the buildings. One that has shown interest is an architectural firm, he said. A café or coffee shop also is interested in locating there.
Commissioner Brian McKiernan said he was impressed with Arkell’s vision and passion for doing the project and doing it right. He said he hoped it would be a springboard for development in the future.
“I am so grateful you have come to our downtown,” McKiernan said. The project capitalizes on the new downtown transit center and also the new bus route, and it could be the seed that moves downtown forward, he added.
The commissioners all liked the project, including Commissioner Gayle Townsend, who noted she used to sell records in the old Katz building.
Commissioners Ann Murguia and Townsend, as well as David Alvey, a member of the committee, were concerned about where the money would come from out of the capital maintenance and improvement budget for moving up the street improvements. UG Administrator Doug Bach assured the commissioners that the CMIP budget was flexible and that projects could be rotated.
UG staff and commissioners may have to work out a plan to move some projects back to advance the Minnesota Avenue street improvements. Bach said this often happened in the CMIP budget, and that the UG expected it to happen as new projects come forward.
The 736 Minnesota property had been in the UG Land Bank until recently. It was built in 1930, according to a real estate listing.
With the approval at the committee meeting, the project may advance to come before the full UG Commission for a vote at a future date.