City council meetings can be long, arduous affairs. Thursday night was no exception. The main event of the regular session were a pair of agenda items concerning a proposed redevelopment project on the west side of Lee’s Summit’s downtown district. Strother Lofts is a proposed four-story multi-family housing project to be built on the former United States Postal Service site on Market Street. Yarco Devco and partner Evergreen Real Estate currently have the 1.36 acre site under contract. The contract with USPS calls for a due diligence period ending April 25. This quickly-approaching deadline for the developers to decide whether to move forward with project and subsequently pay a considerable deposit of hard money is the beginning of last night’s confusing comments, questions and discussions.
The approaching deadline prompted the developers to ask the City to quickly bring before the Council a request for rezoning, as well as a vote of approval for the conceptual development plan. You may be asking, “Why the rush?” Or, if you’re a council member named Derek Howland or Dave Mosby, you did ask that very question. The answer is actually an easy and fairly reasonable one. Before fully investing in the project, the developers were wanting some assurances the City was behind this development by granting the rezoning. A vote of approval, on what is essentially a vote of confidence in the concept, makes the developer feel a little more comfortable for when they return to the City with a request for public incentives to help offset costs of the development — a development which they hope will include a public-private partnership to include a shared parking structure located adjacent to the apartment building.
Click here for more on the proposed development.
Both the addition of residential housing and a public parking structure in downtown have long been a topic of discussion and considered a priority for the City. In fact, multiple studies have shown the need for more housing and there is near universal agreement it can help bring additional revenue to the downtown district. But that’s also where the agreement tends to stop. For some, the mere mention of multi-family housing raises red flags of the perceived ills coming along with low-income housing projects. For others, concerns stem from a desire to ensure the historic charm of the current landscape isn’t harmed. And then others want to make sure the City isn’t giving away too many public dollars.
Public comments during the hearing defined these sentiments. Below are individual clips from the nine residents, business and property owners who spoke up during the hearing.
Tom Ryan (opposition) — Lee's Summit resident and downtown business owner (6:27)
Donnie Rodgers (support) — Downtown resident and Executive Director of Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street (5:14)
Steve Tominia (support) — Downtown Lee's Summit business and property owner (2:07)
Don Patterson (opposition) — Downtown property owner (3:04)
Daniel Vanpetten (opposition) — Downtown resident (4:23)
Susan Vanpetten (opposition) — Downtown resident (4:25)
Rebecca Patterson (opposition) — Downtown property owner (2:21)
Dave Eames (support) — Downtown resident and business owner (1:41)
Marian Zajic (support) — Downtown resident ()1:42)
Councilmember Rob Binney summed up the discussion, commenting that the one thing learned in this process was that there were a lot of questions yet to be answered as the project moves forward and closer to bringing its development plan before the City.
According to the developer, Strother Lofts conceptual development plan proposes a four-story building with approximately 125 units of studio, one-bedroom, one-bedroom plus den and two-bedroom units. In addition to the 144,520 square-foot residential development, the group is also proposing a parking garage located on the existing public parking lot north of the development. Harpool said the garage will have approximately 300 spaces and will provide parking for both the public and Strother Lofts residents.
If Yarco opts to move forward and closes on the property, negotiations with the City concerning the parking structure will continue and it is anticipated a request for public incentives in the form of a Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority for a tax abatement of at least 50 percent will be made. Development plans will also be reviewed by City staff, the Planning Commission, and the Council before the project will be allowed to begin construction.