Kevin Collison

Kevin Collison is a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3.

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

Downtown Kansas City leads the nation these days reducing its office vacancy rate, but not because it’s returning to its heyday as the region’s business center.

The drop is primarily due to the conversion of many older, obsolete office buildings into apartments and hotels as downtown has transitioned to a mixed-use, "live, work and play" district in the 21st century.

A total of 1.7 million square feet of former office space has been converted to new uses over the past three years, according to CBRE Group, a national real estate firm.

Courtesy Opus Developement Group

New projects in the works for historic Westport are prompting a grassroots effort to survey the district’s buildings to help provide a solid planning base for future development decisions.

Plans for two apartment projects and a hotel are being reviewed at City Hall for a district that’s been popular destination since before Kansas City was born.

Courtesy BNIM

Plans for a new downtown YMCA, the latest on expanding the Kansas City streetcar and an update on the UMKC downtown arts campus were discussed by the Downtown Council of Kansas City Thursday.

YMCA could wrap fundraising this summer

Backers of a planned Downtown YMCA that would incorporate the facade of the historic Lyric Theater as part of the $30 million project hope to wrap up fundraising this summer.

Courtesy Block Real Estate Services

Construction on the first multi-tenant office tower to go up in the Country Club Plaza in more than a decade is expected to begin this summer following approval of final incentives.

The 14-story 46 Penn Centre project is planned for 46th Terrace and Pennsylvania Avenue just north of the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist by Block Real Estate Services.

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

It’s been 30 years since metropolitan Kansas City’s beltway, Interstate 435, was completed, and its important role as a route for economic development has been a tale of two states.

In southern Johnson County, where the first leg of I-435 opened between I-35 and Metcalf Avenue in 1965, smart planning by local and state leaders has made the I-435 corridor that area’s bustling main street.

Kevin Collison for KCUR

North Kansas City is opening a new “front door” on Armour Road, transforming land once dominated by massive flour mills into a mixed-use district that includes an $8 million jewelry store.

KC Hotel Developers LLC

The planned $310 million convention hotel project is expected to create a better pedestrian connection between major downtown destinations as well as provide dramatic views for its guests, its architect says.

“We believe that this building should be designed for the residents of Kansas City,” architect Bob Neal of Atlanta-based Cooper Carry told the City Plan Commission Tuesday.

University of Missouri-Kansas City

After hitting a high note last month with overwhelming approval in the Missouri House, the proposed University of Missouri-Kansas City downtown arts campus is scheduled to debut next week before a tougher audience, the Missouri Senate.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The owner of The Kansas City Star has a tentative agreement to sell the newspaper’s headquarters at 1729 Grand Blvd., since 1911 a downtown landmark where a young Ernest Hemingway once reported.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City’s East Side is receiving renewed attention this year with several initiatives aimed at attracting investment to an area that’s struggled economically for many decades.

 

Topping the list is a grassroots proposal championed by East Side clergy and others that will ask voters next month to approve a 1/8th cent sales tax increase. It would generate an estimated $8 million annually to support development east of Troost Avenue.

 

There are other new plans and proposals as well.

 

Foutch Brothers, LLC

An ambitious $30 million plan to convert the Kemper Arena into a bustling center for amateur athletics won support for tax incentives Thursday from a public development agency.

The Planned Industrial Expansion Authority approved a 12-year property tax abatement for the redevelopment project of the arena in the West Bottoms being pursued by Foutch Brothers. The PIEA also authorized up to $24 million in revenue bonds for the project.

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

Four years after opening a school for 190 elementary students in a former office building on Central Street, Crossroads Academy is planning to open a high school in downtown Kansas City in 2018. But first, it needs a building.

“It’s an exciting time for us to be able to grow and add more kids,” said Dean Johnson, executive director of the charter school. “Parents have asked about a high school and that’s always been part of our goals.”

Google Maps

BNIM Architects will remain in downtown Kansas City and lease space at Crown Center for its new headquarters, the firm announced today.

The 100-employee company is leasing about 20,000 square feet on two floors at 2460 Pershing Road. 

The decision was made after an earlier $13.2 million plan to renovate an empty warehouse at 1640 Baltimore Ave. in the Crossroads Arts District was abandoned after being criticized for its proposed use of tax incentives.

“BNIM is committed to Kansas City, our city, today and in the future,” Steve McDowell, CEO, said in a statement.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The historic Power & Light Building, a beloved Kansas City landmark, is embarking on a new life as one of the city’s swankiest apartment addresses.

With a grand opening set for Tuesday, the Power & Light Apartments redevelopment joins an increasingly competitive downtown market.  

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

Supporters of the proposed downtown University of Missouri-Kansas City campus for the arts have enlisted Warren Erdman, a savvy veteran of Missouri politics, to lead the lobbying effort for $48 million in matching state funds.

“Warren has been fantastically supportive since early on,” says Dean Peter Witte of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

“His understanding of the University of Missouri System and his reputation in the State Legislature are great assets.”

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

The biggest priority on Kansas City's $27.6 million proposal for tuning up the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District has nothing to do with bricks and mortar.

It’s about assuming ownership of most of the properties in the six-block district and forging a common approach to marketing and managing the area, according to City Manager Troy Schulte.

Kevin Collison for KCUR

Whenever you make a purchase at the Ward Parkway Center, say a pair of shoes or a dress, you pay the customary 8.35 percent Kansas City sales tax on every dollar you spend.

You also might enjoy the new renovations and upgrades that have made the 50-year-old shopping center a brighter, more attractive place. Take a little pride of ownership; after all, you helped pay for it.

Jasssmit - CillanXC - kkeithphoto / Creative Commons

When it comes to metros that Kansas City considers its competition for business, population growth, conventions and prestige: Forget about St. Louis. We left that rivalry behind in the last century.

People whose job it is to keep KC competitive point to Nashville, Denver, Charlotte, Minneapolis and Louisville as among our chief 21st century opponents.

GM Media / Wikimedia Commons

General Motors plans to invest $245 million in its Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas, to manufacture a new sports utility vehicle, the firm confirmed Tuesday.

The new SUV, which industry analysts believe will be most likely sold as a Cadillac, according to published reports, had originally been slated to be built at a GM plant in Orion Township, Michigan.

“In January, we informed our employees that we would move production of an all-new vehicle planned for Orion Assembly to Fairfax Assembly in Kansas,” Christopher M. Bonelli, a GM spokesman, said in a statement.

Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

The recent failure of a proposal to convert an empty downtown warehouse into a showcase headquarters for BNIM architecture marked a milestone in Kansas City’s ongoing debate over the use of tax incentives.

While incentive programs have been long argued inside City Hall — former Mayor Mark Funkhouser was a major critic — the fact an outside citizens’ petition drive forced BNIM to walk away from the $13.2 million redevelopment plan has added a wild card to the process.