With Flour Mills Razed, North Kansas City Digs Into Armour Road Transformation

Apr 13, 2017

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.

The new Meierotto Jewelers facility now under construction is part of a 15-year redevelopment effort by the small city just across the Missouri River from downtown Kansas City. (Read the city's master plan here.)

It’s the first of several projects planned for the 64-acre redevelopment site southeast of Interstate 29/35 and Armour not far from the world headquarters of Cerner Corp.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” says Sara Copeland, community development director.

“We’re a small community surrounded by Kansas City and we’re mostly built out. This is an opportunity to re-imagine North Kansas City for new uses and bring amenities we didn’t have a place for.”

The 42,000-square-foot Meierotto project will replace the firm’s current location on Vivion Road. It is expected to be joined by a separate $155 million development planned by Rick Worner of National Realty Advisors.

Worner won city approval a year ago for a development to be anchored by two hotels developed by KMG Hotels of North Kansas City, a conference center and a high-tech golf driving range concept called Driv Golf Lounge & Brewhouse.

The developer plans to use incentive programs including tax increment financing and a community improvement district to help finance the plan. Negotiations are ongoing with the city to determine the final deal.

Worner plans to break ground on his development by late summer or early fall and estimates the entire project will be completed in 12 months -- so perhaps by mid- to late 2018. Other components include restaurants, apartments, office space and other retail.

“It’s location, location, location,” says Worner. “In this case, it’s Highway 210 (Armour Road) and I-29. We’re across from the Cerner headquarters, North Kansas City Hospital and Harrah’s casino.”

Copeland says the city began acquiring property 15 years ago as a defensive measure to prevent further industrial uses. It was envisioned as an opportunity to take advantage of the major nearby destinations.

“It wasn’t very welcoming when we started acquiring property,” she says. “We saw an opportunity for an attractive front door to people visiting Cerner and the hospital.”

North Kansas City is a small community with 4,300 residents covering 4.2 square miles. But its daytime population soars to 25,000 because of its major employers.

The property had been occupied by flour mills operated by ConAgra and Archer Daniels Midland. The ADM mill was demolished by the city in 2012 to make way for the redevelopment project. The ConAgra mill was razed in 2006.

The city has spent tens of millions of dollars over the years to purchase property, demolish buildings and build the infrastructure to allow development, Copeland says, including $18.7 million from 2004 through 2016. For 2017, the city is budgeted to spend $16.5 million, which includes significant amounts on infrastructure such road construction and water line extensions

She says the largest acquisitions were the ADM flour mill property for just under $12 million, and the ConAgra property for $1.2 million.

Kevin Collison is a freelance contributor for KCUR 89.3.