City Council rezoning sets stage for SomeraRoad’s huge West Bottoms redevelopment

An expansive “live-work-play” redevelopment in Kansas City’s West Bottoms has received its first key approval, allowing its development team to begin moving the ball forward on its first historic preservation, public space, and infrastructure projects.

The Kansas City Council unanimously agreed Thursday to rezone 21.85 acres, roughly bounded north to south by Union Pacific railroad tracks and 12th Street, and west to east by Liberty Street and BNSF Railway tracks, to an urban redevelopment district.

The rezoning measure came bundled with a conceptual phased plan under which New York developer SomeraRoad Inc. could build as many as 1,238 apartments, plus hospitality and mixed-uses, through the end of 2035.

The new district clears the way for SomeraRoad to seek historic tax credits for its first concrete adaptive reuse plans. This year’s first application round for the credits opened Friday, according to the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

“The West Bottoms-Stockyards area has been one where we’ve had different spurts of development for some number of years,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said Thursday. “These areas have been largely under-invested in for quite some time — most of the lifetime for all of us, regardless of age — and I appreciate a project that has good mixed-use, historic preservation, area preservation. It really is in many ways development at its best.”

SomeraRoad contemplates four initial historic projects, development director Andrew Donchez told the City Plan Commission last week.

These include an apartment and a hotel conversion, respectively shown in concept plans for the Moline Plow and Avery buildings, plus two office conversions. The developer also will tear down the Weld Wheel Industries Inc. building, creating a future development site. And it hopes to complete a public plaza, plus significant infrastructure and streetscape improvements, during the next three to four years, Donchez said.

Several West Bottoms business owners attended last week’s planning meeting to raise concerns about potential displacement and uncertainty about SomeraRoad’s long-term plans for buildings in which they remain tenants. The developer has shared goals to work with neighborhood businesses to minimize disruption, while keeping attractions like haunted houses and festivals under a 15-year area cooperation agreement.

“We understand that this is a change from the status quo, but we think on balance it’s a good one and will lead to the continued revitalization of the West Bottoms, building upon many of the investments that have already occurred and many of the businesses that are already there,” Donchez said last week.

Between November and late March, SomeraRoad acquired 20 West Bottoms properties through transactions with seven sellers. It also secured control of 22 more via right-of-first-refusal agreements. The boundaries of the developer’s new rezoning district surround, but exclude, individual properties that it does not own or control.

Already, new private investment in the West Bottoms has followed SomeraRoad’s transactions, with the June acquisition of eight Faultless Brands properties by The Borman Group of Los Angeles.

Councilman Eric Bunch said Thursday that SomeraRoad’s redevelopment stands to become one of the most transformational to come before the City Council during its current members’ tenure.

“(There’s) a lot of moving parts and a lot of work to do, but (I’m) very, very excited to see the West Bottoms really continue its rebirth,” he said.

Story from the Kansas City Business Journal