‘Phenomenal’ demand for Downtown housing sparks good & bad news

The demand for Downtown housing is at an all-time high — a reality that presents the Downtown Council with both welcome news and a huge challenge.

After all, the number one priority on the Downtown Council’s list of strategic goals is to double the residential population of greater Downtown. The fact that demand is so high is, of course, the good news. The challenge is to get more market rate housing units in the pipleline as quickly as possible.

That challenge formed the basis of the lead story in The Kansas City Star on Saturday, Aug. 11. Reporter Kevin Collison looked to several Downtown Council leaders as he prepared his stories. In case you missed it, here is a look at The Star’s story:


Kristin Hewitt wants to heed the siren call of downtown living, but right now she’s stuck with her parents in Prairie Village waiting for an apartment to open up in her price range.

“A lot of my friends live down there, and that’s where a lot is happening,” the 28-year-old said. “It’s hard to find a median where you can afford an apartment and still save some money.”

Hewitt, who’s willing to pay $750 a month for one bedroom, is on a 60-person waiting list for one of the 120 apartments managed by Dana Gibson in the River Market area.

Said Gibson: “The last 10 years have been good, the last two years have been phenomenal, and now it’s kind of sad. It’s no joy turning these people away.”

Downtown apartment occupancy rates top 95 percent, and there are no projects in the construction pipeline. A high-rise proposal recently unveiled by the Cordish Co. is at least two years off.

To remedy the shortage, the Downtown Council, an organization of business and property owners, is lobbying City Hall to get more apartments built, suggesting more city financial incentives, a blanket 10-year property tax abatement, and a renewed focus on seeking state tax credits to help downtown housing projects.

The council, which wants to double the number of people living downtown, has a list of nine big projects that could move forward with some help from the city. If all were completed, about 1,475 apartments would be added to the downtown core.

“We’re looking at all of the projects in the queue and trying to get them off the hump,” said Sean O’Byrne, vice president of business development for the Downtown Council.

Now, there are 7,200 residences including condos in the downtown core — the River Market, central business district and Crossroads Arts District — so the additional apartments would boost the housing inventory 20 percent. An estimated 12,000 people now live in the core.

“We’re basically out (of apartments) right now,” said Christina Boveri, a real estate professional whose specialty is finding homes for people downtown. “I don’t think the City Council really knows the true picture.”

The Downtown Council’s list of projects includes already publicized proposals, such as the 250-unit apartment tower that Cordish wants to build in the Power & Light District, Lucas Place Lofts, a 130-unit loft project in the Garment District, and the redevelopment of the historic Pickwick complex at Ninth and McGee streets into 220 apartments.