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Developers Propose Ambitious Plan To Revive Kansas City's Historic Troost Business District

Kevin Collison
CityScene KC
The historic Michelson (foreground) and adjoining Shankman buildings would be renovated as office and retail space as part of what's called the 31st and Troost Redevelopment project.

A stretch of buildings in the heart of the historic Troost commercial district would be transformed into offices, retail space and a museum, under a plan being pursued by development group that includes civic leader E. Frank Ellis.

Ellis, past chairman and founder of Swope Community Enterprises, along with Tim Bowman of Compass Resources LLC and Florida businessman Ovidiu Pop-Buia, want to renovate the historic Shankman and Michelson buildings at 3115-3131 Troost, and the Tycor building at 3105 Troost.

The development group, called Midtown Redevelopment Partners, intends to renovate the Shankman and Michelson into offices and retail, and the Tycor Building into the home of a future Midwest American Indian Museum of the Plains and Woodland Tribes.

To help achieve the first, $17 million phase, the developers are seeking a 20-year property tax abatement from the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority. It would be 15 years at 100 percent and five years at 50 percent.

“The development team wants to be on the cutting edge of the transformation of the area,” Robin Martinez, the attorney for the group, told the PIEA board last week. “These buildings have been underused for decades.”

Martinez said the previous owner of the three-story Shankman building and the two-story Michelson building had used them mostly for storage.

Credit courtesy: Midtown Redevelopment Partners
courtesy: Midtown Redevelopment Partners
The 31st and Troost Redevelopment plan calls for renovating the Tychor, Shankman and Michelson buildings on the east side of Troost with parking behind along Forest Avenue.

Both buildings have decorative, white terra cotta facades.

The Shankman, which opened in 1929, features art deco styling, the Michelson facade is in the beaux art style. The exterior of the two-story Tyco building has been extensively remodeled over the years.

At one time, the buildings were part of a bustling commercial heart of the Troost district during the 1920s through 1950s. As the neighborhood declined because of the troubled racial history of Kansas City, the buildings became vacant or underused.

Ellis told the board the first phase of the project includes the renovation of the three buildings into retail, office and the museum. The architect is TreanorHL.

The Shankman building already has two major tenants committed to leasing space, AltCap, a lending and financial services firm, and House to Home, a home design showroom, according to the development group.

The first floor of the Shankman could be used for a sports bar, speakeasy, restaurants, and retail.
The upper floor of the Michelson, completed in 1923, would be office space while the first floor would be office and retail.

Credit Kevin Collison / CityScene KC
CityScene KC
The redevelopment plan includes renovating the Tycor building into the Midwest American Indian Museum of the Plains and Woodland Tribes. The area was once the location of the Osage Trail as depicted in this street mural near 31st and Troost.

The Tycor Building would house both the proposed Midwest American Indian Museum and include space for Native American artisans to sell goods. Martinez said at one time, the area where the buildings are located was along the original Osage Trail.

The proposal filed with the PIEA said the museum is a collaboration between the Na Wei and Osage Tribes based in Oklahoma. It added the endeavor has the support of the Missouri Humanities and Arts Council.

The development team also has assembled properties behind their buildings at 3106, 3116 and 3118 Forest Avenue to be used for surface parking. Plans also call for an outdoor patio bar and restaurant behind the Shankman and Michelson buildings.

The project also is close to the Thank You Walt Disney Laugh-O-Gram project at 1127 E. 31st St., and the developers anticipate collaborating with that endeavor on parking.

The development team has lined up $11.9 million in financing for the project. They also hope to receive historic tax credits from Missouri to help finance the development, but Martinez said recent cutbacks by the state have made it more challenging.

“We’d love to get historic tax credits, but that’s not assured from Missouri because of tax law changes,” he said.

Credit Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
The ornate facade of the Michelson Building was done in the Beaux Arts architectural style.

Ultimately, what’s being called the 31st and Troost Redevelopment project hopes to attract $60 million in construction and create hundreds of jobs, according to the proposal.

The PIEA board approved a resolution to accept the proposal, the first step toward granting the potential tax abatements.

A tentative timetable calls for the renovation of the buildings, parking, and the outdoor patio entertainment area to begin this summer with completion by fall 2020.

If successful, the 31st and Troost Redevelopment project would join a rising tide of reinvestment in the Troost corridor between 27th Street and Armour Boulevard that’s expected to add 1,000 apartments as well as a new LaQuinta Hotel.

Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.

Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.
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