Kansas City Council approves $23 million plan to transform blighted block in 18th and Vine district
The development plan would include multifamily units and commercial retail space along the 1800 block of Vine.
The Kansas City Council has approved a development plan that would transform the 1800 block of Vine Street — marked by multiple decaying and blighted buildings — into a $23 million residential and commercial space in the city’s historic cultural district.
The council passed the agreement 11-1, with 3rd District-at-Large Councilman Brandon Ellington providing the only dissenting vote.
Ellington said the developers did not address concerns he and 3rd District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson expressed, including assurance the development would not displace current business owners and residents.
Councilman Lee Barnes, who represents the 5th District-at Large and sponsor of the ordinance, said it was a good day for Kansas City.
“We have come to a point where we've developed a development agreement with an entity that will help us revitalize the 18th and Vine area,” he said.
The ordinance waives the requirement for a financial analysis if the developers apply for any tax incentives. As part of the development agreement, the developer must also begin construction within three years and provide updates to the city council every six months.
The proposed plan covers a block of crumbling, dilapidated buildings. Some of the buildings include the historic House of Hits, home of the Kansas City Monarchs baseball team in the 1930s, and the building for the Security Loan and Investment Association.
The effort to develop the block has been years in the making. In summer 2020, the city sought proposals. The 18th and Vine Policy and Development Committee reviewed the submissions and recommended the project proposed by McCormack Browne Salazar and Taliaferro & Browne Real Estate. The two developers have since formed 18th and Vine Developers LLC. In October 2020, the city council passed a resolution authorizing the city manager to negotiate a development agreement.
Several of the historic buildings are currently classified as dangerous buildings and are uninhabitable. The city has owned the buildings since 2017 as part of its broader plan to redevelop 18th and Vine.
The current proposed development plan includes a multifamily housing project with 54 units and about 33,000 square feet of retail space. The project would offer new construction and preserve the existing facades of the historic buildings.
Leonard Graham, president of Taliaferro & Browne, said the goal is not to create an entertainment district.
“We're trying to rebuild this community and stay true to its cultural and historical heritage,” he said.
Councilmembers Ellington and Robinson questioned a current $8 million financing gap for the project. The development agreement provides an 18-month timeline to secure that funding.
“We’re talking about property in a low-income area that has always been subsidized by the government with no long-term benefit to the people, and that needs to be looked at and examined more,” Ellington said in last week’s Neighborhood, Planning and Development Committee meeting.
In an attempt to prevent the city from moving forward, Robinson and Ellington introduced an ordinance requesting that the city manager reject all proposals submitted to develop the area and delay the agreement with 18th and Vine LLC. But other council members were not supportive.
Henry Service, a local attorney who owns a building in the 18th and Vine district, provided public testimony in support of the development.
“It’s not only just an embarrassment to the people who are struggling to do businesses down there, where it's choking the life out of those businesses, but it's an embarrassment to Kansas City to have a jazz district looking like that,” he said.