Copaken Brooks is proposing a 14-story apartment tower on the southwest corner of 18th and Walnut, a striking addition to the skyline that would replace a crumbling Crossroads parking lot with 132 residences.
The $40- to $50 million project would be the second residential tower developed by the firm in the Crossroads Arts District. The other is the 12-story ARTerra project going up at 2100 Wyandotte.
It’s also a half-block north of the firm’s Corrigan Station office development at 19th and Walnut.
When it comes to accommodating more residents in downtown Kansas City, developer Jon Copaken said it’s the right time to go vertical.
“Density is good and having more people on the street is good,” he said.
“The residential market has room to grow more and it’s important to the Crossroads. Adding more people is a positive for businesses.”
Still, the height of the proposal is prompting some early concerns.
While there are relatively tall buildings nearby – Corrigan Station is 10 stories, and Mainmark building a block away at 17th and Main is 12-stories – the proposal is raising eyebrows with some self-described Crossroads “traditionalists.”
David Johnson, chair of the Crossroads Community Association infrastructure committee, said there was some pushback earlier this week when Copaken presented his plan to the group.
“There were some concerns raised about the height,” he said. “We like the architecture, but it’s hard for people to visualize 14 stories when everything around is one- to three stories.
“Crossroads traditionalists, not preservationists, feel the new wave of development threatens the artistic feel of the Crossroads," Johnson said.
“This would not be a renovation, but a large-scale development which would probably be the tallest in the neighborhood.”
Copaken said the first two levels of the proposed tower would be configured to provide 128 parking stalls along with first floor retail; apartments would be on floors three- through 13; and a commercial use, possibly a restaurant and bar, would occupy the top floor.
And in a nod to the growing demand for affordable housing, 10 percent of the units would meet the city’s new definition of affordable rents, $1,100 per month and below.
“We’ve decided to be proactive as part of our package,” Copaken said.
The remaining apartments would average about $2.10 per square foot monthly rent. About 25 percent would be more affordable studio units; the number and layout of the remaining larger units has not been determined.
Copaken said his firm is particularly pleased with the design of the project by Trevor Hoiland of Burns & McDonnell. His previous experience includes Helix Architecture + Design, Blackbird Design Studio and 360 Architecture.
“It’s great architecture with an undulating skin on both sides,” Copaken said.
The developer is seeking a 20-year property tax abatement from Port KC, 85 percent for the first 10 years, 65 percent for the second.
Copaken said his firm would like to break ground on the apartment tower before the end of the year, with completion anticipated in the winter of 2019-20.
Johnson said taller projects will likely continue to be proposed in the Crossroads as land becomes more valuable.
“We’ve had little new construction in the Crossroads. Height is becoming more of a requirement to in order to make a return, because the land cost is increasing," he said. “We wanted surface lots to become more valuable.”
Still, Johnson said, Copaken Brooks will have to work to persuade neighbors of their project's merits.
“They can’t rest on their laurels,” he said. “ARTerra is being built in a different environment near taller warehouses.”
Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.