An area of the Kansas City metro that has seen little in recent development of affordable housing is about to see a change.
For the first time in 30 years, a new apartment building is nearing completion and will offer affordable housing to residents in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.
Riverstone Platform Partners teamed up with Community Housing of Wyandotte County (CHWC) to build the new $15 million Boulevard Lofts apartment complex at 800 Washington Blvd. The project will bring 50 mixed-income apartments to the city’s Douglass Sumner neighborhood, That area has not seen a new apartment complex built in the last 60 years.
“This project has been a long time coming,” said Brennan Crawford, executive director and CEO of Community Housing of Wyandotte County. “We are super excited about it because, you know, we absolutely need high quality mixed-income new housing in the neighborhood,” he said. “So we were happy to get involved.”
Forty of the apartments will be offered as affordable units for residents earning 40% to 60% or less than the area’s median income, while the other 10 units will be leased at market rate.
“We are extremely, extremely close to getting our TCO (Temporary Certificate of Occupancy) permit and getting the project open and people moved in,” said developer Kelley Hrabe of Riverstone Platform Partners, who worked with Altman Charter as the project’s construction manager and Odimo for the architecture and design work.
Boulevard Lofts will have 24 one-bedroom units, 18 two-bedroom units and 8 three-bedroom units ranging in size from 704 to 1,410 square-feet. Rents will range from $650 to $1,275 for affordable rate units and $995 to $1,400 for market rate units.
“I think the interior of the building is pretty much done right now,” said Hrabe. “It’s just getting the site work done and the parking lot in.”
Boulevard Lofts developers hope the complex becomes a place where residents and members of the community can gather, learn, and connect with one another through urban agriculture. The four-story project will incorporate an urban garden, raised bed gardens, an apple orchard, pear and pecan trees, as well as blueberry and blackberry bushes. A walking path will allow residents to meander through the trees. Native and pollinator plants will enhance the property.
A commercial kitchen and a clubhouse will be available for residents to use, but it will also serve as a gathering place for community programs to teach residents and community members about gardening.
Crawford says the residents will be able to shape and take ownership of the programming at Boulevard Lofts. Much of that will be centered around an urban agriculture program.
Food is a common language trait, particularly in multicultural communities according to Crawford. “We’re super excited to have food as an ability to bring people together, but also to produce fresh produce in a food desert,” Crawford said.
Anyone can live here. “This is a kind of a community focused project that not only is going to provide a good mix of housing, we have unrestricted rents,” said Hrabe. “You can make $1,000,000 and live here or we have restricted rents that help folks that might be of lower to moderate income that can live here as well.” The loft-style units will have fully-equipped kitchens with pantries, large walk-in closets, and a private patio or balcony.
Hrabe says construction of the project that started in 2019 was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic but fortunately they managed to get it completed.
The project’s original timeline was two years, but delays stretched the timeline, adding an additional two years. Hrabe credits the lenders and investors, as well as the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation, CHWC, and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, who all worked together to keep the project going during the pandemic.
“We all doubled down and rolled up our sleeves and figured out how to get it done because, I think, the ultimate goal was, ‘Hey, we started this project, we got a lot of money invested in it,” he said. “But, we also need to deliver on our promise for the housing redevelopment in this area.”
Now, four years later, the project is nearly complete. “A lot of people don’t recall what that area looked like before we got involved,” said Hrabe. Five dilapidated, vacant buildings, which attracted illegal dumping, as well as people living illegally in the buildings, were torn down to clear the five-acre property for the development in the heart of downtown and just blocks from Sumner Academy of Arts & Science, a nationally ranked public high school.
“It was hard to comprehend the school buses parking there to pick up kids from school and all this blight and dangerous activity happening nearby,” said Hrabe. “So to me, developing that project at Boulevard Lofts is transformative for the Douglass-Sumner neighborhood, “ he said. “We removed a significant amount of blight, which is important, but also put in new infrastructure that serves that property.”
Some of the apartments at Boulevard Lofts will go to residents being displaced from Juniper Gardens as The Housing Authority of Kansas City, Kansas, closes the state’s largest public housing complex, which was built in 1962.
“We’re placing probably at least 20 or more families from that project into our building,” said Hrabe. “It’s extremely important that we get our first temporary certificate of occupancy here in the next couple of weeks so we can allow those people to move in and have a good Christmas, in a brand new place where the interiors are great, there are walk-in closets, pantries.”
“These apartments are beautiful, they’re huge, they’re light-filled,” said Crawford. “I am feeling very good about it as we come to the finish line.”