The two lots that are up for discussion are on the corner of Linwood and Troost. The Southwest corner houses the old Katz Drug Store Building (or more recently, Uncle Jim's Furniture) -- pictured above. The Southeast corner is an empty lot that has the remains of what may have been an old gas station or fast food restaurant (pictured below).
PIEA has held the buildings for a couple of years (they've been waiting for KCP&L to actually provide, in writing, proof that they weren't going to put an electrical substation on that block just south of the Katz Drugstore Building -- so hooray, at least we won't have that to go with our new powerlines) and is now preparing to send out RFPs to bidders to redevelop the properties.
Before they sent out the RFPs, they wanted to meet with neighborhood groups to get a feel for what types of businesses the neighborhoods wanted in these two lots.
And boy was the conversation interesting.
As we all know, Troost has been considered a both real and symbolic dividing line between races and classes in our city. Over the years, many of the streets historic buildings have been demolished and replaced with car washes, empty lots, surface parking, fast food restaurants and the like. It's not all like that -- but there are definitely areas that have seen the effects of bad decisions regarding Troost.
The 3000, 3100, and 3200 blocks of Troost are probably the most pedestrian friendly blocks of Troost between Brush Creek and Columbus Park. If real revitalization is going to occur on Troost North of Brush Creek, those three blocks are likely going to be a major part of the revitalization. Most of those two blocks are completely walkable -- and the neighborhoods on either side are full of homes, most have residents, but there is still a lot of room for residential infill.
Troost is also soon to be the home of the city's 2nd BRT line --and already one of the busiest bus lines in Kansas City -- which will provide an opportunity to get a lot of people to the area conveniently via public transit. Plus, with the BRT line, there are going to be a lot of areas along Troost that gets a lot of street-level improvements.
So the idea of PIEA getting bidders to redevelop an empty lot and an empty building on these blocks is excellent.
So at the meeting, a lot of ideas were thrown out -- some good, some not, probably depending on who you are and your vision for the area. Some ideas included: a service center, similar to the 311 action lines, that would bring a fairly decent sized group of employees to the area, a grocery store (that isn't sketchy), a decent restaurant or two, a lawn and garden center, more residential, a food co-op, a clothing co-op, and a winter home for the Troost market.
There were definitely some things people didn't want -- including a liquor store, payday loan store, or other similar business.
Apparently, even before the RFP goes out, there is one business that is interested in the retail location. As 12th and Main noted earlier today, Habitat for Humanity is interested in using the Katz Drug store location for a Habitat Restore location. The store would be a more retail-esque location as an extension of their current location on Deramus. The store would be an opportunity to "recylce" household items for remodeling the older homes in the neighborhood.
It was really unfortunate that the talk of the Habitat Restore became more of a focus for the conversation at the meeting than the discussion of what type of businesses the neighborhood wanted there. Since it was the only option on the table (since RFPs haven't actually gone out yet), it was the best option available.
First off, the good. It would be an open, viable business on a block of Troost that needs viable businesses. Heck, anything "open" is better than the empty building that sits there now. The neighborhood has a lot of old houses in it, and the Re-Store would provide a less expensive outlet for folks to remodel many of the nearby neighborhood homes. The group from Habitat had also already spoken with the city about a possible payment plan option where the money paid for the building would go into a fund that would then go back out to funding more redevelopment on Troost.
Now the bad side. One of the first pieces of the conversation involved the need for incremental parking for the building. The idea would be to either use the empty lot for a surface parking lot, or in a trickier proposal, trade out the empty lot on the Southeast corner of the intersection to the owner of the buidling on the Northeast Corner of the interesection for a lot she owns just west of the Katz Drug building (on Linwood, between Troost and Harrison) and use that lot for additional parking. That type of thinking does not bring the best traits of the block and neighborhood's walkability, nor would a Re-Store be highly usable via public transit, so the advantage of the Troost BRT will be lost. Additionally, the Re-Store would likely employ only about 6 people, so it would not bring a lot of incremental employees in the neighborhood. And in spite of the Habitat Restore spokespeople's insistence that the store would bring people into the neighborhood to support other neighborhood businesses (like coffee shops and restaurants), it is hard to swollow when no such development exists around their Deramus location.
I'm not completely against a the Re-Store. In fact, I welcome it to the neighborhood, but would prefer it to be in a different location (maybe further North on Troost). I just don't think a place that needs "more parking" as an initial consideration is the best fit for the location and long-term development.
However, I don't know if there is anyone else stumbling all over themselves to get these locations. And the Re-Store is a HUGE improvement over what is sitting there now. I certainly hope they submit a proposal out of the RFP and are part of the consideration set...but I certainly hope the neighborhoods get to see all the alternatives.
So what do you say? Is the Re-Store a good option for the neighborhood? I'd love to hear people's thoughts for the area. Since the conversation got derailed a bit on Thursday night, I'm going to package any thoughts from comments in this post and send them to the PIEA committee for consideration. So I'd love to hear anyone and everyone's thoughts -- particularly if you are familiar with the neighborhood. So speak up.