Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Issues concerning Downtown as described by the Downtown Council. River to 31st Street, I-35 to Bruce R. Watkins.
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Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by ComandanteCero » Fri Mar 06, 2009 3:47 pm

I always thought it was the flooding issue, but i think a couple of forumers on here have said that isn't actually an issue anymore...  Can anyone give a recap of the situation down there and why the area hasn't been redeveloped?  Is the flooding thing legit or what?
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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by ignatius » Fri Mar 06, 2009 4:14 pm

Redeveloped as what?  Residential?  New warehousing?

Most of the buildings have been flooded and reflooded so many times, some may not be structurally sound. 

I only see onesy-twosy individuals taking it on who are willing to take those buildings for what they are.  I highly doubt major developers would invest in them.  It's too isolated from downtown and there are better opportunities from River Market to Xroads to Longfellow for major developers.

Could be a good thing for those who like the W Bottoms isolation and might be concerned about over gentrification down the road as it's not likely to happen.  I wonder how many buildings are now residential by individual owners vs. divided up by a developer.  I only think the former exists - maybe 2 or 3 buildings?

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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by LenexatoKCMO » Fri Mar 06, 2009 4:33 pm

I don't spend a ton of time down there but I have always understood that the massive ammount of rail traffic was a pretty big limitation on the development of residential in the area - lots and lots of noise. 

Probably doesn't help that half the city probably has no idea how to get in and out of it - If folks have a hard time figuring out how to get to the Crossroads imagine what a total f'n mystery the west bottoms must be (a condition that will only get worse as Kemper fades further into irrelevance). 

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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by Highlander » Fri Mar 06, 2009 4:42 pm

LenexatoKCMO wrote:I don't spend a ton of time down there but I have always understood that the massive ammount of rail traffic was a pretty big limitation on the development of residential in the area - lots and lots of noise. 

Probably doesn't help that half the city probably has no idea how to get in and out of it - If folks have a hard time figuring out how to get to the Crossroads imagine what a total f'n mystery the west bottoms must be (a condition that will only get worse as Kemper fades further into irrelevance). 


Yes, the West Bottoms suffers from an out of sight, out of mind syndrome but the bigger problem is that more proximal areas like the river market, crossroads and downtown are still a long way from being fully developed and infilled.  Until that happens, there is little motivation or incentive to move to an outlier of the core.  Fill in downtown and the immediate surrounding areas and developers will start looking for the next place with an intact building stock. 

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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by voltopt » Fri Mar 06, 2009 6:27 pm

    I think flooding could possibly be an issue, but I don't think its the primary issue.  I'd venture that its only slightly more likely to be flooded than North Kansas City.  I believe the floodwall held up during the 1993 flood - it was the stormwater control along turkey creek that did in the SW boulevard part of the city.
    However, saturated ground could be an issue - it is in a floodplain.  The water table may be high in that area.
    Isolation, an industrial hegemony, rail noise, no comprehensive plan, and outdated infrastructure are pretty big deterrents.
I think the rail noise is no worse than it is in the frieght house area of the crossroads - but having lived a half block from the at grade crossing at union and hickory, I can say that it can be earsplitting in the dead of night. 
    If the city created a land use plan and isolated the area from 9th to 14th, and from liberty or state line east to santa fe as a sort of CID dedicated to mixed use development (residential, commercial & industrial) and provided incentives to smaller, local developers, something may happen. They would certainly need to invest in the infrastructure (sidewalks, streetlights, paving, signage) to help make it a worthwhile investment.
    I don't think its impossible, but it would take a few dedicated property owners and a willing city government to start to craft an organic development plan for the area.
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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by dangerboy » Fri Mar 06, 2009 6:33 pm

Redeveloped?  Most of the buildings are occupied.  They may not have the types of uses you want, but they aren't abandoned and blighted.  I'm the implication here is that Cero wants residential... but the city is actively working to maintain this as an industrial and commercial area.  The zoning remains industrial commercial, not residential.  There are ongoing infrastructure projects to support industrial uses, and new industrial projects have been developed there over the last few years. 

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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by aknowledgeableperson » Fri Mar 06, 2009 9:20 pm

dangerboy wrote:The zoning remains industrial commercial, not residential.   


And that is how many of the businesses want to keep it.  Industrial and residental do not mix.

Wasn't a residential conversion proposed in the area a few years ago?  And that was an issue that was brought up.  Of course, south of 12th Street there is does not seem to be such a conflict.  Believe there were some plans to convert an old freight house on Wyoming, north of 16th, to residential a decade or two ago that was killed when the building was damaged by a fire.  But for the area north of 12th there is a huge conflict.
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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by Stockton » Fri Mar 06, 2009 10:12 pm

I think voltopt has the right idea.

The small cluster of historic buildings left should be preserved and streetscaping put in to create a more cohesive feel in the area worth preserving. Maybe try to encourage infill in that small area and residential use. Maybe semi-develop the Kansas riverfront with a trail connecting from the one going into downtown KCK to the Kemper area. I think this is all that can be done for the area. I took in a pretty good gawk of the area the other day and think its industrial use is a good way to keep blue-collar jobs in the mix of the downtown area. Everybody here is always talking diversity~

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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by moderne » Sat Mar 07, 2009 1:10 pm

Could have been redeveloped decades ago.....this is where Charlie Wheeler wanted to stage a World's Fair.

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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by Chazarelli » Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:48 pm

Is there a good source of finding information on the property and spaces available in the area?  I remember stumbling on a space that was for rent there a couple years ago, but I do not remember where I saw it, or how to get back to it. 

I guess the even bigger question would be are there spaces (floors, buildings, areas) that are for sale?  If so what would be the prices related, say for a core and shell space?

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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by staubio » Sun Mar 08, 2009 11:09 am

On the noise, it is worse than any other area in the city because of the number of at-grade crossings. Nowhere else would their need to be so much whistle.

Second, the "city" isn't necessarily working to keep it commercial. In fact, the Greater Downtown Area Plan draft includes language about opening up the Bottoms to residential development. It is mostly the existing tenants that are fighting to preserve it the way it is.

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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by loftguy » Mon Mar 09, 2009 1:03 pm

The WB has a plethora of issues that have kept it from becoming an area of intense redevelopment:
     -Train traffic/whistles as noted by Staubio
    -Heavy industrial zoning.  There are very few places in the city where these types of businesses can operate and even fewer options in the heart of the metro area.
    -Volume of Buildings.  A developer could go in and develop 300 units of housing (size of Market Station going up in the RM, at $45mil) and still not make a dent on the neighborhood.  Those buildings are so massive and numerous they amount to several millions of square feet.  It's going to take a really big developer, or perhaps a consortium of big dogs to have a meaningful impact and to have the ability to fund such an endeavor.
    -Protective Self-Interests.  There are several large property owners in the WB who do not want to see residential come to the area out of fear that the new neighbors will complain about and hinder their operations.  These include industrial users and haunted house operators.
   
The current threat to the future of this historic building stock, besides fire, is the possibility that the state of Missouri will reduce or eliminate tax credits.  The state historic tax credit program and low to moderate housing credits are under fire in the Missouri Senate and there are rural interests that want to end these programs.
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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by DaveKCMO » Mon Mar 09, 2009 1:12 pm

not only are the trains a noise issue, but they're also a safety issue. the way some of the terminal tracks slice through there at an angle would make it almost impossible to guarantee the safety of pedestrians. they'd have to build walls or something.

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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by elextendo » Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:37 pm

Dont forget about the smell closer to I 70, one of the reason I chose not to move .Also the buildings are huge and major renovations need to happen to occupy..you also have some buildings that cross into KS..which could help..Flood of 93 flooded many buildings basements from back pressure not from flowing over the levee..There is potential there just no amenities.
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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by warwickland » Mon Mar 09, 2009 9:52 pm

aknowledgeableperson wrote:And that is how many of the businesses want to keep it.  Industrial and residential do not mix.



Yes and no. I live near a casket factory, but its fairly quiet except when they open the rolling door and a gleaming new vault comes rolling out on the back of a truck. However, I wouldn't want to live next to a refinery (i've seen first hand what happens) or a Procter and Gamble chem plant.

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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by kcdcchef » Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:29 pm

pretty much everything left in the west bottoms ( meaning, the buildings that are left that havent collapsed ) are in use now. there is very little vacant down there anymore, beyond small one story shitty buildings. all of the larger structures down there for the most part are in use, just not all good uses. one building that stands out that is completely open is the stowe building. from what i understand, all of the buildings left have been ruled in excellent condition structurally based on inspections that took place less than 10 years ago after there were three building collapses in two years.

a lot of the buildings down there are being gobbled up by a couple of developers / businesses. take full moon productions, they have 5 of the biggest buildings down there. they have the john deere complex, and use half for the beast haunted house, and the other half for various uses. they have the edge of hell in an old 6 story warehouse, nice looking building tooo, the edgar allen chambers haunted house, ( formerly catacombs haunted house ) on santa fe, the macabre cinema hauted house, another large building on 12th, and then a building that they use for banquets and boxing. further, they own about 4 parking lots down there. then about two other random buildings at the base of 12th street near the bottom of the bridge. then there are two other developers down there that have buildings all along 10th and 11th. and use them for various uses. so like it or not, the bottoms are useful to someone.

but assuming the bottoms were not functioning, which, they are, just not in a way that affects us, the main reason they are not going anywhere, is they are too far down the list. top priorities, xroads, river market, cbd, underdeveloped parts of quality hill, east village, all take priority over the bottoms.

i think really we all feel this urge that we have to control every area of the city, at all times for no reason. if you were to go to the bottoms and ask the property owners, residens, business people, and workers, they would tell you that the bottoms are fine. as is. and that bothers people because they have a hood in their city, that has no use to them, and they would like to be able to use it for dining, shopping, living, etc. and since it is a neat neighborhood, ( shit, my favorite in kc ) 10x neater and more eclectic than the crossroads, best architecture in kc, there is a huge urge to want it to become a redone neighborhood so they can play there.

and remember, the bottoms have a swell grass roots effort going right now anyways. seriously, 15 years ago, there was nothing down there but two haunted houses and heavy industry. now there are several restaurants, a real life gas station ( shit, that is monumental in that area ) various lofts all over the place, banquet space, paintball, new companies, it is coming to life, just slowly. in 1994, there were ZERO ZILCH NADA in terms of people living in the bottoms. if you look up some west bottoms merchant association info, they will tell you there about 150 people living there now. shit, that is huge.
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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by KCMax » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:51 pm

I tend to agree with Chef. I don't see why every area has to be mixed use. This area is physically separated from much of downtown. Seems like its the perfect area to have as an industrial area - which it is. When there are so many other areas that need to be more densely developed, I would think building any kind of residential units in the West Bottoms would rank extremely low on my list of priorities for the city.
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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by ComandanteCero » Tue Mar 10, 2009 7:41 pm

lots of great points made. 

For me the biggest impetus for redeveloping the area would be the preservation of the buildings.  A lot of them aren't being taken care of all that well, and too many have gone down due to stupid/careless fires.  I think if these buildings continue to be used for industrial/storage purposes we'll keep seeing more of them go down over the years until eventually the area will look more like the East Bottoms or the Crossroads (i.e a few grand historic buildings mixed in with shitty light industrial buildings and vacant lots), if not worse.  Multi-story brick warehouses aren't and haven't been the trend for light industrial buildings for decades now.  That's why most new buildings in the area have been sprawling low rise structures.  I have no doubt in my mind that if the existing buildings were turned over to residential/office uses they would be much better taken care of and have a much longer life span than if they continue to be used the way they are.  In terms of impact on industry in the area, I think they can live with it... most multi-modal facilities throughout the region aren't being built in urban areas, they are in fact moving further out precisely because it's more economically advantageous for them to do so.

I think the long term economics are in favor of redeveloping the area towards residential.  I don't see an either/or proposition between the West Bottoms and current areas, because they are going to have different markets.  The River Market and Crossroads have pretty much converted all convertible wharehouse spaces, they are going to have to grow by way of new construction (which will tend to be slower and more expensive than redeveloping buildings).
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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by GRID » Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:44 pm

KCMax wrote:I tend to agree with Chef. I don't see why every area has to be mixed use. This area is physically separated from much of downtown. Seems like its the perfect area to have as an industrial area - which it is. When there are so many other areas that need to be more densely developed, I would think building any kind of residential units in the West Bottoms would rank extremely low on my list of priorities for the city.


ditto.

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Re: Why Can't the West Bottoms Be Redeveloped....?

Post by voltopt » Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:19 pm

DaveKCMO wrote:not only are the trains a noise issue, but they're also a safety issue. the way some of the terminal tracks slice through there at an angle would make it almost impossible to guarantee the safety of pedestrians. they'd have to build walls or something.


I think its impossible to guarantee the safety of pedestrians anywhere.
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