No, it was having Swope Community Builders as the master developer. They were unsuccessful in developing the lots that were already owned by the City and Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.
Swope was granted redevelopment rights in 2005, so they have had plenty of time to assemble all the parcels.
There has been a City redevelopment plan for the East Village neighborhood for years--established well before The Union at Berkley was built, and the 19th and Oak plan was announced.
Any land in the East Village can be secured by the City through various agencies. That neighborhood falls under the Eastside Urban Renewal Area. The City has the authority to assemble land for redevelopment purposes, which means making offers to property owners and if they don't sell, the City can take the land using eminent domain--if need be. Much like what was done to assemble all the parcels for the P&L District and Sprint Center.
But the point is that Swope didn't develop parcels already controlled by the City or the LCRA. They didn't even build out the north part of the parcel where the East Village Apartments are now. It's still a surface parking lot, and the original plan had a building there. There is a waiting list for apartments there.
Finally the City allowed VanTrust to come in as co-developer with Swope, but they could never come to an agreement about how to develop the neighborhood. Eventually, Swope was booted and VanTrust became master developer.
In the time since Swope was granted development rights, other private developers have come in and built projects on land the City didn't control. And please don't make me list all of them. Swope had more advantages than many of them seeing that it was developing lots already owned by the City, and already had a SuperTIF district set up for the neighborhood. Swope also had the advantage of having various City agencies available to help them assemble various state and federal financing mechanisms to help fund the developments.
In May 2006, the Kansas City Council approved $38 million in Super TIF for the East Village project, which then called for a 12-block mixed-use urban village anchored by JE Dunn Construction’s new $62 million headquarters, which opened in 2009 at 1001 Locust St.
Keep in mind that Swope didn't develop the J.E. Dunn project. They were their own developer.