Developers say rebirth on Armour could return Midtown to former glory

MAC Property Management, which is involved in redeveloping a number of properties in Midtown along Armour Boulevard, showed this before and after design for the Park Central Apartments in Hyde Park. The developers say they’re refurbishing the historic facades of the buildings, but adding modern interiors. In this case, colorful lights in the kitchens of the apartments will show activity inside to people passing the apartments at night. Photo courtesy MAC Properties.

Posted by Joe Lambe

Midtown once housed about 20 percent of the people in Kansas City compared to 5 percent today, says a developer that is betting millions of dollars that it will pull in a new crowd.

In the 1920s, Downtown workers flocked to live nearby in architecturally embellished apartment buildings that can still work their magic, Peter Cassel of MAC Properties told the Broadway Westport Council on Wednesday.

They allow today’s workers to live near Downtown, Crown Center, Hospital Hill, the Crossroads, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Plaza, said Cassel.

The exterior of Clyde Manor, with terra cotta detailing. Photo courtesy MAC Properties.

MAC works with Antheus Capital, the New Jersey investment company that in the last six years has bought 20 buildings along Armour Boulevard and recently purchased the troubled Ambassador apartments on Broadway.

“We see the Armour corridor matching up with what is going on Broadway,” Cassel said.

Other developers have already renovated the Valentine and the Chatham apartment buildings nearby on Broadway. MAC will begin renovation of the Ambassador after current tenant leases expire, Cassel said, and its almost 200 units will probably be reduced to about 120 larger ones that will rent at market rates.

This map shows the properties under development by MAC Properties along Armour Boulevard. Photo courtesy MAC Properties.

The company has also successfully bought and renovated similar historic properties in Chicago’s Hyde Park.

David Gwinn, director of design for MAC Properties, showed how the company has renovated historic buildings along Armour. MAC has completed 15 of the 20 buildings there.

“People want modern fixtures, they want modern appliances,” he said. A PowerPoint showed granite or quartz countertops accenting stainless steel appliances and walls moved so that kitchens flowed into living areas.

The grand lobby is also restored at the ornate Art Deco building called Clyde Manor at 350 Armour.

Gwinn said their massive investment in the area prompts them to use good materials and methods.

 “We are the neighborhood and that means we are not going to do the wrong thing – we are going to spend the money to do the right thing,” he said.

The interior of Clyde Manor after renovation. Photo courtesy MAC Properties.

Asked about problems with other deficient properties in the area and vacant lots where houses have rotted away or been destroyed, Cassel did not deny the problems.

“We’d like to think we’ve raised the ante,” he said, and other developers and private owners will come in later to make more improvements.

As for the vacant lots, he suggests “using the land as a resource.”

For instance, he said, they recently bought property at Troost and Armour that they are making into a community garden.

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