Whole Foods project advances, with praise


As part of the Whole Foods project at 51st and Oak, the Kansas City Young Matrons clubhouse will move to a new site at 52nd and Cherry.

The city expects developers to get input from neighborhoods, but those efforts can sometimes be lackluster.

VanTrust Real Estate and UMKC on Wednesday got credit for true zeal – given that they did not have to get city or neighborhood approval at all.

Yet they worked for three years to get both in the planned mixed use development that includes a 45,000 square-foot Whole Foods grocery store.

The 2.84 acres south of 51st between Oak Street and Brookside Boulevard is on university land, where such projects do not have to get city approval.

But on Wednesday the council planning and zoning committee, with full neighborhood support, approved zoning and other changes for the project.

The full city council is expected to give final approval today.

Kathleen Arthur, vice president of the Countryside Homes Association, said of the developer, “I think they have set a new standard for community engagement for anyone who wants to develop property in our neighborhood.”

City Councilman John Sharp praised UMKC for dramatically improving relations from past expansions that led to yard signs like “UMKC destroys neighborhoods.”

As part of the project, UMKC will have its student health center in the building.

And it will provide a new site at 52nd and Cherry streets for the Kansas City Young Matrons clubhouse.

VanTrust agreed to pay to move the small 1930s era building to there from its current site in the project area.

Other problems got solved bit by bit. An early proposal to cut into the Trolley Track trail was dropped.

As many parking spaces on 51st street as possible were preserved to serve other area businesses.

The six-story building that includes 170 multi-family apartments will also provide a parking garage for 445 vehicles, far more than would be required.

Councilman Scott Taylor told VanTrust officers, “The issue was whether you can make it work within the neighborhood – you have.”

Thomas McGee, VanTrust vice president of development, said afterwards, “This one took a little effort, but I think it was worthwhile.”

Councilman Ed Ford asked at the meeting what he said citizens kept asking him: When can they shop at the new Whole Foods?

The answer is early 2018.

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