Community divided over apartment complex development plan at 17th and Madison

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Not in my backyard.

That's how some west side residents feel about a plan to level an old warehouse in Kansas City, and use tax dollars to sweeten the developer's deal.

Residents in that blue collar neighborhood say they want new development, but they say they want it done the right way, and without huge tax subsidies.

This old west side warehouse hasn't been actively used in decades. It's where local developer ERC Real Estate says it plans to put a new 48-unit apartment complex. However, some people living near 17th and Madison say the way the developer is going about it isn't fair.

The project developer says it's been close to 100 years since this big building was in good repair.

“[This project] gets rid of a blighted building,” Mike McKeen, principal manager at EPC Real Estate Group, the developer spearheading the apartment project, said.

EPC leaders have asked city planners for a 10-year tax abatement, which would freeze the building's property taxes for a decade.

“It's really a good public private partnership to get the parking off the streets and improve the lights. The alleys are all dirt alleys up there, so improving the alleyways and the sidewalks,” McKeen told FOX 4 News.

“There's people who do have a concern that commercial development will raise the real estate taxes on their property.”

Some west side neighbors say they're concerned this would be the beginning of overpriced housing coming to their doorstep, and they'd have to move.

That includes the owner of the building next door. John Fierro lives on the west side, and serves as the CEO of the Mattie Rhodes Center. The arts center has galleries and classrooms that are just a few feet from the old warehouse.

“When you have senior citizens who are on a fixed income, or individuals who are working class poor who are on a low income aren't going to be able to afford the increased taxes,” Fierro said.

Fierro, who has lived in the west side district, says the tax breaks for ERC Real Estate aren't being applied correctly, because while the warehouse is old, it isn't blighted.

However, other property owners disagree with Fierro. FOX 4 News talked with other business operators in the neighborhood who say the plan is good as it stands, and whatever brings traffic to the west side is good for them.

EPC Real Estate leaders say the new development would take 15 months to complete. Those apartments are on this week's agenda for the city's planning commission meeting. That committee meets every Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.