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Q and A | KSHB 41 talks with Port KC about Berkley Riverfront development

Posted: 4:08 PM, Apr 23, 2024
Updated: 2024-04-23 17:08:18-04
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Monday, KC Current, Palmer Square Capital Management, Marquee Development and Port KC, announced an $800 million, phased mixed-use project that will continue development of Kansas City, Missouri's, riverfront near the recently-opened CPKC Stadium.

After posting the announcement on our website, Facebook and Instagram pages, we started to receive dozens of comments about the project.

Port KC President and CEO Jon Stephens met with KSHB 41 reporter Tod Palmer on Tuesday to walk through the project, the history of riverfront development and what might be next.

The following question and answer has been edited for clarity.

Q: We’ve seen some of the development that’s already sprung up here. With yesterday’s announcement, that’ll be going next to CPKC Stadium?

A: We’re experiencing a ton of great development down here already worth hundreds of millions of dollars. There’s already 1,500 citizens living in Berkley Riverfront, but the next big development is almost 11 acres that will be developed in a master plan over the next decade with our partners at Palmer Square Capital and the Kansas City Current. The announcement that we had recently is the first phase will be kicking off this fall with $200+ million of development just outside of the stadium.

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Q: What’s going to be included in that? Is it going to be mixed use?

A: The first phase will be a really dense walkable kind of neighborhood. It’s new roads, new sidewalks and then a couple of buildings with 400+ apartments. You’ll see six to seven-hundred new citizens and then wrapping around that will be multiple restaurants, shops and retail.

Q: There was mention in yesterday’s release about being local. The restaurants at CPKC Stadium are hyperlocal. Will it be something similar here?

A: As we build the neighborhood on the riverfront from nothing, right after cleaning the land up, Chris and Angie Long and their partners want to share that hyper local feeling from the stadium and bring that focus of local restaurants, shops and partners throughout our riverfront.

Q: The first phase is $200 million, with the total project estimated at $800 million. How long will it take complete?

A: It must all be completed within the next decade, so within 10 years.

Q: What role does Port KC play not only as the lease holder, but also in terms of financing mechanisms to make the project possible?

A: Port KC, as a public agency, as a uniquely Kansas City public agency, were stewards of the riverfront. We are the master developer and make sure that the citizen’s voices are heard. We’ll maintain ownership of all the public space. The park is actually going to grow and be enhanced with the park getting closer to the river. We’ll elevate some of the flooding areas and add some great amenities there. That’s Port KC’s role.

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And then our parternship is really that true public-private partnership with the vast majority of almost all of the development being privately financed. Public dollars really are not coming into it from the perspective of the private development.

Q: So it will be Marquee Development and Palmer Square that will foot the bill for the non-public uses and Port KC does the parks and infrastructure?

A: Marquee and Palmer Square will really be doing almost all of the investing down here, just like they did with the stadium. We’re a partner making sure that the stadium is fulfilling the public purpose of this great stadium and then they bring it to life.

Q: This has been a generational transformation that’s more than just something that was hatched three or four years ago. How has it lined up with your vision so far? What more is beyond? Is there even more beyond this $800 million or is that kind of the cherry on top?

A: Even 15 years ago, this riverfront was empty. It needed to be environmentally remediated, needed to be cleaned up and the park needed to be built. We worked diligently with many partners to bring that piece to life.

The original vision down here was to go ahead and develop the rest of this land to bring it back to be something and people didn’t believe in it. They just didn’t think our river was a valuable place for a neighborhood, but once we got started about six years ago, it just really started accelerating.

With Chris and Angie seeing the vision and the shared vision that Port KC has, it’s really going gangbusters. We’re excited about it. We welcome more than 800,000 visitors to the park every year. We’re extending the KC Streetcar down here. There’s new amenities and experiences. You’re going to see several hundred million dollars more of private investment as we continue to build out this riverfront to make it a neighborhood unlike any other.

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Q: Do you think you’ll start developing south from the current area?

A: There’s another parcel over along Interstate 35 just south of CPKC Stadium. We’re going to see more development there. We continue to see development along the Grand Viaduct where the KC Streetcar will come down from the River Market. And then we continually look to land that really isn’t being developed because it needs environmental cleanup or needs utilities and other things.

We want to continue to connect this riverfront area, bridging the rail, bringing in the KC Streetcar and making it more walkable and bike able. We’re extending the trails to the West Bottoms.

We really want this to be a gathering point for our whole city.

Q: This $200 million phase is slated to be complete by spring 2026 or just before the FIFA 2026 World Cup. It seems like that’s timed for the KC Streetcar extension?

A: The KC Streetcar extension is timed with the rest of the extension. You’re seeing the extension now on Main Street all the way to the University of Missouri - Kansas City.

Q: What does this project mean to you not just professionally, but personally? Can you also talk about the role U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D - Kansas City) has played?

A: For people who have been in Kansas City long enough, you know that before this was Berkley Riverfront, it was a forgotten area. There was a tow lot here. There were abandoned cars. The roof of Kemper Arena was dumped here after it collapsed.

Congressman Cleaver has been integral in bringing federal dollars and the support to just cleaning this up, making it an area that is above the 500-year floodplain and he continues to to reinvest in Kansas City.

It’s taken a partnership of federal, state and local leaders, from mayors to generations of city councils to look at this area and ask, “How can we help and how can we support?”

At Port KC, we believe in partnerships and it’s been an incredible partnership to get to this point. I think Kansas City should celebrate. When you look around, as a Kansas City native, this is better than I could have ever imagined. It’s just an extension of the vibrancy of our downtown.

And really, if the heart of our city isn’t strong, the rest of the whole metro isn’t as strong. We want to make this a destination for everybody.

Q: What about the parking?

A: Parking will be integrated into each building. We have an agreement that all of this temporary parking will be replaced one-for-one as new buildings come along.

The first KC Current match, we had an estimated 4,000 people walk and bike to CPKC Stadium. We want to continue that. We want people to ride the KC Streetcar down here. But of course, people are going to drive.