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River Market booming in ways unseen in decades

Posted: 8:19 PM, Apr 06, 2016
Updated: 2016-04-07 13:52:41Z

The historic River Market district has long held hidden gems for years: the iconic City Market, warehouses-turned-rustic storefronts, ethnic grocers and more.  

Over the past several years, the area has seen a slow wave of new restaurants and shops, but recently the interest in River Market has skyrocketed in numbers unseen for decades. 

"This place is booming. It's really exploding," resident Carli Sash said. 

Construction is everywhere. At least 10 different projects are in the works in the district, which is a small area.  River Market spans north to south from the Missouri River to Independence Avenue, and east to west from Cherry Street to Beardsley Road. 

"They're wanting people to be down here, so they're working really fast and it's crazy to see the changes just week by week," resident Sara Bonner said.

Lots sitting vacant and neglected for years will soon transform into apartments, restaurants, bars and retail space. 

An estimated 1,000 people are expected to move into the area in the next couple years. 

"I think KC is getting reacquainted with River Market and falling in love with it," Justin Cottrell told 41 Action News. He's the property manager for the City Market and also the principal at KC Commercial Realty Group. 

KCCRG is behind one of the projects, Centropolis on Grand at Fifth and Grand Boulevard. It's a higher-end residence option set to open in early May. They did the research, and the demand is there, Cottrell says. 

Ten years ago he had to practically beg tenants to lease at City Market.  Now it's 95 percent leased. He notices lunches are booming, and dinner is becoming more of an outing seven days a week. 

"It's a more complete living experience in the city than the other spaces, just because of all the diversity here," Cottrell said. 

Sash and other residents agree. 

"It's kind of its own little oasis, but still close to downtown," she said. 

"I'm seeing lots of really cool couples down here all the time," Bonner said, "moving down here and enjoying being downtown. It's fun again."

The boom is more than welcomed by Harry Murphy, owner of his namesake Harry's Country Club on Missouri Avenue.  

"It's great to have that sense of vibrancy," Murphy said.

Fourteen years ago, he made a leap of faith and opened the restaurant, mostly because River Market rent was cheaper then and hoped it would take off. 

"It was just vacant, empty.  There was nobody down here," he remembers. 

Harry's is now a neighborhood staple.  

Murphy is again contributing to River Market's growth. His second restaurant, with help from his daughter Kate, will soon move into the historic Brown and Loe building on Walnut, right around the corner.  

The building was a former produce brokerage and bank. Murphy is highlighting its old marble floors and original crown moulding. Brown & Loe will feature higher-end American fare, taking advantage of the farmers' market across the parking lot. 

"We believe in the future down here and we're excited to be a part of that," Murphy said. 

A lot of the interest in the district is coming from the KC Streetcar, housed in and originating from the River Market. It's slated to open to the public May 6. The fourth and last streetcar arrives in Kansas City on Thursday morning and will begin testing. 

Take a look at the upcoming projects, recently completed projects and nearby projects: 

Upcoming projects:

1. 2nd & Delaware - Second and Delaware apartments

2. 501 Grand Blvd - Centropolis on Grand apartments

3. 531 Grand Blvd - apartments and retail 

4. 3rd & Walnut - apartments

5. Berkley Riverfront Park - apartments and office space

6. Vacant lot between Richards & Conover Lofts and Colonial Patterns on 5th - extension of River Market West apartments

7. 429 Walnut Street - Brown & Loe restaurant

8. 5th & Oak - restaurant, bar, and office space

9. 5th & Wyandotte - unknown development

10. 3rd & Grand parking lot - more parking 

Recently completed projects:

  • 228 W. 4th Street - River Market West apartments, opened last fall
  • 3rd & Locust - off-leash dog park

Nearby projects:

  • 401 Charlotte Road - CP Lofts in Columbus Park
  • 600 E. 3rd Street - KC Streetcar Authority main office 

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Sarah Plake can be reached at  Sarah.Plake@KSHB.com

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