Protect KC's trolley trail in Whole Foods project
The Kansas City Star
It sounds like an appetizing project: Open a Whole Foods Market and 150 apartments on land just west of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Neighborhood residents get a trendy grocery store, students and faculty have more housing options, and UMKC acquires some new office space.
Done deal, right?
Not exactly. Four months after the development south of 51st Street between Oak Street and Brookside Boulevard was announced, no application for building it has been filed at City Hall.
Rumors have spread that the project has collapsed, just like plans did recently to build another grocery in Waldo. In that case, officials had discussed tearing down the long-vacant Bingham Middle School at 7618 Wyandotte St. and building a new Hen House Market.
However, a spokesman for UMKC — which owns the land needed for the Whole Foods development — said Monday that “the deal is still on.” City Council member Jan Marcason said through a spokeswoman that’s also her understanding.
This has become yet another illustration of how time-consuming it can be to deal with not just city officials but also neighborhood residents and other groups to redevelop urban parts of Kansas City.
The concerns on the proposed Whole Foods site are traffic-related, such as how vehicles could enter and exit on 51st Street, and whether a new stop light might be needed on Brookside.
Also, bicyclists, runners and other users of the popular Trolley Track Trail have decried the possibility that a new driveway could be built across the trail to link up with Brookside Boulevard.
Their concerns are valid: Allowing more traffic to cross the trail could endanger users. There should be a way to avoid building a new driveway, especially given the property’s access to 51st Street and to Oak Street.
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority owns the trail and appropriately limits the number of traffic crossings on it. An ATA-affiliated committee met Oct. 2 to hear about the Whole Foods project and was told the developer was still doing traffic studies for it.
This project has merit. It would replace a surface parking lot and older buildings with new housing, office space and a well-known grocer. While these deals can take time to work out, they deserve scrutiny, too. Done properly, they can be catalysts for stronger neighborhoods in Kansas City.