By Kathy Feist
On September 9th, south Kansas City’s favorite rooftop bar The Well closed.
When it reopens, it will be reincarnated part of a six-story, 280-unit apartment complex towering over the Waldo streetscape at its current location, 7421 Broadway.
It was a year ago when EPC Real Estate Group revealed plans for the Waldo74Broadway project, a mixed use development which encompasses 74th Street to 74th Terrace and Broadway to Wyandotte Street.
Since then, the developers have spent time listening to neighborhood groups’ concerns and tweaking the design a bit.
“There was a lot of discussion in particular about the parking,” recalls Austin Bradley, executive vice president of EPC. “But the focal point was on architecture as a whole, making sure it fits with the Waldo fabric.”
The architects have since given the tall vertical building a more horizontal appearance through the use of color and materials on the west facade. They are still working with a neighbor’s concern about parking availability during peak hours.
When finalized, the Waldo74Broadway project will consist of 15,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, 25 studios, 176 one-bedroom units, 77 two-bedroom units, and a 364-space garage divided for resident and customer parking. A small outdoor courtyard sits in the middle of the development.
The Well will take up more than half of the retail space when it returns to its original street corner.
Chris and Andy Lewellen, who started The Well 14 years ago, think Waldo will fare well from the new development.
“From a business standpoint, [Waldo] needs some density,” Chris says. “We need more citizens in Waldo to support the existing businesses that are there and promote the new businesses to come into the area. I think this is going to help that.”
The Lewellen brothers are passive investors in the $90 million project, having reinvested money from the sale of their properties back into the development. Those properties included several old buildings the two had purchased over the years immediately east of The Well. All will be demolished this winter, including a car wash. Completion of the project is expected by late 2025.
Concurrent with the construction timeline will be the city’s street reconstruction of Wornall Road from 74th to 79th streets. Plans include an extension of the Trolley Track Trail and the creation of an enclosed plaza that will close off Broadway from 75th Street to 74th Terrace replacing it with 14-foot sidewalks, landscaping and greenspace. That project begins early 2024 and is estimated to end 18 months later. The Waldo redevelopment will require patience from those who live there and those passing through.
“Waldo needs a makeover,” says Chris. “The rest of the city has seen some development over the last 20 years. Now it’s our turn.”
The developers partnered with Port KC to receive a 90 percent property tax abatement the first year which decreases incrementally to 25 percent by the 16th through 20th years. As a result of the tax abatement, affordable housing is required: 20 percent of the units within the development will be set aside for households earning 60 percent of the area median income (AMI).
The Lewellyn brothers, who also own Lew’s Bar & Grill and Charlie Hooper’s Bar & Grille, will be taking a financial hit for the next two years while they wait for The Well to open. “It’s like, we’re taking two steps backwards to take 10 steps forward,” he says. “We’re sacrificing along with everybody else for the next two years.”
Once open, The Well “will be the hottest place in town,” says Chris. “Who wouldn’t want to come here to check it out?” The tavern will continue to have a rooftop bar above its northern facade in addition to garage door walls, and a more accessible carry-out and delivery area.
Chris says he and his brother began the process of looking for a developer prior to the pandemic. Housing in the area is a hot ticket due to the accessibility of restaurants, entertainment, shopping and walkability. A 900-sq ft house can sell for over $200,000 in a few days, thanks to demand.
Once the apartment complex is complete, it will forever change the skyline and scope of Waldo. Chris assures that he and his brother and the Waldo community will be proud of the entire project once completed. “I’m just happy to become a small part of it.”