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Gentrification fears raised at downtown Royals ballpark forum

In the first public forum to gauge public feelings on a new downtown Royals ballpark, new details on the project were shared, as some Kansas City residents expressed fear that the multiuse project would lead to gentrification.

Gentrification is one of those terms that’s seen as a bug by some and a feature by others, depending on your point of view. The point of development for many is indeed gentrification (though they’d be loathe to describe it that way): physical improvements designed to lead to financial gains and increased property values. The fear, of course, is that a high-end multiuse development would benefit only the well-off and negatively impact those of more modest means.

So it’s no surprise that KC Tenants represented a group of the 300 or so residents appearing at last night’s downtown Royals ballpark forum. The renters association has already come out against the new ballpark development, according to KCUR, arguing that it will do little to address the lack of Kansas City affordable housing. “As landlords raise rents across the city and as our people struggle to find decent homes, the proposed downtown stadium would usher in a new wave of gentrification, like it has in so many other cities with similar recent projects,” according to a KC Tenants statement.

Last night’s forum gave Royals Chairman and CEO John Sherman a chance to address those concerns and dive into more depth regarding the team’s plans, per KCUR:

The Royals directly addressed the potential of displacement of residences and businesses often through the night by saying that it’s not their intention to do so.

“They said ‘affordable housing’ 22 times when I was counting,” Ashley Johnson of KC Tenants said at an informal meeting outside Plexpod afterward. Johnson said she wanted the Royals to be more clear on how they defined “affordable.”

Royals Chief Operating Officer Brooks Sherman (no relation to the Royals’ chairman), said there are 14 sites under consideration, but didn’t disclose a timetable on narrowing it down to a final site.

The Royals are proposing a new downtown Kansas City development featuring a billion-dollar new ballpark and another billion spent on a multiuse development featuring housing, retail and Class A office space. Also covered last night: explanations by Populous’s Earl Santee and Sarah Dempster as to why the numbers made sense to pursue a new ballpark vs. a Kauffman Stadium renovation. The bottom line is that it would take longer and be slightly more expensive to renovate the K to modern ballpark standards than build a new ballpark, per the Kansas City Star:

Sarah Dempster, a principal at Populous, said it will cost as much to upgrade and renovate Kauffman ($1 billion) as it would to build a new ballpark.

The Royals also showed a slide that estimated a $1.072 billion cost to renovate Kauffman Stadium, compared to a $1.005 billion cost for a new stadium. The slide also said it would take at least two years longer for renovations.

Earl Santee, global chair and founder of Populous, said 70 percent of Kauffman Stadium would have to be replaced, including the entire lower bowl, if it remains the home of the Royals for the next 50 years….

Santee said a new stadium would seat around 38,000, with 34,000-35,000 permanent seats plus standing room capacity of 3,500. Santee also said the Royals would need around 10,000-11,000 parking spaces, while noting downtown currently has around 55,000 existing spaces.

Rendering courtesy Kansas City Royals.

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