• Heritage House clears another hurdle

  • Thanks to the Independence City Council’s unanimous passing Monday of a rezoning ordinance, a prospective buyer of Heritage House cleared a hurdle toward renovating the 166-unit senior apartment complex.

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  • Thanks to the Independence City Council’s unanimous passing Monday of a rezoning ordinance, a prospective buyer of Heritage House cleared a hurdle toward renovating the 166-unit senior apartment complex.
    The ordinance amends the zoning classification for 660 N. Spring St., removing the general commercial zoning while keeping the high-density, residential, planned unit development zoning. The lower-level commercial development planned when Heritage House was constructed in the mid-1970s never materialized, making the rezoning necessary to conform to updated zoning codes.
    Center Place Improvement Inc., which is affiliated with the Community of Christ, is slated to sell Heritage House to Maine-based Green JV, a partnership led by Evergreen Partners and Chicago-based Senior Housing Group. The buyer’s proposed multi-million dollar renovation would update many aspects of the interior and include landscape work around the building but would not increase its footprint.
    “We try to address to building systems and modernize the units,” Steven Greenbaum, president of Senior Housing Group, said after the meeting. “We’ve bought a handful of buildings before, look for affordable buildings like this that we can improve.”
    Greenbaum said because the facility is supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, residents would be limited to people who meet government restrictions on income.
    Before the ordinance was passed, several Heritage House residents from the dozens in attendance to support the renovation spoke in glowing terms of their facility and addressed some concerns from an earlier meeting.
    “We live in a nice, respectable senior retirement apartment complex,” Pearl Wiser said. “I believe it’s one of the best in the Independence area. I feel lucky to be living in a historical part of Independence.”
    “I love to live in Heritage House; it’s a close-knit community,” said Gerd Buttgen, whose daughter is Marcie Gragg, the council member in whose district the building sits. Buttgen said keeping access to Heritage House from Ridgeway Street is necessary.
    “It is really imperative that there be two entrances,” he said.
    Judy Lewis Kincheloe said the boarded-up buildings in the area are not caused by Heritage House.
    “This neighborhood is bettered by its presence,” she said, adding that “senior citizens are also a treasure to this city.”
    Sharon Snyder, who along with her husband Brian lives at the nearby Owens-McCoy Home on Farmer Street, again voiced some objection. At the ordinance’s first reading, she was concerned the renovation would continue, if not increase, large vehicular traffic using the adjacent Ridgeway entrance, potentially damaging her historic home due to vibrations.
    “All I’m asking is that the city of Independence and the new developer to provide a new exit to Collage (off Spring Street),” she said.
    “I feel so bad for her and the position she’s in,” Council Member Jim Schultz said before casting his vote, “but I feel a number of solutions have been offered. This is going to be an improvement, not only for neighbors but for the residents.”
    Page 2 of 2 - “These are the elders, and we owe it to them to listen to them.”
    Council Member Eileen Weir said this project will present an opportunity for both sides to be good neighbors, and encouraged future discussion between the parties for the purpose of historical preservation.
    “What I would ask is for the (Heritage House) owner is to restrict traffic on Ridgeway, and even Farmer,” Weir said. “Restrict it to passenger traffic and not allow delivery traffic.
    “We have no idea how privileged we are to have this heritage in Independence. What I think is unique about the Truman Historical District is that people live in it. Our history is real; it’s authentic.”
    Greenbaum said he has met with Snyders and re-iterated what he stated in a letter sent to nearby homeowners about the desire to be a good neighbor.
    “Heritage House has existed for over 30 years and has provided an important resource community,” he said. “Our plan is not to increase the occupancy.
    “We’re always sympathetic to neighborhood concerns.”
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