In late November, the Kansas City Council voted to approve new zoning rules to protect the Brookside business district from large-scale, suburban-style chain store development.
The ordinance restricts retail uses to 10,000 square feet, except for grocery stores, which may be as large as 25,000 square feet, prohibits drive-through restaurants, limits building heights, caps the number of parking spaces allowed, and sets design standards for the neighborhood.
Its purpose is to protect and maintain Brookside’s small-scale, neighborhood-serving businesses and pedestrian nature. The ordinance specifies that auto-dependent businesses that serve a larger geographical area are inappropriate for the district.
“We need to build and sustain healthy neighborhoods,” said Councilman Jim Rowland, who represents Brookside and sponsored the measure. As a result of his efforts, Rowland was appointed the Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick’s Day parade for the Brookside area of Kansas City and was nominated to receive an award from the Historic Kansas City Foundation.
Concern over the future of this historically significant business district began to surface in the early 1990s as rising rents forced out a number of long-time merchants. Then in 1998, much of the district was purchased by an out-of-state real estate developer, Highwoods Properties, Inc., whom residents feared would redevelop the area into a large-scale shopping center.
The evening before the Planning Commission was to vote on the ordinance, more than 300 Brookside residents met at a local church to show their support.
Although the ordinance will keep larger chains out, it does not prevent smaller, more architecturally sensitive chains from locating in Brookside. This is a growing concern to residents, who recently protested the closing of a locally owned gas station that Highwoods planned to replace with a Starbucks coffeeshop.