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inthenews

Parkville experiences upscale growth


By JOYCE SMITH
The Kansas City Star

 

64152. It's not 90210, but Parkville's demographics are headed upward.

Median household income is now more than $68,000. At new neighborhoods like the National Golf Club, homes sell for as much as $6 million, as at older developments like Riss Lake. And Platte County now has one of the highest demographics in Missouri, second only to St. Charles County in St. Louis, according to the Mid-America Regional Council.

Those residents want more retail than antique stores and craft shops, and developers have taken note.

In the last couple of years, several new upscale restaurants and retailers have opened in the charming old shops on Main Street, and new buildings have nearly tripled the size of the district. Downtown is now at 100 percent occupancy, compared with just 30 percent a decade ago after a devastating flood.

"Retail follows rooftops, especially affluent rooftops," said Jim Watson, managing director of River North Development and of the new National Golf Club. "Longtime Northland residents didn't seem to mind having minimum services. But new homeowners transferring in from California, Texas and other states were used to living in master plan communities with sports and social centers, stores and restaurants."

Tom Hutsler, president of the Main Street Parkville Association, said Parkville's new retail was propelled by the entire community -- City Hall, businesses and residents.

The Main Street program focuses on four areas: economic development including new businesses; organization/membership; historic renovation; and special events/marketing/promotion.

Economic development. Just a decade ago, Parkville's downtown retail center was struggling. Some operators could not afford to rebuild after the flood, and empty storefronts lined Main Street.

While the waters could not shut down the shopping area completely, they may have caused the change in course from kitschy to upscale. New operators with deeper pockets began restoring buildings and bringing in pricier merchandise.

"It had been known for its antique and craft shops," said Debra Hopkins, president of the Parkville Chamber of Commerce. "Now there's a broader mix. So people will come for one business and take time out to visit other businesses."

Stone Canyon Pizza Co. has seen revenues increase annually since it opened in 1995.

"When we opened, there wasn't anything going on in the downtown area," said Kevin Heaton, owner of Stone Canyon. "Parkville has come a long way. We have a great mix of tenants, quality shops, a lot of good operators, and people with high incomes."

Other restaurateurs took note of Stone Canyon's success. Downtown now boasts such diverse, higher-end operations as Piropos, Cafe des Amis, Cafe Cedar and Yoshiko Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar.

Jennifer Havens, a Parkville resident, wanted to open a global wine boutique near such upscale restaurants, thinking customers would stop by for wine tastings before heading out to dinner. She opened Wines By Jennifer three months ago in a vintage Main Street house, and sales are already better than projected.

While the owners of Piropos invested a large sum to build their high-end Argentine restaurant overlooking downtown Parkville, they waited a year before adding a banquet room.

"I was a little chicken. I wanted to build the restaurant first and see how we did," said Gary Worden, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Cristina. "We did a little better than projected, and for the business to grow we needed to build the addition."

At first only about 25 percent of Piropos' clientele came from the area; most came from south of the river. While customer counts continue to increase, now Northland residents make up about 40 percent of the diners, which number between 4,000 to 4,500 a month.

The new Rio Salon & Spa also is drawing customers from as far as Blue Springs, Lenexa and St. Joseph.

"I've been in the business for 14 years but waited to open a spa until I could afford to do it the right way," said owner Sonia Brown. "A lot of my salon customers had been going south to Johnson County for spa services, and I wanted to be able to compete with those businesses."

Just north of downtown, Parkville Commons Shopping Center is under construction next to the National Golf Club. The 250,000-square-foot retail/office center at Missouri 45 and Missouri 9 will include a 73,000-square-foot McKeever's Price Chopper, which will replace a 10,000-square-foot Apple Market. It also will include upscale restaurants, a drugstore, a card shop and more, including 700 trees in the landscaping.

Organization/membership. The Main Street Parkville Association was formed in 1995 to help spur the development of downtown Parkville. The federally funded historic trust program provides grant money and allows companies to donate funds for tax deductions.

The association also organizes volunteers for special events, promotions, festivals and fund-raisers.

The Parkville Chamber of Commerce, which covers the entire Parkville area, has been inactive for about a decade but is now rallying, in part because of the new downtown retailers. It holds "business after hours" meetings on the third Thursday of the month and quarterly meetings and will soon publish a business directory.

Historic renovation/restoration. Hutsler grew up in the area and came back to help with recovery efforts after the 1993 flood. He has invested heavily in the community, including renovating several older buildings along Main Street and expanding the English Landing Shopping Center.

"Builders and developers have different ideas of what they think is appropriate," Hutsler said. "We give them guidelines so downtown Parkville can keep its old-town charm and beautiful character."

Special events/marketing/promotion. Parkville has four main annual events: Parkville Days Riverfest arts and crafts in late August; Christmas on the River with holiday music and lights, and fireworks in early December; Jazz, Blues & Fine Arts River Jam in June; and Fourth of July celebrations. The events draw between 15,000 to 20,000 people, and some will come back to shop some more.

Still, many of Parkville's business owners also are residents, and they don't want it to lose its small-town sensibilities.

"You can really see the demographics of the whole Northland, particularly Parkville, have increased dramatically," Worden said. "Development is coming up here whether we want it or not. But we need to keep downtown the quaint little village it is and let the development happen around it."

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