A proposal to convert the Highland Professional Tower at 6724 Troost Ave. into senior apartments as well as plans to renovate the historic Folgers and Argyle buildings into additional downtown housing were considered Thursday by the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.
By KEVIN COLLISON
The Kansas City Star
The development agency gave final approval to a 15-year property tax abatement that will allow O’Reilly Development of Springfield to move forward with its $35 million plan to redevelop the historic Folgers complex at Seventh and Broadway into 146 market-rate apartments.
O’Reilly plans to begin construction this May on what it’s calling the Roaster’s Block development, with the first units expected to be ready for residents in late summer 2016. The plan calls for the renovation of both buildings in the old Folgers plant complex, which closed in 2012.
The buildings date to 1912. A non-historic mechanical tower between the buildings will be razed and the space will be used as a courtyard for tenants. The mix calls for 11 studio apartments, 101 one-bedroom apartments, 31 two-bedroom units and three three-bedroom apartments. Rents will be $1.42 per square foot.
This is O’Reilly Development’s first project in Kansas City. Patrick O’Reilly, grandson of the co-founder of O’Reilly Automotive, and Denise Mathisen are principals in the development firm.
“This is one of Kansas City’s signature projects, and it is for us too,” O’Reilly said. “We’re extremely excited.”
The developer has hired SWD Architects of Kansas City to design the Roaster’s Block project, and Build LLC of Springfield as contractor. Mathisen estimated that 80 percent of the work will be done by local subcontractors. The property tax abatement granted by the expansion authority for Roaster’s Block is 95 percent for 10 years and 45 percent for five years.
The agency also was briefed on a plan to redevelop the nine-story Highland Professional Tower into market-rate apartments for seniors. The building is 99 percent empty. It was built in 1973 to be a medical office building and is near the former Baptist-Lutheran Medical Center.
The $18 million project is being pursued by Mark and Matthew Ledom. The agency approved declaring the building blighted, the first step toward seeking tax incentives for the redevelopment plan.
Mark Ledom said his plan calls for a senior apartment project that will appeal to empty nesters in the nearby Brookside and Waldo neighborhoods who want to continue living in the area after they sell their homes. Amenities will include an indoor pool, bowling lane, billiards, pub and tennis courts.
“This is not assisted living or a care facility; this is for active seniors 62 or older and will have 11,000 square feet of amenities on the main floor,” Ledom said. “We think this will fit in great with the Brookside and Waldo areas. They don’t have senior housing with resort-style amenities.”
The tower would be renovated into 88 apartments. Plans also call for two additional four-story buildings with 66 units to be built near the Highland Tower on its 4-acre site.
Covered parking with 205 spaces will be available. The average size of a one-bedroom apartment would be 800 square feet; a two-bedroom unit would average 1,200 square feet.
Ledom said he bought the Highland Tower last August. He will be seeking a property tax abatement from the agency, but the amount has not been determined. If successful, construction will begin toward the end of this year or early 2015, with occupancy in fall 2015.
The board also approved transferring the development rights to the Argyle building at 12th and McGee streets to Arghom LLC. Developer Jim Wiss of Arghom bought the 10-story building at the end of December and plans to convert it into a 124-unit apartment building. The estimated project cost is $20 million.
Arghom also has a long-term deal with the city to provide parking for residents in the project in the adjoining Wolf Garage. A skywalk is planned to connect the garage with the Argyle. The building was designed by renowned Kansas City architect Louis S. Curtiss and originally opened as an office building in 1905.
Previous developers had obtained a 25-year property tax abatement for the project. Work is expected to begin this year and be completed within two years.
The agency also took up a fourth development, approving a general plan and blight designation for the 332-acre site of the proposed Oxford on the Blue development in south Kansas City. Whitney Kerr Sr., who is helping James Stowers III assemble the property, said the plan calls for a “high-quality office and research park” to be developed over the next 25 years.
The site of the proposed Oxford development lies north of 87th Street between U.S. 71 and Interstate 435 and borders the Blue River Glade, a county park. It is near the Three Trails office campus planned by Cerner Corp. on the site of the former Bannister Mall, as well as the Hillcrest Golf and Country Club.
Kerr said up to 3 million square feet of buildings could eventually be developed, mostly commercial with some limited multifamily residential. No tenants have been identified. The blight designation clears the way for tax abatements and other development tools, including eminent domain, to be used to develop the project.