March 14, 2014

Cordish will break ground April 14 for a downtown Kansas City apartment tower

One Light, the first new residential tower built downtown since the 32-story San Francisco building opened in Crown Center in 1976, was first announced 11/2 years ago, but Cordish officials said design tweaks to the 315-unit building delayed its construction start. If the 25-story apartment project at 13th and Walnut is a success, Cordish plans to build three more high-rises.

The Cordish Co. plans to break ground on a 25-story apartment project at 13th and Walnut streets on April 14 and wants to eventually add three similar residential towers to the downtown Power Light District.

One Light, the first new residential tower built downtown since the 32-story San Francisco building opened in Crown Center in 1976, was first announced 11/2 years ago, but Cordish officials said design tweaks to the 315-unit building delayed its construction start.

“There are some nice apartment buildings in Kansas City, but no built-from-scratch, floor-to-ceiling glass high-rise,” said Nick Benjamin, executive director of the Kansas City Power Light District. “I think people will be impressed.”

Cordish is co-developing the project with Kushner Cos., a New York real estate firm.

The $79.2 million project is receiving substantial help from the city, a $7.5 million cash subsidy. In addition, Cordish will receive a 25-year, 100 percent property tax abatement for the project valued at $2.87 million.

The incentives are viewed as an investment that would spur higher downtown rents and prompt additional new construction. Most apartments created downtown in recent years have been in old commercial buildings converted to housing with the help of historic tax credits.

Residents at the tower, expected to be completed by late 2015, will enjoy amenities that include free membership to a large fitness center next door, basic Google Fiber, access to a rooftop park and, if desired, groceries delivered to their door from the adjoining Cosentino’s Downtown Market.

But all that will come at a price.

The project, with more details at

, will push the downtown rent envelope to $1.60 to $1.70 per square foot, with studios ranging from $950 a month and two-bedroom units up to $1,800. Top rents currently range from about $1.40 to $1.55 per square foot.

Still, real estate observers expect the Cordish tower to do well.

“It’s going to be our only new construction with a location and amenities we haven’t had in a long time,” said Christina Boveri, a broker who specializes in the downtown market. “I don’t think they’ll have any issues filling up that building.”

And if Cordish is successful with its first tower, the developer of the Power Light District plans to build three more high-rises on lots now used for parking along Truman Road between Grand Boulevard and Baltimore Avenue.

The firm envisions the buildings would range from 15 to 20 stories with 250 to 300 apartments each. The conceptual timetable would have the additional buildings rolling out every 11/2 to 2 years, depending on the market demand.

If the company completes all the projects as planned, it will add 1,200 new apartments to the downtown market by about 2020.

“This groundbreaking is a big deal for our downtown,” Mayor Sly James said.

“The opening of this residential project, combined with the launch of the streetcar starter line, will make the next couple of years a pivotal moment for downtown Kansas City.”

The One Light tower, in various forms, has been in the works since Cordish began planning the entertainment district 10 years ago. The corner of 13th and Walnut, now a parking lot, always had been slated for a residential tower, but it was originally conceived as a condo development.

Preliminary foundation work has been completed and the construction timetable calls for the first steel to be erected by this summer. J.E. Dunn Construction Co. is the contractor. A model leasing unit on the project’s fourth floor is expected to be ready a year from now.

“We believe it will be a rate leader in how much can be charged per square foot,” said Sean O’Byrne, vice president of business development for the Downtown Council. “We hope it shows the way for other national and local developers to do this.”

The One Light tower also will be able to offer balconies, an amenity generally unavailable in historic preservation projects. About one-third of the units will have balconies, and residents of the entire building will have access to a rooftop park atop the adjoining garage where the Jones Pool club is located.

The Jones Pool will be closed this summer because of the construction and is expected to reopen Memorial Day weekend 2015. Benjamin said improvements also have been planned for the club.

Other amenities will include free membership in a 33,000-square-foot Onelife Fitness center scheduled to open this summer.

The apartment tower, which was designed by Humphreys Partners Architects of Dallas, will feature a 28-foot-tall lobby with a gas fireplace decorated with local art.

The fourth-floor club room level, which will open onto the Jones Pool and rooftop park, will be a 2,500-square-foot area with two large-screen televisions, a see-through fireplace, a wine display wall and a demonstration kitchen.

The penthouse level will have 10 larger two-bedroom units. The lower floors will have 14 units on each floor. There will be 580-square-foot studios, 750-square-foot one-bedroom units, 820-square-foot one-bedroom units with dens and 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom units.

There will be up to 432 parking spaces available in the adjoining garage, with no more than two per unit and a minimum of one. There will be an additional charge per space.

Benjamin said Cordish believes the target market will be 25- to 40-year-old professionals and empty nesters. He added that developing more residential capacity in the Power Light District is critical to the area’s long-term future.

The eight-block retail, restaurant and bar project, which began in 2007, failed to meet its financial projections and has required substantial city subsidies, $13.9 million this year alone, although the city recently refinance debt to lower its payments.

“This project will add 450 people to the perimeter of the district on the same block as a grocery store,” Benjamin said. “We also expect it to be the catalyst for the district and set the stage for buildings two, three and four.”

Cordish also plans to renovate the historic Midland office building at 13th and Baltimore into 68 apartments, but that project is not expected to begin until early next year.

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