Indianapolis developer pursuing $125 million downtown apartment plan

04/09/2014 5:29 PM

04/10/2014 12:24 PM

An Indianapolis developer with local roots is planning to build three separate downtown apartment projects totaling 661 units in the Quality Hill and West Crossroads areas.

Jim Thomas, a partner with Cityscape Residential who grew up in Raytown, wants to enter the urban market in a big way with an investment in new apartment construction totaling $125 million.

If his development plan rolls out as proposed, it would be almost twice the investment planned by the Cordish Co. in its 25-story, 311-unit apartment tower scheduled to break ground next week at 13th and Walnut streets. It’s also twice the size as the 323-unit Market Station development that opened in the River Market in 2010.

Thomas is seeking a 25-year property tax abatement for the entire development and is scheduled to have his request reviewed Friday by the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.

“Nobody loves Kansas City more than I do,” Thomas said Wednesday. “I’ve tried to do new development in Kansas City over the years, but the opportunities were too small for investment-grade, high-quality developments of interest to institutional investors.”

But now, Thomas said, the planets have aligned for one of the bigger apartment deals in downtown history, particularly involving new construction rather than conversion or renovation.

He has a contract to buy two sites on the west edge of Quality Hill along the bluff overlooking the West Bottoms, and a triangular site in an area called Crossroads West southeast of Interstate 35 and Southwest Boulevard near La Bodega restaurant at 703 Southwest Blvd.

The Crossroads West project calls for a six-story building with 275 luxury apartments. It would be wrapped around a 400-space garage. The project calls for demolition of a vacant Jones Store warehouse at 2311 Jefferson St.

The Quality Hill projects are called Apex on Quality Hill, a 130-unit development between Case Park and the HNTB office building at 715 Kirk Drive, and Summit on Quality Hill, a 256-unit development south of 12th Street straddling Pennsylvania Avenue.

If the tax incentives are approved, construction could begin on all three projects by the end of this year. The smaller Apex project would be completed by the end of 2015, and the larger Summit and Crossroads West projects by mid-2016.

Downtown housing has been a priority for the city and Downtown Council, an organization of property and business owners. The Downtown Council reported about 10,350 people lived downtown last year, and the goal is to double that number.

Thomas said based on the strong demand for downtown housing — the occupancy rate is well in excess of 90 percent — and the quality of the new construction planned, “I’m absolutely, completely, and have total faith the demand is there to absorb that many units.”

Still, he said the difficulties in developing the urban sites will require the tax abatement incentive to make the projects economically viable.

The Crossroads West project is being designed by Helix Architecture Design, and Thomas described the style as “playful.” It would be split evenly between one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The units would range in size from 650 to 800 square feet for a one-bedroom, and 1,000 to 1,300 square feet for a two-bedroom. Monthly rents would range from $950 to $1,200 for one-bedrooms and $1,600 to $1,800 for the twos. Parking would be included.

Amenities would include balconies, a pool, coffee bars, bicycle lockers and a club area. The garage would face I-35 with the apartments oriented toward downtown.

The Quality Hill projects are being designed by NSPJ Architects of Prairie Village. All the buildings in both developments would be four stories with parking on the basement level.

The Apex on Quality Hill project calls for two buildings, and the Summit on Quality Hill project would have five buildings. Monthly rents would range from $1,000 to $1,200 for one-bedroom units, and $1,600 to $1,800 for two bedrooms. Parking is included in the rent.

Over the past 20 years and working with different firms, Thomas estimated he has developed 3,500 luxury apartments in the Kansas City area.

Cityscape Residential also is developing apartments at the Prairiefire development at 135th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park.

Besides Kansas City, the firm has developed apartment projects in Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky.