Populous, Kansas City’s largest sports architecture firm, is moving from its custom-built offices in the River Market to a new home in the Board of Trade building near the Country Club Plaza.
The firm plans to lease 65,000 square feet in the Board of Trade building at 4800 Main St. The building was bought in January by Mariner Real Estate Management LLC of Leawood. It lost its main tenant last summer when the Chicago Mercantile Exchange halted operations there, ending more than a century of grain trading in Kansas City.
Earl Santee, senior principal at Populous, said Wednesday the firm decided to seek new space after having difficulties negotiating a new lease with its current landlord, Orix, a Dallas real estate investment trust. Its lease expires in fall 2015.
The 93,000-square-foot building occupied by Populous at 300 Wyandotte St. was built specifically for the firm by Opus Northwest in 2006. It has since changed hands to Orix.
The $22 million project was assisted by a 25-year, 100 percent property tax abatement, and the city built the 400-space garage.
“There’s nothing wrong with the building and the River Market,” Santee said. “Our intention was to stay here, but as time went on, it was the difficulty of working with a building owner not from Kansas City.”
Orix officials could not be reached.
Santee said the new space at the 165,714-square-foot Board of Trade building would allow Populous to continue to expand. The company employs 240 people at its Kansas City office and expects that number will reach 280 by the time it moves to the Board of Trade building in fall 2015.
Populous was known as HOK Sport+Venue+Event when it moved into its River Market offices. It renamed itself Populous in 2009. The firm occupies most of the building. The remaining tenants will be the Port Authority of Kansas City and Whiting-Turner construction.
Last year, Building Design & Construction, a national trade publication, ranked Populous No. 1 for sports architecture with $69 million in revenue in 2012.
The firm also has expanded beyond sports architecture in recent years, branching out into convention center design and, most recently, aviation facility design and master planning.
“We were born in Kansas City and we’re committed to stay in Kansas City,” Santee said. “We have aspirations to grow, and that growth is moving forward with a new chapter. … The Plaza is a unique experience that fits with what we’re becoming.”
Ryan Anderson, co-president and head of acquisitions at Mariner, said his firm was delighted to recruit Populous to be its main tenant at the building.
“We’re extremely excited they’re staying in Kansas City and they’re going to be our major tenant,” he said.
The Board of Trade building will be undergoing a renovation valued at more than $10 million that will include a new exterior curtain wall and substantial interior work. Anderson said the building would be 85 percent occupied when Populous occupied its space.
The distinctive “Heartland Harvest” sculpture on the north side of the building will remain in place. The sculpture contains more than 1,000 square feet of pure 48-ounce copper and is illuminated at night. The sculpture was constructed in 1999 by A. Zahner & Co.
The decision by Populous to leave will not affect plans by developer George Birt, who is building the 137-unit River Market West apartment project next door at 228 W. Fourth St. The apartment residents will use parking in the garage at the Populous building.