A majority of Cerner Corp. workers interested in the new office campus under construction in south Kansas City would like to be able to buy gasoline, groceries and restaurant meals nearby, but there’s less indication they’d move to live nearer their jobs.
The South Kansas City Alliance — eager to prompt commercial and residential development around the planned 290-acre Cerner campus at Interstate 435 and 87th Street — last fall began a survey to find out what future workers there would like to see.
The alliance on Tuesday shared survey results with dozens of area developers, real estate agents and business owners, hoping to provide guideposts for location decisions.
The influx of Cerner workers will add a strong dose of buying power to south Kansas City. The survey report noted that the average Cerner salary was $97,156, according to an application filed with the Tax Increment Financing Commission. The median income in the surrounding community was $43,559.
“We hope to attract people who want to invest in our community,” said Stacey Johnson-Cosby, who organized the survey for the alliance, a nonprofit volunteer group.
About 250 people were at the meeting, including south Kansas City residents who are pinning hopes on revitalization of their neighborhoods to provide more basic shopping services.
One graphic showed that among 31 types of retail and restaurant establishments in the area around the new campus, only one — liquor stores — was plentiful enough to provide competition for dollars spent in the area.
About 3,500 workers are expected to move into the two newest office towers in early 2017. In 10 years, the company projects that 16,000 people will work at the location in 4.7 million square feet of new office space.
The office campus for the North Kansas City-based health care technology company is being built on the site of the razed Bannister Mall and other commercial locations between 87th and 95th streets. The new development has been called the “Trails” campus.
With Cerner’s permission, the alliance polled about 2,700 Cerner employees and got responses from more than 600, a response rate of 23 percent. There’s no guarantee the respondents were employees who might actually work at the new campus, but the survey was designed to get a sense of housing and retail opinions from people employed at the company.
The responses indicated that about nine in 10 of those Cerner workers would patronize nearby gas stations, food markets and sit-down restaurants; about six in 10 said they would visit convenience stores, medical offices, drugstores or fast-food restaurants; and about half would be interested in buying clothing or accessories near their work.
The survey’s residential-oriented questions revealed that two-thirds of the Cerner employees are 35 years old or younger, whereas only one-fifth of the surrounding population in south Kansas City is between 20 and 34 years old.
The relatively young Cerner workers indicated strong preference for homes that are 10 years old or less. Only 3 percent of homes in the surrounding community have been built since 2000. Three-fourths of the respondents said they preferred single-family homes. But half also said they would prefer maintenance-free living.
“There’s not any of that in this marketplace now,” noted Kellie Johnston-Dorsey, a lead planner with the city of Kansas City, suggesting a development opportunity for multifamily and townhome builders.
Among those who preferred to own houses, most wanted homes costing $200,000 and up. Derek Ramsay, vice president of the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors, said only 6 percent of houses sold in the area in the last 10 years cost that much or more.
“Builders and Realtors all have their own ways to analyze the market,” Ramsay said, “but this survey presents what the influx of employees may want beyond the campus.”
Austin Bradley, a project manager with EPC Real Estate Group, said developers recognize the opportunity that development in south Kansas City presents. He particularly noted that “there’s nothing housing-wise that a bunch of high-paid employees might want.”
Seventy percent of the Cerner respondents indicated they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to move within five years. Nothing in the survey, though, asked about a specific desire to move near the new campus.
A majority of the workers said they’d worked at Cerner for five years or less. The youngest and newest workers were particularly likely to favor renting. If they choose to rent in the south Kansas City area, two-thirds of the Cerner respondents said they would expect to pay monthly rents between $650 and $999.
Nearly all respondents said they currently drive to their workplace, but about one-fourth expressed a preference for biking, walking or using public transportation, and six in 10 said they’d likely use public transportation more often if it was available and convenient.
Asked to rank their highest priorities when deciding where to live, the workers who responded said safety, 91 percent; housing or rental costs, 71 percent; characteristics of the house itself, 71 percent; quality of public schools, 61 percent; proximity of green space, 55 percent; and proximity of shopping or entertainment, 50 percent.
Half of the respondents said they have school-age children.