A century-old building in Kansas City’s historic Garment District is being redeveloped for more downtown housing.
The four-story brick Butler Brothers building at 804-808 Broadway, now vacant, will become 30 one-bedroom apartments in a project valued at about $5 million.
The units are expected to begin opening this summer at market-rate rents of $1,000 to $1,200 a month, said John Bennett Jr., a member of the Bennett Family Partners development team.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest,” Bennett said this week. “We already have a waiting list of 25 people.”
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The building, sandwiched between two taller structures on Broadway, is one of the few remaining properties not yet redeveloped on that downtown corridor. Built in 1909, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Some downtown boosters have asked whether the building’s first floor might be used for commercial instead of living space, but Bennett said that doesn’t appear to be economically feasible.
Among other first-floor locations that sit empty downtown, Bennett pointed to the recently redeveloped Lucas Place near the Butler Brothers building on Eighth Street. (For more on downtown development, read our interactive.)
“Their ground-level retail is still vacant almost a year after opening,” Bennett said. “It’s a tough market.”
While downtown housing is booming, Bennett said his company’s experience with more than 30 buildings — including Soho Lofts, Freight House Lofts and Library Lofts — has been that retail is far harder to fill. He said they have 98 percent occupancy in more than 500 downtown apartments, but 75 percent occupancy in their downtown commercial space.
He said the first-floor units could be used for home-office businesses. The building will have one parking space for each residential unit, Bennett said, but parking could be difficult for commercial use.
The Butler Brothers project is using $1.6 million in federal and state historic tax credits and a $2.6 million loan from Equity Bank. Its units are being marketed through KC Loft Central.
The building is named after George and Edward Butler, founders of a mail order company in 1877 who in the 1920s began retail operations. In the 1930s, they opened the Ben Franklin Stores and Federated Stores, which were franchised “dime stores,” primarily in small towns, also maintaining wholesale operations to serve the stores.