Commerce Tower in downtown KC is becoming a ‘vertical neighborhood’

A year from now, a person could wake up, buy breakfast, take a child to daycare, work out, go to a dog park, do a bit of banking business, sit down at an office desk and take an evening college class — all without ever leaving a single building.

Such is the “vertical neighborhood” under construction at 911 Main St. in downtown Kansas City.

When completed next August, the 31-story Commerce Tower will hold 342 residential units on its upper floors plus a restaurant, fitness facilities, co-working office spaces, a bank, a satellite university facility, an early childhood center and even an indoor dog park on its lower floors.

The sounds of nail guns and power saws still are reverberating as work continues in the 1965-era office tower on the $139 million conversion, which aims for completion in August 2017. There isn’t even a model apartment ready yet.

But developers Commerce Tower Group LLC/Revive Capital Development LLC and building managers EPC Real Estate Group have set up a welcome center in the next-door Commerce Bank arcade, where people can see the appliances, fixtures and finishings that will go in the apartments.

Without an official pre-lease announcement, the tower already has 30 signups. It’s a long way to go to fill the apartments, but in a tour of the work under way, co-owner Michael Knight expressed unreserved confidence.

“This is truly a vertical neighborhood,” he said. “It will be the sense of community that automatically sets us apart.”

Commerce Tower will be competing for tenants with at least 3,000 new apartment units announced or under construction in the city’s core, which stretches from the River Market, through the Crossroads Arts District south to the Crown Center/Union Hill neighborhoods.

Knight believes the streetcar stop immediately in front of Commerce Tower will add to its appeal. He envisions an increasingly car-less community relying on public transportation, biking and walking to reach necessities and amenities. Plans call for a designated bicycle storage space on every tenant floor.

“The demographic of renters is changing,” noted EPC president Mike McKeen. “We’re seeing more renters by choice, those who are pursuing a lifestyle, who don’t feel like the American dream is owning a home.”

The development team also thinks the tower’s new LEED Gold Certified status will appeal to renters who care about the environment or simply want to pare their utility bills. Knight estimated that utility costs to tenants will be 20 or 30 percent lower than for comparably sized units without the energy efficiency of the remodeled structure.

Units are planned to rent from $695 to $3,295, depending on size — studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom or penthouse — ranging from 427 square feet to 1,614 square feet. One parking space per unit is built into the rental cost as are utilities except electricity.

The first 79 units are expected to be ready for occupancy Feb. 1, with floor-by-floor completions working from the top down.

The revamped building also will offer smart-key entry and thermostats that allow tenants to remotely control utilities.

Ryan Companies is the general contractor and architect of record on the project. Other affiliated architects and contractors include BNIM, Hoefer Wysocki, JE Dunn, Land 3, and Ron Reid Associates.

Other principals in the development group include Roy Carver, Bryce Henderson and Bob Berkebile.

Rental information is available by calling the leasing office at 816-221-0400.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford