There was a time, if only brief, that developer Jim Thomas actually contemplated whether to add what has surely become one of the most visible new apartments in downtown Kansas City.
“We were debating,” Thomas said. “Do we do that one?”
Well, he did. Why not?
The five-story Crossroads Westside luxury apartment complex now rising on 4.9 acres just east of Interstate 35 and south of Southwest Boulevard was already slated to have 220 one- and two-bedroom apartments. Adding a 221st, Thomas said, would cost next to nothing.
Whoever lives in corner apartment 345 will have a window in the second bedroom that is no more than 20 feet from the continuous hum of the 91,000 vehicles — some honking or belching fumes — that the Missouri Department of Transportation estimates rip north every 24 hours along that stretch of I-35.
Here’s hoping the renter won’t be shy.
At about 1,100 square feet, the two-bedroom unit (rental price about $1,800 per month) also possesses a south-facing balcony that’s about 30 feet from the highway. It has a perfect view of railroad tracks and a towering billboard.
To Thomas, the question of whether someone will desire to live there isn’t even worth thinking about.
“Do you build this unit? Well, yeah,” said Thomas, 56. “Somebody will love that unit. It’ll be a cool unit.”
To be sure, apartments built hard against elevated railroads and bridges are nothing new to residents of larger cities, such as New York and Chicago.
Thomas, a 1979 graduate of Raytown South High School who went on to get both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, lived on Beacon Street in Boston for 10 years. The city’s subway line, known as “The T,” clattered along directly in front of his apartment.
“I tell you, you think it’s going to be something” undesirable, he said of apartment 345. “It’s not.”
With hardhat on, the founder and principal partner of Indianapolis-based Cityscape Residential walked through the complex, which is scheduled to be finished in October and still is in the rough framing stage.
The unit’s windows are made of thick, sound-dampening glass. When the walls inside apartment 345 and others are done, the sound will be muffled even more, he said, by at least a foot of combined insulation, wall board and inside brick.
Not everyone would want to live in the apartment, Thomas figured, but in the course of his career, he’s found that it’s foolish to predict what will rent and what won’t.
“I hate to talk about other people’s deals,” Thomas said. “But I thought, are they crazy? … There was one whole community: I thought this thing would never lease. It was in a terrible location. But it leased up fine. It was all med school students who didn’t care. They didn’t care because they were never there, and they needed a place to stay, and it was cheaper or whatever.”
Thomas’ company has three luxury apartment developments rising inside Kansas City’s downtown area. The others are the 252-unit Summit on Quality Hill and the 138-unit Apex on Quality Hill, just south and north respectively of the HNTB corporate headquarters at 715 Kirk Drive, near 12th Street. The Crossroads project expects to begin pre-rental in the next 30 days.
Whoever rents 345 may get traffic as a neighbor, but the tenant also will get stainless-steel appliances and high-end countertops. The development will have a bicycle washing and storage area, a dog spa, an exercise room and two outdoor courtyards, one with a pool and the other designed as an art park.
If that’s not enough, 345’s tenant might also get a break on the rent.
“I think people will think it’s either fun,” Thomas said, “or they’ll rent for 75 bucks less and say, ‘Hey, whatever.’ ”