B.A. Karbank & Co’s new home honors a real estate great

What was once a bland, mid-1960s office building on the prominent hillside where Shawnee Mission Parkway crosses State Line Road into Kansas is being transformed into a living memorial to the founder of B.A. Karbank & Co.

Though the coming departure of B.A. Karbank and its 140 employees is a loss to downtown Kansas City, at least it’s not another example of the predatory border poaching that’s been occurring lately in the metropolitan area.

Steve Karbank, chairman of the real estate brokerage firm, said the complete overhaul and expansion of the building in tiny Mission Woods (pop. 180) at 2000 Shawnee Mission Parkway is being done on its own dime without any incentives. He declined to disclose the value of the project.

It’s a labor of love dedicated to the memory of his father, Barney Karbank, who died in 2005.

“When we first bought the building, we liked the location and thought it had more potential,” the son said.

“We decided to make it our offices and name it the Barney after my father. We did so based on the strong legacy he left for his company and the high quality of his work.”

Barney Karbank was one of the legends of Kansas City real estate. He was the son of a fish-market operator, and a childhood bout of polio forced him to use a cane all his life. He started out as an unpaid clerk in 1946, before ultimately starting his own real estate brokerage firm in 1950 at the age of 26.

During his long career, he developed more than 100 properties in the area, mostly warehouses and plants he rented to other companies. At the time of his death, B.A. Karbank controlled more than 5 million square feet of industrial and commercial space in the area, as well as buildings in other cities.

The three-story building that once housed the offices of Reece & Nichols was bought last fall by B.A. Karbank. The 36,000-square- foot building was completed in 1967. It took several months before all the leases expired and the building was emptied before construction could begin in April.

The building has been gutted and stripped to the basic frame. The plan calls for entirely new exterior and interior mechanical systems to be built along with an additional floor, expanding it to 39,000 square feet. The amount of parking also will be doubled to 150 spaces.

“We bought it because we thought it was a good piece of real estate, and the more we looked at it, the more intrigued we were,” Karbank said.

The company is in the One Kansas City Place tower at 1200 Main St.

Though moving a firm and its jobs from Missouri would qualify B.A. Karbank for the Kansas PEAK program, which allows companies to keep 95 percent of their employee state income tax for up to seven years, and renovating the building would probably qualify it for other incentives, that’s not in the cards.

“Our feeling is that we don’t need incentives to move to the state of Kansas,” Karbank said. “The folks at Mission Woods have been very welcoming. If after 63 years, we haven’t figured out a way to run our business without special incentives, something is wrong.”

The project is expected to be completed by late fall. B.A. Karbank will occupy one floor, and tenants are being sought for the rest.