O’Reilly Development brews $30 million rehab plan for historic Folgers buildings

O’Reilly Development, which is taking over the Folgers apartment project, may be fresh to downtown Kansas City, but it has a long resume doing historic redevelopment elsewhere.

“The company is new, but our experience comes with us,” said Denise Mathisen, director of operations and development for the Springfield-based firm. “I’ve done historic renovation projects throughout the state of Missouri for the past 15 years.

“Folgers is the largest one, but the process is the same.”

Last month O’Reilly Development bought the two-building Folgers complex at Seventh Street and Broadway, replacing Alexander Co. of Madison, Wis., as developer. Folgers stopped making coffee there last year. The buildings date back to 1912.

Alexander redeveloped the historic U.S. Courthouse and Professional Buildings, both on Grand Boulevard, into apartments, but it failed to get the necessary affordable housing tax credits from the state in January to do the Folgers project.

Mathisen and Patrick O’Reilly, grandson of the co-founder of O’Reilly Automotive, are the principals in the development firm. O’Reilly lives in Kansas City, and Mathisen said both were eager to get into the downtown market here.

“It’s absolutely a done deal,” she said.

As opposed to the Alexander plan, which called for a mix of 167 affordable and market-rate apartments, the $30 million-plus O’Reilly plan will renovate Folgers into 151 units, all market-rate.

“We believe the (market-rate) market has been underserved,” she said. “There’s a priority in the city to get more high-end rental. Tons of studies show the vacancies are low and demand is there.”

Mathisen estimated she has developed historic properties totaling 1,000 apartments throughout Missouri, from Hannibal to St. Joseph, Joplin and Springfield. The closest project was the redevelopment of the historic Oaks Hotel in Excelsior Springs into 40 apartments in 2007.

Her most intriguing endeavor before Folgers was the redevelopment of the historic Frisco Building in downtown Joplin. The nine-story building was completed in 1913 for the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad but had long been vacant.

“It was a white elephant in downtown Joplin and a detriment to economic growth,” Mathisen said. “The city worked with us in the acquisition and development of that, and it was a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Joplin.”

The Frisco project restored the grand lobby and created 56 apartments on the upper floors.

O’Reilly is planning a first-rate redevelopment for the Folgers buildings. Besides creating 151 loft-style apartments with great views, Mathisen said, an old, non-historic mechanical tower will be razed, and a courtyard will be created between the two with a swimming pool, barbecue grills and landscaping.

“We want to preserve as much as we can so you can get a flavor of what the buildings were with the conveniences of new construction,” she said.

The 151 units will be a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units with monthly rents starting at $775 and reaching up to $2,450. The architect is SWD Architects of Kansas City. The general contractor is Build LLC of Springfield. The building will be managed by Block Property Management.

Construction is expected to begin in January, with completion scheduled for mid-2015.

“This is just the beginning of our entry into the market,” Mathisen said. “Our goal is to complete the Folgers, succeed and have other opportunities waiting for us downtown.”