Bannister Federal Complex in south Kansas City will be razed in 2016

The massive Bannister Federal Complex, which opened in World War II to make warplane engines and stayed busy through the Cold War and after supplying nuclear weapons parts, will be demolished beginning in 2016.

CenterPoint Properties, the Chicago area firm working with the National Nuclear Security Administration to redevelop the 5.1 million-square-foot complex on Bannister Road in south Kansas City, plans to raze all the buildings and clean up the property at an estimated cost of $175 million.

Redevelopment plans for the cleared property aren’t final yet.

The nuclear security agency is transferring the property to CenterPoint after its last occupants, Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies and the federal General Services Administration, are completely out in late 2015.

The Honeywell nuclear weapons parts operation, which is relocating to a new campus at Missouri 150 and Botts Road, takes up about 60 percent of the Bannister complex. Most of the remaining 40 percent is occupied by the GSA.

In a related development, a U.S. Department of Agriculture operation now at the Bannister complex has signed a lease to relocate to a facility to be built by CenterPoint at the former Richards-Gebaur Airport.

The 300,000-square-foot building will be the first new construction in what is now called the CenterPoint-Kansas City Southern Intermodal Center. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will occupy one-third of the space in the $12 million project, which is expected to be completed in September 2014.

When CenterPoint finally razes the old Bannister complex, it will be the last step in a gradual decommissioning of the old World War II stalwart. The end of the complex began when the Internal Revenue Service moved its processing center out in 2006, followed by the National Archives in 2009 and now the USDA.

Mayor Sly James on Wednesday praised the decision to raze the complex.

“The Bannister Federal Complex was an asset to this community for decades, and I’m confident that CenterPoint will transform the site into an asset for future generations,” he said. “There is a tremendous amount of opportunity for the site, so this isn’t a time to look back. It’s a time to look forward.”

By late 2017, when CenterPoint expects to complete its demolition and cleanup, all that will remain of the original Bannister complex will be a separate building at 2306 E. Bannister Road. That building will continue to house the 400-employee Marine Corps information technology center.

The Bannister Federal Complex opened in 1943 to make Pratt & Whitney propeller engines for the Navy Corsair and the Army Thunderbolt fighters. In recent years, its major task has been extending the life of the W76 warhead mounted on the Navy’s Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Jim Cross, project manager for CenterPoint, said his firm decided the complex could not be reused because of its obsolescence and poor condition. He said demolishing the property, cleaning up the environmental problems and having a clean slate for redevelopment was the best option.

“From the 1940s until now, how many tens of thousands of families has this facility supported?” Cross noted. “This building has been invaluable to our country, city and state. It’s done a great job.

“Now we need to repurpose it to bring back viable jobs to the community.”

The old plant and its 300-acre site have significant environmental problems. Its soil is contaminated with chlorinated solvents, petroleum hydrocarbons and PCBs, and beryllium, according to a federal report prepared last year for prospective developers.

But CenterPoint officials believe the contamination issues are manageable.

“This is an everyday, ordinary, 1940s heavy-manufacturing facility,” Cross said. “It’s stuff you see with other heavy-manufacturing facilities of that nature, your typical chemicals and industrial waste.

“The government has done a great job. On top of that, we’ll sample and test once the buildings are gone.”

Honeywell is relocating the nuclear weapons parts operation from Bannister to a new facility at Missouri 150 and Botts Road called the National Security Campus. The GSA is relocating its 1,000 employees to a downtown location that’s expected to be announced Dec. 11.

The GSA workers are expected to be in their new home downtown by late 2014, and the nuclear security agency expects to be completely out of the building by late 2015.

If all goes according to plan, CenterPoint will take possession of the facility and begin demolition by early 2016. Demolition and cleanup will take about 18 months, and the property is expected to be ready for redevelopment in mid to late 2017.

How the property could eventually be reused has not been determined. CenterPoint officials say it could be a mix of commercial and industrial uses. The only use not expected is residential. A proposed master plan for redevelopment is in the early stage of being established by the city.

CenterPoint has emerged as a major developer in Kansas City since purchasing the former Richards-Gebaur property in 2005 with plans to make it a distribution hub. It was chosen in 2009 to develop the National Security Campus, and last year the nuclear security agency chose it to be its planning partner for the Bannister Federal Complex.

There are still several steps necessary before CenterPoint takes possession of the property. The nuclear security agency and GSA are negotiating to arrange for a joint transfer of the building, and the state of Missouri must approve and monitor the environmental cleanup required.

If the deal proceeds as expected, CenterPoint will receive the federal contract, estimated at $175 million, to tear down, remediate and prepare the site for development.

It also will own what it expects will be desirable real estate only a couple of miles from the new Cerner office complex planned for the former Bannister Mall property.

“We’ll ultimately wind up with a piece of land we can develop in the future,” said CenterPoint attorney Kevin Breslin.

“Our ultimate goal is to have a piece of property that’s been improved by the elimination of an antiquated structure and cleaned up environmentally.”

Kansas City Councilman John Sharp said CenterPoint’s decision to demolish and redevelop the site is a relief to people in the area.

“The fear of all of us was the federal government would just walk away from this facility and it would just sit there deteriorating,” Sharp said.

“Having a firm announcement that these buildings will be demolished in a timely manner and the contamination cleaned up is great news for south Kansas City.”