Development

Kansas City’s Land Bank sells commercial buildings, vacant land

An historic building on Linwood Boulevard near Gillham Road is one of the few re-usable commercial properties offered for sale through Kansas City’s Land Bank, which owns houses, lots and buildings that have been abandoned or didn’t attract buyers in foreclosure sales.
An historic building on Linwood Boulevard near Gillham Road is one of the few re-usable commercial properties offered for sale through Kansas City’s Land Bank, which owns houses, lots and buildings that have been abandoned or didn’t attract buyers in foreclosure sales. dstafford@kcstar.com

A new Kansas City program that offers to sell 135 dangerously dilapidated houses for $1 each generated thousands of calls from potential buyers. Meanwhile, the city struggles to find interest in 150 commercial properties it also owns.

The “dollar house” program focused on Kansas City’s Land Bank, the entity that becomes the owner of abandoned or foreclosed properties that didn’t nab buyers in sales on the Jackson County courthouse steps.

Only about 25 of the Land Bank’s commercial properties are structures. The rest of its commercially zoned inventory is vacant land. Most of the 25 buildings — some as inconsequential as a crumbling shed — need to be demolished, either by the city or a buyer interested in the land. A mere handful have a remote chance of being rehabilitated.

That’s what makes a building at 3200 Gillham Road is considered the cream of the commercial crop. Real estate broker Forestine Beasley has three serious buyers interested in the historic structure. It has interesting architectural details, big windows and open space in a strong midtown location.

“People love the space,” Beasley said of the 15,000-square-foot, two-story brick and stone building near the corner of Gillham and Linwood Boulevard. “They’re looking at it for retail on the first floor and housing on the second.”

Unlike the dollar houses, commercial properties won’t go for $1. The Land Bank markets commercially zoned buildings and land for a price equal to two-thirds of the county’s assessed fair market value on the property.

The Land Bank’s five commissioners can authorize a lower sale price. And “we can include the cost of repairs as part of the purchase price,” said Ted Anderson, Land Bank executive director. “But the buyers have to bring the property up to code.”

Asking price at 3200 Gillham, also known as the Mahogany Plaza building, is $203,744. It’s in good shape compared to most of the Land Bank’s commercial structures which are abandoned messes.

One of the Land Bank’s crumbling buildings is at 6015 Troost, a place long-time Kansas Citians might recall as the Black Angus restaurant. It closed Dec. 31, 1975, victim of fires, robberies and declining patronage. Now, the building is collapsing in on itself and is solely a demolition candidate.

The city recently stepped up demolition of abandoned eyesores, partly as a crime deterrent and partly to make properties attractive to redevelopers who would rather tackle “brownfield” construction than demolition and hazardous material remediation.

Also needing demolition is the former Manchester Elementary School at 6839 E. Truman Road, closed decades ago by the Kansas City Public Schools. Multiple fires have ravaged the historic building, which had serious structural problems even the 1980s, when students still attended. Open to the elements, slathered with graffiti, it’s merely a sad relic now.

“We have to remediate the environmental issues before we can market it,” Anderson said. “We don’t expect anyone would want to buy it as is.”

The school had been sold to a redeveloper in the past, but after that rehabilitation plan failed and no one else stepped forward to buy it, the building went into the Land Bank. Anderson figures its four acres in the Blue Valley industrial area might attract a buyer after the school is gone.

A possibly attractive commercial building in the Land Bank inventory is a former fast-food restaurant at 1109 E. Bannister Road.

“We just got it in the last tax sale, so don’t know much yet about interest in that property,” Anderson said.

Such reusable structures may be the flashier items in the Land Bank’s commercial inventory, but its vacant land is hardly worthless.

Land Bank commissioners have accepted a bid on 22 acres of undeveloped land at Bannister and Holmes. Anderson said that bid, from the owner of a car dealership who intends to use the south Kansas City property for temporary vehicle storage, isn’t a closed sale yet, so details aren’t being made public.

“When that closes, it will be our biggest win,” Anderson said. “And we think it’s particularly interesting because we saw a mountain lion on that tract.”

Most Land Bank properties don’t come with wildlife sightings, but there’s enough interest in its inventory to generate 30 to 40 purchases a month, almost all residential lots, and often because someone buys vacant property next door to them.

The Land Bank’s most recent commercial sale, in January, was for an automotive repair shop building at 8019 Prospect. It sold for $17,500 cash to a buyer who promised to make $26,000 in repairs.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford

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