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Economy

With No Tenants Lined Up, Developers Pitch A New Office Tower In Downtown Kansas City

Strata-3.jpg
BNIM and HOK
The proposed 25-story Strata project would be located on Block 124, immediately west of the H&R Block headquarters.

A 25-story tower that would be the first multi-tenant, premium office building built downtown since 1991 is being proposed for the block southwest of 13th and Main in the Power & Light District.

The $132 million project, called Strata, would be located on what’s called Block 124 and would be built above an existing retail structure, which includes The Yard House restaurant and Joseph A. Bank clothing store.

The speculative project is intended to help downtown Kansas City respond quickly to potential new office tenants. Last summer, Starbucks decided not to locate a 1,000-employee operation downtown because of the lack of readily available new office space.

“The Class A market is fairly small and tight,” developer Jon Copaken told a meeting of the Port KC board. “There hasn’t been a new multi-tenant building since 1201 Walnut in 1991.

Strata-1_0.jpg
BNIM and HOK

“We’re here because the city is recognizing jobs are being lost…We think the time is right to put this project together.”

Port KC is being asked to finance a 750-space garage for the Strata project. The plan calls for the building to include 16 levels of office and seven levels of parking above the existing two-story retail building.

When the Power & Light District agreement was approved in 2004, Block 124 was envisioned to be the site of a potential second tower for H&R Block, which opened its headquarters across the street in 2007.

The block was developed with foundations capable of supporting an office tower.

H&R Block continues to have the development rights to Block 124 and has agreed to participate with Copaken Brooks and Ron Jury Associates in the development entity called Power Tower.

Copaken Brooks is a major downtown developer, and Jury is the developer of the nearby Hilton President Kansas City.

The 250,000 square-foot Strata tower would include a rooftop terrace. It’s being designed by BNIM and HOK architects and J.E. Dunn Construction would be the contractor.

Under the terms of the original 2004 Power & Light District, the city was obligated to provide 1,330 parking spaces to the potential office tower to be developed there.

Under the new proposal, the parking obligation would be slashed to 750 spaces. That would cut the city’s commitment to the project from $69 million to $36 million.

Block-124.jpg
Google Maps

“The city has an obligation to build twice as much parking,” Copaken said. “This is actually a big savings.”

Under a financing plan that still requires City Council approval, Port KC would finance and own the garage. The authority would use revenues generated from parking fees and what’s called an Advanced Industrial Manufacturing (AIM) Zone.

AIM allows part of the state withholding taxes generated by employees in the new project be used to help finance its cost. The developers estimate the project would create 1,000 permanent jobs. No tenants, however, have been lined up for the project.

An ordinance introduced to the City Council today calls for the city to guarantee the Port KC revenues for the garage project.

It also would appropriate $27 million from the city toward construction of the office tower. The estimated cost of the office component by itself is $94 million.

Copaken said while there’s risk involved with building a project without firm tenants lined up, its necessary to quickly seize opportunities like Starbucks when they come up.

“It always would be great to have tenants, but in today’s world, it’s harder to get people to wait through long time frames,” he said.

Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.

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