In a major boost to downtown Kansas City, Kan., the long-vacant former EPA office building will be converted to a mental and behavioral health facility employing 400 people.
The University of Kansas Health System plans to invest $61 million converting the unique 220,000 square-foot office building, vacant since 2011, into what’s being described as a “state-of-the-art” healthcare facility.
“This expansion in downtown Kansas City, Kan. provides the space we need to increase mental and behavioral health services in a full-scale facility for people who need this care in our community, region and the state,” Chris Ruder, a KU Health vice president, said in a statement.
The building, prominently located at the east entrance of downtown KCK at 901 N. Fifth St., has been empty since the federal Environmental Protection Agency and its 600 employees relocated to new space in the former Applebee’s headquarters at 11201 Renner Rd. in Lenexa.
The structure, which features a large atrium, was built specifically for the EPA in 1999. The city acquired an old motel and donated land for the project along with tax incentives.
The EPA, however, was unable to negotiate a new lease with the building’s landlord and relocated to Lenexa after its original 10-year lease expired.
Mayor David Alvey said KU Health System’s plans to reuse the vacant building will provide a big boost for his city’s downtown area.
“We are excited that the University of Kansas Health System is coming to downtown Kansas City, Kansas,” Alvey said in a statement.
“We look forward to our partnership with KU as they bring quality health services to our community and 400 employees to our downtown. ‘KU Downtown’ has a nice ring to it.”
It will take about a year for renovations to be completed, according to KU Health. The plan calls for 112,000 square feet to be dedicated to health care.
The new facility will house a short-term inpatient adult mental and behavioral health unit with 47 beds. It will consolidate services provided at the 39th and Rainbow main campus, and the Prairie Ridge campus in KCK.
“There is a demand for short-term psychological help in a traditional inpatient setting in our region,” Ruder said in his statement.
“This initiative supports our efforts to provide even more advanced care to those who need it most, and our commitment to grow in Wyandotte County.”
Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.