(Updated July 21, 2021: A press release this week announced construction has begun on the project. This article originally appeared in CityScene in August 2018)
By Kevin Collison
Right now, two of the city’s oldest buildings near the 18th and Vine Jazz District look the part, limestone ruins straight out of Medieval Europe.
But Jason Parson, Tim Duggan and Shomari Benton have big plans for redeveloping the former City Water and Street Department buildings at 2000 Vine. Both were built in 1866, making them more than 150 years old, and have been empty since 1994.
“They were the first two public works buildings in Kansas City history,” Duggan said. “These shells were built like tanks.”
The men, along with Benton’s law partners David Lloyd and Peter Chung, bought the structures from the city in late 2016 and plan to begin work within a couple weeks adding new roofs and windows to the two-story buildings, and installing utilities.
They’ve already spent about $400,000 and when the total $3.4 million redevelopment is completed, the developers plan to be the initial tenants in one of the 10,000 square-foot structures.
They are refining ideas for the second. High on the list is a mixed-use event space and/or a possible AirBNB space. The buildings set on two acres, providing ample open space, and have views of the downtown skyline.
They also are only 1 1/2 blocks south of the 18th and Vine Jazz District core, and Duggan sees them as being an extension of the Vine Street corridor.
He refers to his approach to development as “urban acupuncture” or precision development.
“I’d like to put a flag in the 18th and Vine area,” he said.
His previous experience included helping redevelop the historic Bancroft School at 43rd and Tracy into apartments in 2013.
Parson, whose grandfather is famed Kansas City jazz pianist Jay McShann, sees the redevelopment of the two buildings as an extension of the new investments occurring at the Jazz District.
“It’s very exciting to see the good energy that’s happening with the Urban Youth Academy, the new streetscaping and renewing sense of pride,” he said.
Benton added, “We have a unique opportunity to preserve history in the Vine District.
“Luckily for the city, these buildings were built to last. It makes sense for folks to come in and redeveloping them, honoring history without being trapped in it.”
Benton also is co-developer of another nearby historic building in the 18th & Vine District, the former Wheatley-Provident Hospital. He plans to convert it to office use.
It was the only hospital operated and staffed by black doctors and nurses at a time when healthcare services were segregated in Kansas City.
Don’t miss any downtown news, sign up for our weekly CityScene KC email review here.