(Editor’s note: Updated with image of a proposed 21-story Drury Hotel in downtown Nashville)
By Kevin Collison
Drury Hotels wants to demolish the vacant Board of Education building at 1211 McGee and replace it with a 242-room hotel and parking garage.
The St. Louis-based hotel chain has submitted a proposal to the Kansas City Tax Increment Financing Commission for the 10-story, $50 million project.
“We’re always looking for good markets and we think the downtown Kansas City market is vibrant, the city’s has been doing lots of good things downtown,” said Herb Wedemeier, senior vice president for Drury Southwest.
The existing nine-story building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was formerly occupied by the Kansas City Public Library and the Kansas City Board of Education.
The library moved out in 2004. The Board of Ed relocated in 2016 and reached a purchase agreement with Drury in January.
The 60-year-old building is located by City and County Halls, and is within two blocks of the Sprint Center and Power & Light District.
“That part of downtown needs redevelopment,” Wedemeier said. “We feel an upscale-type product would resonate well.”
Wedemeier said Drury has extensive experience renovating historic buildings, it recently won an award for redeveloping the historic Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Pittsburgh, and originally wanted to renovate the Board of Ed building for its project.
Recent changes to the federal historic tax credit program and ongoing uncertainty over the Missouri program contributed to thwart that plan.
“We’ve done a fairly large number of historic renovations,” Wedemeier said. “Our team is one of the best taking old buildings and giving them new life and retaining the historic character.
“Our crews looked at it (Board of Ed) closely, it’s layout and costs…It all led us to conclude that despite our strong record of historic preservation, that building didn’t make sense economically.”
The firm also expects Kansas City labor costs to rise because the hotel would be built when other major projects are underway including the new Kansas City airport terminal, the convention center hotel, the Three Light apartment tower and the Children’s Hospital Research tower.
“These projects will strain the Kansas City construction labor market and increase the project costs,” according to the Drury application to the TIF Commission.
Drury is seeking tax incentives from the TIF Commission and wants to establish the West Government District TIF Plan.
As part of its sales agreement with the school district, the firm agreed to limit its property tax abatement request to 15 years: 75 percent for the first 10 years, 37.5 percent for the last five years.
However, the application indicates that 15-year abatement would not be adequate to make the project financially feasible and that the Kansas City Economic Development Corp. would identify additional incentives.
The Drury TIF application was scheduled to be considered by the TIF Commission this week, but is expected to be delayed for at least two weeks and possibly one month.
The project not only calls for construction of the 242-room hotel, but a new 176-space garage as well. The existing 196-space single story garage next to the Board of Ed building would be renovated and made available for public parking.
The hotel also would include 5,000 square-feet of meeting space, a lobby bar and restaurant, fitness center and swimming pool.
Drury estimates the new hotel would create about 50 full-time jobs. Construction would start next year with an opening in early 2021.
The building is being designed by an in-house team at Drury.
“We try to fit with the local architecture,” Wedemeier said. “I feel strongly the end result will be something Kansas City will be proud of.”
But the proposed design quickly drew critics on social media when it was first posted on CityScene. Many described as a generic, suburban-style look.
Several pointed to a planned 21-story Drury Hotel in downtown Nashville as evidence the firm could do a far better job designing a building for an urban setting.
If successful, this would be the sixth Drury hotel in the metropolitan area. The existing hotels are Shawnee Mission (1982), Kansas City Stadium (1984), Kansas City Airport (1998), Overland Park (2000) and Independence (2011) for a total of 704 rooms.
The Drury hotel proposal is the latest in what’s been a boom in downtown hotel activity. More than 2,100 rooms have been completed or announced during the past year.
“Every market where we look to build there’s competition,” Wedemeier said.
“You have to be a better operator. We’re very comfortable in our management and confident our customers will recognize our value.”
In addition to the 800-room Loews Kansas City Convention Hotel now under construction, a host of other projects have been completed or announced in recent months:
-The new 120-room 21c Museum Hotel in the former Savoy at 219 W. Ninth St.
–A new 112-room Home2 Suites by Hilton at 20th and Main
–A 75-room Holiday Inn Express redevelopment in the former Interstate building at 417 E. 13th St.
–A new 132-room Hampton Inn under construction at 16th and Main.
–A new 118-room Indigo hotel in the former Brookfield building at 11th and Baltimore.
–An 80-room Indigo hotel redevelopment underway at 2020 Grand.
–A 125-room Crossroads Hotel redevelopment of historic buildings underway at 2101 and 2107 Central St.
-A 70-room addition to the Ambassador Hotel underway at 1111 Grand.
-A proposed 321-room Embassy Suites in the historic Federal Reserve Bank at 925 Grand
-A proposed 153-room Hyatt House at Ninth and Broadway
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