By Kevin Collison
Work is set to begin on a big Crossroads redevelopment project that includes renovating two Film Row buildings and transforming a parking lot at 18th and Baltimore into a landscaped courtyard.
The project is being done by philanthropist and developer Shirley Bush Helzberg, her latest investment in the historic Film Row area centered around 18th and Wyandotte.
Her previous projects include the renovation of the historic Webster House and Vitagraph buildings at 17th and Wyandotte along with several other Film Row buildings. The district once was once a center for storing Hollywood studio films being distributed in the region.
“She loves old buildings and making them nice again,” said Pete Lacy, Helzberg’s real estate advisor. “She’s extremely detail oriented and has high standards for how things should look.”
Helzberg’s latest project is renovating the former MGM Studio building at 220 W. 18th, and the former Columbia, later Universal, Pictures building next door at 214 W. 18th, into high-end office space.
One block farther east at the corner of 18th and Baltimore, she is renovating the L-shaped former Kenton Bros. building into commercial space, and creating a 5,000 square-foot park with trees on its current parking lot.
The renovations are not a formal historic preservation project, but Lacy said they are respecting the original design of the buildings.
“We’re preserving the historic character in every way possible,” he said.
The architect is Helix Architecture + Design and the contractor is Rau Construction.
The plan for the two Film Row buildings on West 18th Street calls for them to be connected via an existing alley that’s been vacated. The combined 22,350 square-feet of office space will share amenities including a conference room, kitchen and lounge.
The buildings will be divided for small office users with nine suites ranging in size from 600- to 3,000 square-feet. While the downtown office market has been very soft since the Covid pandemic, Lacy said there still is a market for quality, smaller offices.
“It’s the high-end, professional tenant who wants the latest technology,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of interest in smaller spaces, less than 3,000 square-feet and often less than 1,000 square-feet.”
The project also will include installing solar panels and substantially improving the landscaping in the area.
A building now used for warehouse space behind the historic properties would be used to provide 15 parking spaces. Another six surface spaces also are part of the plan.
Ultimately, Helzberg’s redevelopment plan for the area calls for a residential development on what’s now a parking lot on West 17th Street east of Central across from the Webster House and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
Lacy said that residential project is still in the works, although no timetable has been identified.
As for the Kenton Bros. building at 18th and Baltimore, the developer is excited a top restaurant group already has expressed interest in part of its space.
The former warehouse building will be divided into a 2,500 square-foot space and two, 500 square-foot spaces.
“We want some kind of restaurant component or coffee shop for people using the courtyard,” Lacy said. “We hope to attract neighborhood businesses.”
Construction fencing is in place at both projects and work is expected to begin soon. It should be completed by early next year.
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