By Kevin Collison
The historic 909 Walnut apartment building has a new owner, and one of the first changes will be the opening of a second downtown outlet for Spokes in the former Scooters coffee shop space.
The 35-story tower at Ninth and Walnut, the tallest residential building in the Midwest outside Chicago, has been bought by Worcester Investments, the same firm that’s redeveloping the nearby Flashcube building at 720 Main into apartments.
“It’s an irreplaceable, beautiful building and historically significant,” said CEO Paul Worcester. “We feel grateful to the new owner…and to build on what’s already there.”
When it was first redeveloped in 2005, the former Fidelity National Bank & Trust Building was a major milestone in the revitalization of downtown Kansas City. It was the biggest in a wave of historic rehab projects that were converting obsolete office buildings into new residential properties.
The project originally was envisioned as a condominium development, but when sales slumped, former owner, Glenn Solomon decided to keep it as apartments.
Worcester said the building currently has 152 apartments and nine condos. The condos will remain in private ownership.
The 909 Walnut building was put on the market a year ago with an asking price of $49 million. Worcester decline to reveal what he paid, only to say it was a “fair” price.
Worcester plans to make what he called a multimillion investment to make 909 Walnut a “smart building,” upgrading thermostats, lighting, wi-fi, entry access and other features for residents.
The firm also plans to create a “boutique bar” in underused lobby space.
“The main level gets almost no use,” he said.
“We want it to have a small and private kind of exclusive feel. First and foremost, it will be an amenity for residents and offices nearby, but it will be open to the public.”
Along with the change in ownership and improvements will be a gradual increase in rents. Worcester said the average rent is $1.44 per square foot, significantly below the $2.20 and up charged at comparable properties including the Power & Light Building and One and Two Lights.
Because the 909 Walnut building originally was intended to be condos, unit finishes are better than typical downtown apartments, and building residents have private access to a unique green space atop the building parking garage.
Worcester declined to specify the target for the new rent structure.
“We’ll honor existing residents and work with them,” he said. “The rents will make sense and be fair.”
Of greater public downtown news is the decision by Spokes to open a second outlet in the Scooters space.
The establishment, which features coffee drinks, a full bar, food and a bicycle repair and accessory shop has been a hit since it opened in Quality Hill in May 2017.
Founder Dan Walsh said he got to know the Worcester guys because their office is nearby at 1220 Washington.
“They’re regulars here,” he said.
“We feel the east side of downtown deserves breakfast burritos as well…We don’t feel it’s cannibalizing our existing business.”
Plans call for the new Spokes to offer the same coffee drinks and full-service bar as its current operation. It will also serve breakfast and lunch and have what Walsh called an “express bike shop.”
Hours will be 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m Mondays through Fridays, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
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