By Kevin Collison
A $47.5 million plan to renovate the historic Scarritt office tower on Grand Boulevard and its adjoining Arcade into 126 apartments was endorsed for tax incentives Monday by a Port KC committee.
The 11-story tower at 818 Grand and its four-story arcade at 819 Walnut are considered among the most attractive historic buildings in downtown Kansas City. Their exterior features richly decorated terra cotta ornamentation.
“We do a lot of historic renovation and when we saw this building, it’s a beautiful piece of architecture,” said Bryan Greiner of Augustine Development Co., the Florida developer pursuing the project.
The Scarritt complex was designed by Root & Siemens and opened in 1907. They’re considered the finest example in Kansas City of the Chicago School architectural style championed by Louis Sullivan.
But the buildings have been mostly empty for a several years and vandals have broken inside to strip them of valuable metals.
“These buildings are on a major corridor and are on the National Register (of Historic Places,” Jon Stephens, Port KC executive director, told a meeting of the agency’s development committee.
“Having viewed it myself, the condition of that building is deteriorating rapidly even though it has been secured. It’s unheated and has had copper stolen and is at risk.”
The committee voted unanimously to recommend that Augustine Development receive a 25-year property tax break to help finance the renovation. It calls for a 100 percent reduction for 10 years, and 50 percent for 15 years.
The buildings will continue to pay the current property taxes the first 10 years. The project is expected to generate $5.6 million in property tax revenues over its 25-year life. The developer will save about $8.2 million in property taxes during that period.
In addition, Augustine Development is receiving $12.5 million in state and federal historic taxes to help finance the project.
Greiner said his firm was drawn to downtown Kansas City because of the attractive mult-family market, downtown’s employment base and the soon-to-open new Kansas City International airport terminal.
If the full Port KC board approves the abatement, work would begin this spring with occupancy expected in Fall 2024.
The plan calls for 51 studios with monthly rents from $1,403- to $1,502; 42 one-bedrooms with rents from $1,608- to $1,663, and 33 two-bedrooms renting from $1,968 to $2,217. The project also will include 25,600 square-feet of ground floor retail.
The development is exempted from the city’s 20 percent affordable housing requirement because its a historic renovation project.
The developer is not planning to include parking as part of the redevelopment plan and will lease existing spaces nearby.
A plan to redevelop the Scarritt as a 193-room hotel originally was approved four years ago by a city development agency.
In December 2020, Augustine Development revised the plan to apartments and commercial space including a grocery store.
Greiner said a grocery store is still in the works.
“We’ve been talking to quite a few grocery store tenants,” he said.
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