Historic Scarritt Up for Auction, Renovation Plan Collapses

The ornate entrance to the Scarritt Arcade displays the decorative terra cotta that distinguishes the 115 year-old building.

By Kevin Collison

In a setback to historic preservation, a $50 million plan to redevelop the 115 year-old Scarritt office tower and adjoining Arcade apparently has collapsed and the buildings are scheduled to be sold at auction next month.

The 11-story tower at 818 Grand and its four-story Arcade at 819 Walnut are set to be sold at auction in mid-October with an initial bidding price of $4 million by Matthews Real Estate Investment Services, a national firm.

“Located on ‘main and main’ in the heart of downtown Kansas City, the property is within walking distance of the city’s biggest demand drivers and boasts an impressive 96 Walk Score,” according to Matthews marketing materials.

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, considered the father of the modern skyscraper.

The Scarritt building at Ninth and Grand is considered Kansas City’s finest example of the Chicago-style skyscraper architecture championed by Louis Sullivan.

The buildings have been mostly empty for a several years have experienced frequent break-ins and vandalism. Thieves have stripped them of valuable metals, making the hoped-for renovation more expensive.

The current owner, Augustine Development Group of Florida, has pursued redevelopment plans for the Scarritt buildings since 2019. The firm originally wanted to renovate them into a 193-room, full-service hotel along with 20,000 square feet of co-working space.

The Covid pandemic upset that concept and in December 2020 Augustine revised its redevelopment plan to 126 apartments and 25,600 square-feet of commercial space including a grocery store.

Officials at Augustine declined to comment about the decision to put the Scarritt property up for auction.

The Scarritt Arcade is four-levels tall and illuminated by double light wells. (Image from developer)

The marketing materials indicate a potential new developer would be able to retain the public incentives already approved including $11.5 million in state and federal historic tax credits, and a 25-year property tax abatement approved by Port KC earlier this year.

While there are many historic downtown buildings, few are as aesthetically pleasing as the Scarritt Building and Annex. The exteriors feature richly decorated terra cotta ornamentation and the four-level interior of the Annex is illuminated by double light wells.

The properties were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The Scarritt complex also is among the last remaining large historic downtown buildings that have not been renovated.

It’s across the street from the historic Ozark Building at Ninth and Grand which is being renovated into a 249-room AC Hotels by Marriott.

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