Keystone Innovation Concept Makes Real Estate Moves on East 18th Street

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A preliminary rendering of the building proposed for the Keystone Innovation District at 18th and Troost. (Image from BNIM)

By Kevin Collison

The Keystone Community Corp. is making its first real estate moves on East 18th Street, intending to occupy a new $20 million office project that could begin construction early next year and participate in renovating a nearby former warehouse building.

J.E. Dunn Capital Partners, a partner with Keystone, has submitted a preliminary request with city planners to begin discussions on what was described as a five-story “Keystone Innovation” office building at the northeast corner of 18th and Troost.

The property is owned by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and has long been considered among the locations envisioned for the Keystone Innovation District, a civic initiative intended to make the regional economy more competitive in the 21st C.

Keystone also intends to be part of the redevelopment of the former Goodwill warehouse and office building at 1817 Campbell, according to sources. The property has been on the market since early 2020 after Goodwill moved into new quarters nearby.

Jason Swords of Sunflower Development Group said his firm has the former Goodwill property under contract, but would not comment whether Keystone was a potential partner or tenant.

At a luncheon talk last month to the Downtowners group, Kevin McGinnis, chairman of the Keystone Community Corp. said the nonprofit was becoming serious at what he called “place making” opportunities.

“We’re very excited to be in our first location this fall,” McGinnis told the group.

“We’re looking at our first location along 18th Street, kind of an interim landing spot for us with one of our strategic partners.”

He went on to say Keystone also was “looking at a couple of strategic developments.

“One is a large renovation project along 18th Street of an existing facility and the other one is a new-built environment on the northeast corner of 18th and Troost in partnership with J.E. Dunn capital partners and KCATA.”

Goodwill is selling its former facility at 18th and Campbell.

McGinnis could not be reached for comment about J.E. Dunn Capital’s 18th and Troost request to the city or the redevelopment of the former Goodwill property.

The preliminary J.E. Dunn inquiry to planners anticipated work could begin on the project by this February with completion in early 2023. It estimated about 140 employees would work there.

The initial request also indicated tax incentives would be sought to help finance the office project.

The Keystone Innovation District has long targeted the East Crossroads and 18th & Vine District as the location for its programs and facilities.

The idea for the Keystone Innovation District began several years ago when key civic organizations led by the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, became increasingly concerned about the region’s sluggish economic growth.

KC Rising, an initiative of the Civic Council, found that while Kansas City metro’s economy was growing, it was at half the rate of 30 communities identified as its peer group.

A key finding was the area needed to improve its innovation and entrepreneurial sectors.

McGinnis was asked by the Civic Council to lead the Keystone Community Corp. in 2018. The former Sprint executive founded the Sprint Accelerator, a co-working and startup space, in 2013.

In his role as chairman of the Keystone Community Corp., he has visited several cities that have launched innovation districts to help bolster their entrepreneurial and research sectors.

All were cooperative ventures that included governments, corporations, universities, entrepreneurs and risk capital.

McGinnis has previously said examples most similar to what Kansas City is seeking to achieve are the 16 Tech innovation district in Indianapolis and the Cortex Innovation Community in St. Louis.

If Keystone is successful moving forward with its initial projects, it also would help fulfill a longtime goal of better connecting the 18th & Vine District with the Crossroads.

Liam Dai contributed to this report

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