By Kevin Collison
The Crossroads latest office project, 520 Penn, is attracting employers who believe their workers value the kind of diverse, vibrant environment offered by being downtown.
The $15 million renovation of the historic McQueeny-Lock building was completed in July and is now home to 150 employees working at three firms: Centric Projects, Superior Bowen and Inspired Homes.
While Centric has been located in the Crossroads Arts District for several years, the other firms are newcomers to the area. Superior Bowen’s previous office was near the Truman Sports Complex.
“Our growth warranted a move and we wanted to be in a more central part of the city, a more vibrant area,” said Trey Bowen, president and CEO.
“For the quality of life of our employees, we wanted an area surrounding the office with amenities, restaurants and things do do after work.
“It’s also good for recruitment. We believe the people we want to be recruiting want to be in the vibrant parts of the city.”
The opening of the new office building comes at a time downtown is striving to attract private employers.
While much has improved significantly over the past 15 years, notably residential development, the streetcar and entertainment, restaurant and bar options, the office market has lagged.
Next month, the Downtown Council will be holding its second annual Downtown KC Office Summit Oct. 17 at BNIM architects to bring together real estate experts to discuss the topic.
Richard Wetzel, a partner at Centric, said his firm’s decision to partner on the redevelopment of the McQueeny-Lock building was based on its experience with its Crossroads location.
Centric partnered with Superior Bowen, Inspired Homes and Platform Ventures to purchase the almost 100 year-old structure.
“We realized if we wanted to recruit young people, we needed to be in the Crossroads,” Wetzel said.
The exterior of the building was renovated about a decade ago. Union Horse, formerly Dark Horse, Distillery then hired Centric several years ago to renovate the building for a proposed distillery and event space, but that plan fell through.
The three-story, 50,000 square-foot building then was vacant until its purchase and renovation as 520 Penn.
A new main entrance was built on the north side and the historic entrance was retained on the south side. A rooftop conference room and deck also was added.
The architect was KEM STUDIO and Centric was the contractor. Vireo did the landscape architecture and McAfee Henderson Solutions the civil engineering.
“Crossroads is where young talent wants to be,” Wetzel said. “Were not only part of the neighborhood fabric, but a place where our team wants to come to work everyday.”
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