New Chapter Planned for Historic River Market Water Building

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The Water Building at 201 Main opened in 1905 and was where the stables, warehouse and shops of the City Water Department were located.

By Kevin Collison

The historic Water Building in the River Market is slated for another round of renovation after a previous revival went bust in 2013.

Developer Chris Sally has a contract to purchase the brick building at the corner of Second and Main streets. It was built in 1905 to house the stable, warehouse and shops for the City Water Department in what was then the heart of downtown Kansas City.

“This is a building I’ve tried to buy for the past 10 years,” Sally said. “One of the challenges was the lack of parking. Luckily, I bought a (30-space) lot last summer at 201 Walnut one block away.”

The two-story building was originally renovated in 2003 by developer George Birt and the Jeff Simon Cos. and thrived for several years, housing offices on the upper floor and the former Garrett’s Market on the ground level facing Second Street.

But in 2008, the building lost its adjoining parking to a nearby residential project. It’s tenants gradually moved out and it was finally mothballed in 2013, Sally said.

Chris Sally stands by the old forge space used by blacksmiths in the Water Building. It’s located in one of the office suites.

Sally has a strong development background in the River Market. Among the projects he’s done or partnered in are the 5 Delaware condos; First and Main Lofts, the Gallo Building and the former Muehlebach Brewery building where Nature’s Own is located.

He’s seeking a second round of historic tax credits to help renovate the Water Building, which has three, approximately 5,000 square-foot office suites and about 5,000 square-feet of restaurant and/or retail space where Garrett’s once was located.

The building was included on the 2019 Most Endangered List published by Historic Kansas City. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sally, whose firm is Iconic Development, said the historic tax credits are being sought to help finance the cost of replacing exterior windows, tuckpointing and upgrading two of the office suites. He plans to invest $1.1 million in improvements.

The architect is Bill Poole, Cornerstone Bank is the lender.

The historic Water Building had stables and stored feed to serve the city’s utility fleet at the time. (Photo from Historic Kansas City)

Since the Water Building was renovated 17 years ago, the nearby River Market area has thrived with several new apartment projects completed as well as additional business and retail space. Second Street also was rebuilt and landscaped.

The old building also is just a half-block away from the new Second and Delaware apartment development expected to open later this year.

Sally said that additional activity should make the Water Building attractive to new office tenants and a potential restaurant.

“Because of Covid-19, I know a lot of restaurants will be closing and space will be available” he said, “but there also will be opportunities for an experienced restaurateur to come in with a fresh start.”

He also plans to renovate the office suites in anticipation of a post-pandemic environment where he believes smaller companies will want control of their own space with separate entrances and restrooms.

Sally expects to complete the renovation of the Water Building by next spring.

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