New Owner of City Center Square Seeks Incentives for Major Overhaul

State Street is downsizing to 30,000 square-feet in the WeWork space at the lightwell building at 11th and Main. (Image from Somera Road)

(Updated Feb. 25: The Port KC board unanimously endorsed incentives for the $85 million redevelopment of the former City Square Building. Michael Collins of J.E. Dunn said development cost estimate includes acquisition, renovation and other expenses. Some of the work may be completed by the end of the year.)

By Kevin Collison

The new owner of City Center Square wants to overhaul and update the 30-story office tower completed in 1977,  part of a renewed effort to provide more premium office space downtown to woo potential employers.

SomeraRoad of New York purchased the half-empty tower at 1100 Main in January and is pursuing an incentive package from Port KC.

Its renovation plans include replacing the elevators system; adding amenities including an improved fitness center, adding a full-service conference center, introducing more natural light into its four-floor base and adding outdoor cafe seating.

The building is being rebranded as “the lightwell” to bring attention to the fresh design and its proximity to the Power & Light District.

“We saw more and more large companies saying we want to be in Kansas City, but they couldn’t find large blocks of Class A office space, and weren’t willing to wait three years for a build-to-suit,” Ian Ross of Somera said in a statement.

“That’s why we doubled down with City Center Square – which we’ve rebranded to lightwell – when we came across this off-market opportunity.”

The City Center Square building was completed in 1977.

J.E. Dunn Construction is the contractor on the project and plans to be a partner investor. No price tag has been attached to either the investment or the purchase price, although more details are expected to be forthcoming in the next month or two.

Port KC is being asked to issue a bond for the lightwell project not to exceed $85 million.

The Port KC development committee recommended the board approve the incentive package that also includes an 18-year exemption on the cost of the improvements, 10 years at 95 percent, eight years at 50 percent, and a sales tax exemption on the cost of construction materials.

The full board is expected to consider the proposal Feb. 25.

“The lightwell project is vital to the goal of reestablishing downtown Kansas City as a leading class-A office destination,” Jon Stephens, Port KC executive director, said in an email.

This is the third downtown office project that Port KC has been involved with over the past couple years.

The agency assisted the redevelopment of the historic Corrigan Station building into 110,000 square feet of office.

The lightwell renovation plan includes an outdoor terrace level. (Image from Somera Road)

It also has agreed to help finance the planned 25-story Strata office building being pursued by Copaken Brooks, H&R Block and Jury & Associates in the Power & Light District.

Ross said his private real estate equity firm, which manages $900 million in assets, was first introduce to the downtown Kansas City market when it purchased the former Populous office building in the River Market in August 2016.

The firm rebranded it as 3Y and is now close to leasing 90 percent.

“Since we’ve owned 3Y, tenant activity, job growth and downtown population growth have only increased,” Ross said.

“We saw more and more large companies saying we want to be in Kansas City, but they couldn’t find large blocks of Class A office space, and weren’t willing to wait three years for a build-to-suit.”

Details on a timetable when work would be completed on the 657,000 square foot lightwell tower also are expected to be released in the next month or two.

A rendering of the revamped entry to the lightwell tower. (Image from Somera Road)

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    • To me, it has always just looked like a big concrete box with holes for windows. No trim, no spire, nothing interesting to look at at all. What the heck…. paint it a pleasing color???

      • That was the 70s for you. Incidentally, there’s a building in downtown Minneapolis that’s an exact replica of City Center Square. Built by the same architects, but taller than ours!!

        • I knew that MPLS building looked similar, didn’t know the same architect. An old friend up there once worked in it.

        • In my personal opinion, the building has a pleasing shape and design; its the unfinished concrete look that bothers me the most. I wish that part were different.

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