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Covid Forces Developers to Shift Historic Scarritt, Uptown Plans

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2 minute read

By Kevin Collison

Covid has forced two developers to check out of their hotel proposals and pivot to welcoming apartment residents instead.

The developer of the Scarritt office tower at 818 Grand and its adjoining Arcade now plans to redevelop the historic buildings as a 126-unit apartment project that would include a first level grocery store and restaurant.

And the developer of the Uptown Lofts project, currently going up at Broadway and Valentine, has dropped a hotel proposed for the second phase and instead wants to build an 80- to 90-unit apartment building at the corner.

Both proposed plan changes were presented last week to the board of the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.

“As it stands today, given Covid, redeveloping a historic property into office space and lodging is not feasible,” attorney Roxsen Koch, the Scarritt representative, told the board.

A general development plan for the Scarritt was approved late last year by the PIEA board for the hotel conceptl submitted by the Augustine Development Group of Florida. The firm had wanted to open a 193-room Wyndham Grand hotel there.

The redevelopment plan was hailed at the time by historic preservationists.

The ornate entrance to the Scarritt Arcade displays the decorate terra cotta that distinguishes the 113 year-old building from its neighbors.

The Scarritt complex was designed by Root & Siemens and is considered the finest example in Kansas City of the Chicago School architectural style championed by Louis Sullivan. Its exterior features richly decorated terra cotta ornamentation.

The 11-story office tower and the adjoining four-level Arcade, which has its entrance at 819 Walnut, were completed in 1907 and currently are mostly vacant.

Koch estimated renovating the Scarritt buildings into apartments would cost about $38 million. The proposal also includes an 8,000 square-foot grocery store and a 6,580 square-foot restaurant in the historic Scarritt ballroom.

The redevelopment plan, which will be seeking tax incentives, still must be reviewed by  city staff before coming back to the PIEA board for a final recommendation. If successful, work could begin late next year with completion in spring 2022.

As for the Uptown Lofts, work is well underway on the 223-unit first phase which is being built atop the the existing shopping center. That project is expected to be ready for residents by next summer.

The Uptown Lofts redevelopment plan, which was approved for a 25-year property tax abatement by the PIEA last year, also called for a 95- to 120-room hotel to be built at the corner in its second phase.

Construction is well underway at the Uptown Lofts project across Valentine from the Uptown Theater. (Photo courtesy Sunflower Development)

Koch also represented Sunflower Development Group, the owners of the Uptown project.

“Covid has really changed the demand for hotels,” she repeated to the PIEA board.

The new plan calls for an 80- to 90-unit, five-story apartment building to be built instead with 2,500 square-feet of retail at the corner, said Banks Floodman of Sunflower. All the units would be studio and one-bedroom.

The proposed apartment building would resemble the current project underway and cost about $13- to $15 million, Floodman said. As part of its revamped second phase plan, the developer has reduced the duration of his tax abatement to 10 years at 100 percent.

Floodman said Sunflower would like to break ground soon on the second phase, perhaps by late spring, to take advantage of the existing work crews at the site.

Both the Scarritt and the Uptown Lofts changes were approved by the PIEA board.

In a related apartment development matter, the board also extended a development agreement for the Midtown Plaza project.

The $13.8 million development, which has been underway for about four years, is renovating the former MGE building at 3420 Broadway, into 101 apartments. The PIEA was told the project is about 75 percent completed.

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