Published September 20th, 2022 at 11:30 AM2 minute read
By Kevin Collison
The possibility Kansas City Southern could expand its downtown headquarters is picking up steam with the city seeking development proposals for property it owns adjacent to the railroad at 12th and Broadway.
“We see tremendous potential at that site for a high-density, mixed-use development,” City Manager Brian Platt said. “It could be office space, residential…the zoning already is in place. We’d also consider a higher density and height there.”
In April, Platt told CityScene KC the city had been in discussions with Kansas City Southern about a partnership developing the property currently used as a parking lot. It’s located southwest of 12th and Broadway across from Bartle Hall.
“We have a good working relationship with them,” Platt said then.
“They want to expand. We own some property, that parking lot, they own some property. We’ve had conversations about partnerships and collaborations there.”
When the city bought the 1.2-acre parking lot from the Carpenter family in late 2019, Warren Erdman, Kansas City Southern executive vice president, told the City Council his firm was expanding and contemplating a future expansion.
“We’re growing and the company is doing great,” he said then.
“Should the city move forward in acquiring the (Carpenter) property, we’d enjoy a partnership where we might develop something more than a parking lot.”
Since then, Kansas City Southern has been acquired by Canadian Pacific.
The expanded railroad, when the merger is complete, will be called Canadian Pacific Kansas City and will be a North American rail power house connecting Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
As part of the plan, the U.S. headquarters of the expanded railroad will be shifted from Minneapolis to Kansas City. There are about 200 employees at the Minneapolis headquarters although the firm has not identified how many would be transferred.
In an email, Erdman said Kansas City Southern still is interested in the future of the city-owned property next door.
“We are looking at our options and have not decided at this time how we might participate in the RFP, but as I’ve testified previously, we certainly have interest in what might be developed next to our corporate headquarters,” he said.
Sources say the railroad still is interested in being involved in whatever development proposal might unfold for the strategic site.
Kansas City Southern opened its current six-story headquarters at the southeast corner of 12th and Washington in 2002. It was designed by BNIM architects, and the architectural firm’s webpage said a second building is envisioned for the property to the east.
Should the railroad expand its headquarters, it would be another positive signal from the private sector about the downtown core.
While downtown has increased its residential population substantially and added many new entertainment, and food and beverage venues, private employers have been slow to follow suit.
Last week, Blue Cross Blue Shield, also known as BlueKC, said it would be relocating its headquarters to the new 1400KC office building at 14th and Baltimore in 2025. The firm currently is located on Main Street near Union Station and employs about 1,400 people.
In its request for proposals the city said any office plan would have to include at least 33 percent net new jobs. A potential residential project would have to reserve 20 percent of its units as affordable under the city’s new standard of 60 percent Area Media Income.
The city paid $5.4 million for the 1200 Broadway property in 2019. Platt said the price could be negotiable or waived depending on the value of what’s proposed.
He said the the city already has had interest from several developers about the property.
“We’re seeking the highest and best use,” Platt said.
“I want to bring in more people and more activity to the city anyway we can.”