Published May 21st, 2021 at 10:00 AM
The renovation of the historic Westport High School into a 138-unit apartment project could begin by late summer following approval of a sales tax incentive by a city development agency Thursday.
The board of the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority unanimously approved a sales tax exemption on construction materials for the $50 million project called The Apartments at Westport Commons being developed by HP Development Partners II.
The redevelopment plan calls for the original school building that opened in 1908 to be renovated along with later annexes built in the 1960s and 1990s. The project also will include 20,000 square feet of commercial space.
Chip Walsh of HP Development said the PIEA approval of the sales tax exemption is the last public financing assistance required and his team hopes to complete its private funding by late summer.
The development also will be using state and federal historic tax credits to help fund the project.
“We’re getting close and we feel good about where we’re at with our (private financing) underwriting,” Walsh said. “We did need the sales tax exemption and we very much appreciate the PIEA board granting approval.”
The redevelopment of the old high school at 315 E. 39th St. calls for a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units to be marketed as workforce housing.
“These units will be geared toward the workforce housing population, particularly younger professionals who have been moving back into the Midtown Kansas City area,” the developer stated in his PIEA application.
Monthly rent for an average 461-square-foot studio would be $922; smaller one-bedroom units averaging 626 square feet would go for $1,127; larger one-bedroom units averaging 801 square feet, $1,442; and average 1,406-square-foot, two-bedroom units, $1,968.
Hardwood floors would be preserved and the former auditorium converted into amenity space for residents. The plan calls for the auditorium to be divided into small seating pods as well as larger gathering spaces.
“This concept maintains the space’s historic function as a gathering place but breathes new life by creating amenity spaces including conference rooms, event spaces, library spaces along with micro-movie viewing spaces,” according to the PIEA documents.
Burns & McDonnell is the architect for the project. Other partners include Platform Ventures, David Brain of Brown Cow Capital and Andrew Brain of Brain Development Group.
This is the second phase of an ambitious renovation of historic Westport school properties by Walsh and his partners.
The former Westport Middle School across the street was renovated into the Westport Commons project in 2017 and is fully leased by Plexpod as co-working space.
Redeveloping the old high school was hindered by a deed attached to its sale by the Kansas City School District that prohibited the use of property tax abatements to help finance the redevelopment. The school was closed in 2010.
“While we knew that going in, it made a hard task harder,” he said. “We’ve worked through some cost challenges.”
The developer said the team had hoped to begin construction at the beginning of this year, but construction will likely start by late summer or early fall. Completion is anticipated in late 2022 or early 2023.
As for the commercial space, Walsh said negotiations are underway with a potential early childhood daycare provider, a food retail operator and potentially additional Plexpod space.
Future phases of the redevelopment of the 11.4-acre Westport High site could include additional new housing constructed on the property. The redevelopment plan also calls for eventually reconnecting Oak Street to 39th Street.
Flatland contributor Kevin Collison is the founder of CityScene KC, an online source for downtown news and issues.