Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

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Posted on July 6, 2005
Page: 4


New downtown demographic sought for City Hall Lofts

Residential rebirth is one project goal


For lease: 44 loft apartment units in the historic old Kansas City, Kan., City Hall building. Unique features such as old walk-in safe vaults in 15 units, original hardwood flooring and exposed brick. Some units have beautiful views of Strawberry Hill and downtown Kansas City.

Who wouldn't want to live there?

While the new City Hall Lofts are attractive to many, loft living is not for everyone, according to John Harvey, executive director of City Vision Ministries, the organization that refurbished the building into apartments.

"We know exactly who are demographic is," said Harvey. "Young singles, couples without children or empty-nest singles."

The City Hall Lofts, in the original City Hall building used by Kansas City, Kan., government from 1911 to the early 1970s, are true "New York style lofts," with very open floor plans, according to Harvey.

"The open floor plans don't make an appealing choice for couples with children," Harvey said.

The lofts officially opened in late June for public viewing. The third and fourth floors are now complete and ready for leasing. The 15 units on those floors, which include the $1,000-a-month penthouse (the first unit officially rented), are now available for occupancy. The market-rate units, accounting for 40 percent of the building's units, have all been leased, Harvey said. Units that helped the project qualify for historic tax credits make up the rest of the building.

"We took quite a few applications" in late June, said Barbara Lohr, director of marking for Yarco Companies, the management firm hired to lease and manage the building. "We're very excited because we generated interest."

So far, advertising the property has been limited to hanging a sign on the building, advertising on a Web site and networking with downtown businesses and government employees who might be interested in moving closer to their place of work..

Prices for the loft apartments range from $415 for a studio to $1,000 a month for the two-bedroom penthouse. Pricing is a feature Lohr said would help attract young singles or couples who are in the beginning of their careers.

"I think we've generated a lot of interest with workers downtown because we've showed them that these are just not for people with a lot of money," said Lohr.

Harvey said the lofts are ranging on average from 65 cents to 70 cents per square foot, while similar offerings across the state line in downtown Kansas City range from $1 to $1.10 per square foot.

"We've generated a lot of interest from people in Johnson and Jackson counties as well," said Harvey.

The lofts may not be just for people with a lot of money, but all of the lofts are upscale and many have historic features such as the walk-in vault safes, original wood crown molding, wood or tile floors and some have exposed brick walls. The penthouse, which used to serve as the women's jail, retained one of its jail doors.

The building is on the register of historic places and many of the fixtures had to be retained for tax credit incentives.

Although the penthouse suite was rented to a middle-aged man, Lohr said, she expects a mix of people in the building.

"We had one empty-nest couple come through and they said they loved it, but they didn't know where they would put 4,700 square feet of stuff they have now," said Lohr. "It's a very unique concept to many people in this part of the country, but it's a different lifestyle and it's not for everyone."

It's not for people who like to garden or who have hobby cars or like to tinker in their garages, Harvey said.

However, the building does have its own parking, which allows parking for one car per resident for free; more spaces are available for a fee. There is also visitor parking. The City Hall Lofts will also feature a courtyard area. Residents are allowed one pet.

While some of the lofts with some of the best views have been rented, there are still about 30 left on the lower floors, which will be ready for later occupancy.

The last unit to be renovated will be the 3,500-square-foot space once used as the City Council chambers. The unit will feature an upstairs loft master suite looking down onto a living space with an open floor plan. Estimated rent: $1,800-$2,000 a month, with an option to purchase after a five-year lease. This is the only unit planned to turn into a condominium buy-in.

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