City Hall lofts part of K.C. ‘revitalization’

? A nonprofit corporation’s plans to convert the former City Hall in downtown Kansas City, Kan., to loft apartments is proof that the city is being revitalized, developers said.

For the past year, City Vision Ministries, a nonprofit community development corporation, has been laying the financial foundation for converting the 92-year-old City Hall into a 40-unit loft apartment building.

The $5.5 million project received a boost last month when the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing approved housing tax credits that will generate $2.2 million in equity.

That approval came nearly a year after City Vision got tentative approval for $1.9 million in historic preservation tax credits. Construction could begin as early as this fall.

The 40 units are a small fraction of the thousands of dwellings — lofts or otherwise — that have been built in downtown Kansas City, Mo., in the past decade. But they are a start for Kansas City, Kan., said John Harvey, City Vision’s president and executive director.

The building that City Vision plans to renovate served as City Hall from 1911 to 1972. The four-story building has been vacant ever since. City Vision plans to exercise its option to purchase the building for $10 from Wyandotte County’s Unified Government.

Plans call for converting office and meeting spaces into apartments ranging in size from 600 to 1,500 square feet, including an artist’s studio in the former men’s jail and two penthouse units in what used to be the women’s jail. The old police garage next door will provide residents with covered parking.

Many of the apartments will preserve some of the building’s elements, such as 18-foot ceilings and old, walk-in safes in 15 of the units. Each unit will have a kitchen and bathroom, but most will essentially be one large room.

“It’s classic, New York-style lofts,” Harvey said. “It’s very flexible space. Wide open. Big windows.”

Harvey expects that monthly leases will range from $450 to $1,000, slightly lower than in downtown Kansas City, Mo., where it’s difficult to find apartments for less than $550 a month.

Because the building is receiving historic preservation tax credits, its common spaces — such as the spacious former City Hall chambers — must be restored to their original condition.