Federal Courthouse in Downtown Kansas City to Be Converted to Workforce Housing

The Alexander Co. of Madison, Wis., acquired the historic U.S. Federal Courthouse in downtown Kansas City, Miss.

Federal Courthouse

Kansas City, Miss.–The Alexander Co. of Madison, Wis., acquired the historic U.S. Federal Courthouse in downtown Kansas City, Miss., late last year and began construction on it in January. Leasing is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2011.

The Courthouse was lying vacant for almost a decade before this $40 million transaction closed. While it wasn’t in decaying condition, it certainly wasn’t in the best state. Alexander Co., which has since 1982, exclusively done adaptive reuse of historic buildings, will renovate the 72-year old Courthouse into 176 workforce-housing apartments.

“It was built during the Great Depression and a number of historic court cases took place in this building,” Matt Meier, development project manager, tells MHN. “The GSA (US General Service Administration), looked after it for a decade when it was vacant. They kept it heated and secure but a building begins to deteriorate when it’s unused.”

The project will include 109 one-bedroom apartments with rents ranging from $600-$650 per month, and 67 two-bedroom apartments from $720-$780. There will also be approximately 10,000 square feet of retail space available for lease and the potential for re-use of the historic courtrooms, which will be preserved in the core of the building.

“The Courthouse project is a significant public/private partnership and people at all levels of government have worked tirelessly to see that this project came to fruition,” says Meier. “It was amazing to see staff at Missouri Housing Development Commission and other governmental bodies literally working all night long on many occasions to meet rigid Federal deadlines. The City expedited their permit review process, Staff at the General Service Administration, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and National Park Service worked out some of the final details literally at the 11th hour and the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority (PIEA) had the foresight to stick with the project throughout the whole financial crisis.”

Ultimately, US Bank committed the tax credit equity and was critical in moving the project forward.

A product of the “New Deal” program, the building’s foundation was laid on October 20, 1938, and the first federal agency moved in on September 21, 1939. Its quarters served as the setting for several landmark desegregation, anti-trust, and criminal cases during the mid-to late twentieth century. In addition to housing the federal courts and associated judicial offices, more than sixteen different government bureaus and departments also occupied the building, including a post office substation and Harry S. Truman’s local senatorial offices. The building was ultimately vacated in 1998 when the new courthouse was built downtown and since then government officials have been seeking viable reuse alternatives while preserving the historic character of the building.

The U.S. Courthouse is the second adaptive reuse project The Alexander Co. has undertaken in downtown Kansas City in recent years.

“We are very fortunate to be a part of the transformation that downtown Kansas City has seen in recent years,” says Meier. “This is the largest single building affordable housing project in the state of Missouri. The project has not only managed to close at a time of financial turmoil but almost closed once before just as the financial storm hit. So we had to start all over.”

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