New plans developing at Hardesty & Independence Ave

Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

Plans are in the works for a local developer to repurpose the Hardesty Self Storage building at 5401 Independence Ave. into 352 apartments.

Now in the early stages of planning, developers are working to determine what is feasible, Jonathan Arnold of Arnold Development Group said.

“While our plans are not set in concrete, what we are aiming to build at the site is a mixed-use development that would be mainly residential in the 12-story building, with ground floor food hall-type related services, and with a focus and emphasis on local retailers and operators,” Arnold said.

The ground floor would have an indoor-outdoor eating experience, which Arnold said would try to tie together the myriad of ethnicities and amazing food options that are already in Northeast.

“Given that buildings are responsible for 40 up to 70% of our carbon emissions in cities, we see that our contribution to helping the environment is helping to create buildings that have a very low carbon footprint and are built to last a very long time,” Arnold said.

Arnold has been developing in Kansas City for the past 18 years, and said he is familiar with the area. His company is a Benefit Corporation, which measures its returns across a triple bottom line, balancing financial return, community and environment. He describes his company as a mission-driven, socially responsible real estate development company.

“The projects that we get involved in are typically catalytic in nature in that they transform both the site that we develop and they also have spinoff effects,” Arnold said. “That’s what myself and the people who invest with us like to see.”

Arnold Development Group is responsible for a sustainable new construction apartment building at 2nd and Delaware in River Market. While that one was designed to look like a historic warehouse, Arnold said they will keep the existing building at Hardesty and Independence.

“It’s an absolutely gorgeous building, we’re going to restore it back to what it looked like when it was built in 1919,” Arnold said. “That’s an amazing piece of history in the development of Kansas City as a frontier town and the Art Deco design is timeless, and it is built like a tank so it’s an incredible asset… The sort of patina and character that these buildings have, it’s very hard to replicate.”

He sees his role as coming in with more energy efficient systems and better windows, and creating spaces that are quiet and comfortable, while preserving the historic nature.

The plan is for 352 apartment units on the second through 12th floors, with a wide range of unit types including two-story, three and four bedrooms, and even micro units. Most of the units will be studios or one to two bedrooms.

“We’re looking at a 60/40 split, 60% would be for affordable housing… and then the other 40% would be classified at market rate,” Arnold said.

Arnold said in terms of housing cost, a majority will be classified as affordable, but they are focused on making the rest attainable for what he calls the “missing middle,” which is people who don’t qualify for affordable housing but can’t qualify for what he describes as downtown market rate.

“There’s no quality difference between the two, which is an important thing to note, and no one will know which unit is which, they’re all blended in,” Arnold said. “That’s typically considered a best practice in these types of projects.”

The development group plans to conduct a traffic study on Hardesty and Independence, and while the intersection is designed to handle steady traffic, Arnold said they will take note of the issues potentially caused by people entering and exiting the property’s parking lots.

“We have plenty of land and parts of that parking will be inside, and some of it will be surface parking,” Arnold said.

Currently, the project has an application being considered by the Missouri Housing and Development Commission to receive 4% Federal Tax Credits and other tax credits.

“We’re still in the process of jumping through all of the various hurdles and hoops to get ready to start the project,” Arnold said. “If everything goes according to plan, we’d hopefully start construction toward the end of this year, probably a 14 to 16 month build out.”

Arnold said the group has made presentations to the Lykins Neighborhood Association board, and will continue to work with them and other local entities.

“We’re here to help strengthen and contribute to the community that is already there and vibrant and growing, and do it in a responsible way,” Arnold said. “We welcome input and we’ll be making presentations throughout the process.”

Bobbi Baker-Hughes, President and CEO of the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID) manager, said her organizations had not heard yet from developers.

“It’s such a huge project, and such a meaningful project, to the community that to make a larger presentation to be more inclusive of the greater Northeast community would be appropriate,” Baker-Hughes said.

Hardesty Self Storage offers storage units up to 30,000 square feet, and stores vehicles and trailers among many other things.

In 1919, the building was built for approximately $2.5 million as the National Cloak & Suit Company warehouse, later known as the National Bellas Hess Co.

The back of a postcard featuring the building read, “Two thousand people are employed in this building, which also contains a thoroughly modern hospital, cafeteria, recreation room, ball grounds, tennis courts, etc.”

At one time, Bellas Hess was one of the top five mail order companies in the country, generating sales of more than $250 million a year through the mailing of 25 million catalogs.

During World War II, the site became known as the Kansas City Quartermaster Depot, including a unit that processed personal effects of military personnel killed in action.

In 1948, the Army established the Kansas City Records Center in the building, consolidating five record centers located in other cities into the Hardesty location.

The federal government continued to occupy the site through the early 1980’s until the structure was sold to Megaspace Inc., a self-storage facility. The remainder of the 18-acre plot was offered for sale on the open market in 2008 and was purchased by Foundation Telecommunications of Rogers, Ark.

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