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Downtown KC to land Omaha tech firm, MindMixer

MindMixer, a growing tech firm founded two years ago in Omaha has found a new home in the Crossroads Arts District of Downtown and expects to employ 85 people.

mindmixer

The business specializes in hosting interactive online sites for companies, governments and others that want to present information and get feedback from consumers and clients,  according to The Kansas City StarThe firm has more than 700 clients around the country, including the Kansas City streetcar program.

The Star’s story continued:

MindMixer already has a small operation at 1627 Main St. with about 20 people and plans to consolidate its headquarters operation in Omaha along with another operation in Lincoln, Neb., at its site in Kansas City. The firm employs about 50 people now in Nebraska, and the majority are expected to move to Kansas City.

Company officials say they were attracted to Kansas City and the Crossroads area in particular because of its existing pool of talented tech workers and its creative environment. The firm also was wooed with $1.6 million in state tax incentives.

MindMixer has been honored in Omaha, receiving the 2013 Innovator of Year award from the Chamber of Commerce there, and Technology Company of the Year honor from the AIM Institute, an Omaha-based organization that supports the tech industry.

“We’re a proud Midwestern company, but in order to sustain growth we needed to be in a location with a skilled workforce that meets the needs of our high-tech business,” Nick Bowden, co-founder and CEO of MindMixer, said in a statement Monday. “That’s where Kansas City comes in. This community already has an abundance of experienced workers, and the talent pool only seems to be getting bigger.”

The other co-founder is Nathan Preheim, chief operating officer of MindMixer.

Other cities considered for the company’s operations included Omaha and the Silicon Valley area of California. In a statement, MindMixer cited Kansas City’s urban setting, existing information technology talent availability and appeal to attracting new talent as assets.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said the city had good experience with the firm’s ability to capture public opinion through what he described as its civic technology platform.

“This is an example of an innovative company choosing to make its home in an innovative city,” James said in a statement. “I’m certain their employees and clients will find their location on the downtown streetcar line an added bonus.”

Applicants interested in jobs with MindMixer should go to a website operated by Metropolitan Community College at mindmixer.mcckc.edu.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said state incentives had been offered to MindMixer. If the company meets strict job creation and investment criteria, it could access up to $1,656,450 through the Missouri Works program.

MindMixer is the latest tech firm to move to the Crossroads area in recent years. Brightergy Solar, a solar power systems firm, moved to 1617 Main St. from Lenexa in 2012, and RareWire, a software firm specializing in iPad applications, relocated from Prairie Village in 2012 to the same building where MindMixer is. SCD Probiotics, a biotech firm, also is based at 1627 Main.

MindMixer was represented by Chuck Conneally of Waterford Properties on its real estate search. The building landlord was represented by Brad Nicholson of Nicholson Development.

 

RNC hits the road to visit KC, others; Cast your vote here

A Republican National Committee team paid a visit to Las Vegas on Thursday  to explore the logistics for staging the GOP’s 2016 national convention. The RNC will visit Kansas City, one of six finalists in the site selection process, later this week.

Downtown Kansas City and its Convention Center are finalists in the Republican National Committee's hunt for the host city of its 2016 Convention.

Downtown Kansas City and its Convention Center are finalists in the Republican National Committee’s hunt for the host city of its 2016 Convention.

The Vegas visit was the first of a series of stops at RNC Convention finalists this week, including Kansas City on Friday, April 25.

The RNC technical site selection committee met Thursday with Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority chief Rossi Ralenkotter and members of the GOP team putting together the city’s bid.

Former Gov. Bob List, a senior adviser to the Las Vegas effort, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal (http://bit.ly/1lhNiFK ) that the team looked over the Las Vegas Convention Center, the proposed site of the 2016 convention.

Las Vegas is one of six finalists vying to host the convention. The other cities being visited by the team this week and next are Denver, Dallas, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Kansas City.

To cast your vote on which city should host the 2016 RNC Convention, click here

 

Spencer Fane renews its lease in Downtown

Spencer Fane, a blue-chip prospect in a hungry local office market, has decided to stay put in a Downtown building where it was an original tenant in 1985, according to The Kansas City Star

The Commerce Bank Building at 10th & Main in Downtown Kansas City.

The Commerce Bank Building at 10th & Main in Downtown Kansas City.

The firm has signed a 12-year extension of its lease at the Commerce Bank Building at 1000 Walnut St. and will expand its office space from 55,000 to 63,000 square feet. The firm will occupy all of the 12th, 13th and 14th floors.

In signing on for a dozen more years, the 130-employee office of the Kansas City-based firm passed on offers from Crown Center to the Country Club Plaza and pitches to be the anchor tenant in proposed new buildings as well.

“We’re thrilled,” said Thomas “Buzz” Willard, president of Tower Properties, the building landlord. “They did a market search and had lots of good options.”

Patrick J. Whalen, managing partner for Spencer Fane, said discussions with the firm’s employees indicated remaining downtown was their overwhelming preference. The firm employs 55 attorneys in Kansas City and a support staff of 75 people.

“I told my colleagues it was my job to look at every option, and I visited 10 or 12 different properties,” Whalen said. “We’re thrilled to renew our commitment to downtown at the same time a new chapter is beginning at Spencer Fane.”

The firm is planning a multimillion-dollar renovation of its space, which has changed little since it moved into the then-new Commerce Bank Building in 1985. The cost of the lease extension and renovation was unavailable.

Plans call for the addition of a conference center for client and social use along with collaborative workspace. Nelson, an international architectural firm, will design the new space. Centric Projects is the contractor.

Work is to begin this spring and be completed by early 2015.

Spencer Fane was founded in Kansas City in 1879 and has six offices in four states. It employs a total of 130 attorneys.

 

Developer pursues $125 million Downtown apartment plan

An Indianapolis developer with local roots is planning to build three separate Downtown apartment projects totaling 661 units in the Quality Hill and West Crossroads areas, according to a report in The Kansas City Star this week.

Jim Thomas, a partner with Cityscape Residential who grew up in Raytown, wants to enter the urban market in a big way with an investment in new apartment construction totaling $125 million, according to a story by reporter Kevin Collison.

The proposed Crossroads West apartment complex would feature a six-story building with 275 luxury apartments wrapped around a 400-space parking garage.

The proposed Crossroads West apartment complex would feature a six-story building with 275 luxury apartments wrapped around a 400-space parking garage.

If his development plan rolls out as proposed, it would be almost twice the investment planned by the Cordish Co. in its 25-story, 311-unit apartment tower scheduled to break ground at 2 p.m. Monday at 13th and Walnut streets. It’s also twice the size as the 323-unit Market Station development that opened in the River Market in 2010.

Thomas is seeking a 25-year property tax abatement for the entire development and is scheduled to have his request reviewed Friday by the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.

“Nobody loves Kansas City more than I do,” Thomas told The Star on Wednesday. “I’ve tried to do new development in Kansas City over the years, but the opportunities were too small for investment-grade, high-quality developments of interest to institutional investors.”

Downtown housing has been a priority for the city and Downtown Council, an organization of property and business owners. The Downtown Council reports nearly 20,000 people lived in greater Downtown last year, and the goal is to double that number.

The Star continued:

But now, Thomas said, the planets have aligned for one of the bigger apartment deals in downtown history, particularly involving new construction rather than conversion or renovation.

He has a contract to buy two sites on the west edge of Quality Hill along the bluff overlooking the West Bottoms, and a triangular site in an area called Crossroads West southeast of Interstate 35 and Southwest Boulevard near La Bodega restaurant at 703 Southwest Blvd.

The Crossroads West project calls for a six-story building with 275 luxury apartments. It would be wrapped around a 400-space garage. The project calls for demolition of a vacant Jones Store warehouse at 2311 Jefferson St.

The Quality Hill projects are called Apex on Quality Hill, a 130-unit development between Case Park and the HNTB office building at 715 Kirk Drive, and Summit on Quality Hill, a 256-unit development south of 12th Street straddling Pennsylvania Avenue.

If the tax incentives are approved, construction could begin on all three projects by the end of this year. The smaller Apex project would be completed by the end of 2015, and the larger Summit and Crossroads West projects by mid-2016.

Thomas said based on the strong demand for downtown housing — the occupancy rate is well in excess of 90 percent — and the quality of the new construction planned, “I’m absolutely, completely, and have total faith the demand is there to absorb that many units.”

Still, he said the difficulties in developing the urban sites will require the tax abatement incentive to make the projects economically viable.

The Crossroads West project is being designed by Helix Architecture & Design, and Thomas described the style as “playful.” It would be split evenly between one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The units would range in size from 650 to 800 square feet for a one-bedroom, and 1,000 to 1,300 square feet for a two-bedroom. Monthly rents would range from $950 to $1,200 for one-bedrooms and $1,600 to $1,800 for the twos. Parking would be included.

Amenities would include balconies, a pool, coffee bars, bicycle lockers and a club area. The garage would face I-35 with the apartments oriented toward downtown.

The Quality Hill projects are being designed by NSPJ Architects of Prairie Village. All the buildings in both developments would be four stories with parking on the basement level.

The Apex on Quality Hill project calls for two buildings, and the Summit on Quality Hill project would have five buildings. Monthly rents would range from $1,000 to $1,200 for one-bedroom units, and $1,600 to $1,800 for two bedrooms. Parking is included in the rent.

Over the past 20 years and working with different firms, Thomas estimated he has developed 3,500 luxury apartments in the Kansas City area.

Cityscape Residential also is developing apartments at the Prairiefire development at 135th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park.

Besides Kansas City, the firm has developed apartment projects in Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky.

 

DTC, Central Library to celebrate Crossroads Academy’s 2nd year

The Central Library, the Crossroads Academy and the Downtown Council will collaborate on a special breakfast event next week to mark the home stretch of the second full year of successful operations at the school.

Crossroads Academy charter elementary school students.

Crossroads Academy charter elementary school students.

The Crossroads Academy is the academically rigorous, tuition-free, elementary charter school in Downtown Kansas City. The school works in close partnership with the  Central Library, the school’s library, the Downtown Council and the Downtown Community Improvement District on many fronts.

You are invited to attend this free event at 8 a.m. Wednesday, April 16, at the library. To RSVP, click here or call 816-701-3407.

Following a light breakfast buffet, a brief program will begin at 8:30 a.m. and feature the premiere of a student-produced video about the Library, plus a song by students in the school’s new performing arts program. Remarks will be made by Dean Johnson and Susan Maynor from Crossroads Academy, Bill Dietrich, Downtown Council president, and Crosby Kemper III, Library director.