Cordish begins conversion of Midland office building into workforce housing

The Cordish Cos. anticipates a May completion for its 135-unit conversion of the historic former Midland office building at 1221 Baltimore.

The Kansas City Business Journal, July 11, 2023

The Cordish Cos. officially is underway on a long-planned conversion of Downtown’s historic former Midland office building into workforce housing.

Baltimore-based Cordish recently started early work on its Midland Lofts project in the 12-story building at 1221 Baltimore Ave. The builder, which owns the Kansas City Power & Light District, received an interior demolition permit in May and installed a trash chute outside the building in June. It celebrated the project’s groundbreaking Monday at the adjacent Midland Theatre.

The Midland Lofts is scheduled to open in May with 135 studio and one-bedroom apartments, intended as affordable for renters earning as much as 80% of the area’s median family income. New unit listings reflect monthly rents ranging between $735 for a 334-square-foot studio to $2,011 for a 998-square-foot one-bedroom unit. By comparison, rents in Cordish’s Three Light luxury apartment tower northeast of Main Street and Truman Road are expected to range between $1,461 for a studio to $8,078 for a two-bedroom penthouse.

“The Midland Lofts renovation is a major step in the direction of making living Downtown more broadly accessible to the downtown workforce, and we believe that the Midland Lofts can be a catalyst for the development of more moderately priced living options Downtown,” said Power & Light District President John Moncke.

The former Midland office building was built in 1927 and previously was headquarters for the NCAA and AMC Theatres. The office building and adjoining 3,000-seat theater were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

With the Midland Lofts project, Helix Architecture + Design — also the architect behind the theater’s renovation in the mid-2000s — looks to meld historic character with upscale finishes evocative of Cordish’s “Light” buildings, in partnership with RD Jones + Associates as interior designer.

Floor-to-ceiling windows in a corner one-bedroom apartment at Three Light Luxury Apartments look out onto Main Street. (Photo by Adam Vogler, Kansas City Business Journal)

Each Midland Lofts unit will include quartz counters, stainless steel appliances, custom closet organizers and in-unit washers and dryers. The nearly 5,000 square feet of amenities will include a coffee bar, entertainment kitchen, fitness center, co-working spaces, billiards room, club lounge, meditation room and indoor community fireplace.

“Our urban landscape is constantly evolving, and adaptive reuse of historic structures plays a crucial role in breathing new life into our city center,” Helix architect Alexis Oppenheimer said Monday. “The Midland building has long been regarded as an underutilized historic tool, and its renovation ensures that this magnificent piece of architecture remains relevant and functional in the modern era.”

Vacant more than 20 years, the Midland building’s conversion has long been part of Cordish’s residential plans regarding the Power & Light District. City officials tied the conversion to Three Light in a 2018 renegotiation of master development terms with Cordish. The deal conditioned incentives for the luxury tower and future projects on the developer’s provision of workforce housing in the historic building. The Midland project landed a 25-year property tax abatement in 2019 through the city’s Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.

Estimated as a $25 million project, the Midland Lofts at first was to take place at the same time as Three Light, with previous 2020 and 2021 construction targets shared by Cordish.

The conversion comes as Three Light’s construction draws to a close; Moncke said the tower’s first residents are scheduled to move in within a few weeks, ahead of the project’s September completion. Cordish envisions at least three new-build multifamily projects in or near the Power & Light District on the heels of starting Midland Lofts’ construction. One potential tower would involve a reassignment of development air rights southwest of 13th and Main streets, a site previously targeted for an office building.

As different market-rate residential projects advance, from Cordish and other developers, City Manager Brian Platt said the Midland Lofts could represent a blueprint for other underused downtown buildings to be repurposed with housing at a variety of price points.

“It’s important to us to build housing across all the income spectrums to make sure we’re meeting all the needs of our city,” he said. “Affordable housing at the lowest incomes is one very important part of it. It’s got to pull that middle (income) section as well. And what’s great about (the Midland conversion) is, it’s not just a carbon copy of every new high-rise you see in Kansas City and in other cities. It’s something so unique and so different, and it’s really going to make Downtown a lot more attractive and interesting for people.”