Jason Swords

Sunflower Development: Preserving the past, creating a new future

MARCIA CHARNEY

Sunflower Development Group, founded 13 years ago, has established a niche in redeveloping historic properties. Principal Jason Swords shared with attendees at the Kansas City CCIM Chapter Breakfast on Friday, May 17, 2019, the details of some of its recently completed and current redevelopment projects. Swords showcased The Grand, a transformation by Sunflower Development Group and its project partner, Block Real Estate Services, of the Traders on Grand building, located in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The property, purchased in April, 2016 from Van Trust Real Estate, now features 201 luxury apartment units with high end amenities.

The Grand also features 12,000 square feet of office and retail space. Sunflower Development Group recently relocated its offices to The Grand. Sunflower Development Group worked with the National Parks Service to designate the Traders on Grand building a historic building, making the project eligible for historic tax credits on both the state and federal levels.

Swords said that without the historic tax credits, the project would not work. With a total investment of $69 million, the quality of the amenities and The Grand’s prime location, Swords said he believes the building has another 40 to 50 years of life, “so we believe we’re positioned really, really well.”

Another recently completed historic renovation project is the Blenheim School Apartments, located at 2411 E. 70TH Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri.  Sunflower Development Group acquired the closed Blenheim School through the Kansas City Missouri Public Schools’ repurposing program and transformed the building into 52 affordable/restricted income apartments for seniors 55 years and older. 

After signing the purchase contract, Swords said it took Sunflower Development Group three years to get the federal and state historic tax credits, the federal and state affordable housing credits and other financing in place.   During those three years, the gymnasium filled up with four feet of water creating a mold issue, recounted Swords, “so the building got less expensive the longer we were under contract.” 

The completed project opened in December, 2018 and is approximately 75% leased.   Swords noted that most of the tenants are from the neighborhood.  This is the second  Kansas City, Missouri school building that Sunflower Development Group has repurposed.  It completed a 48 unit affordable senior living project in 2017, the Faxon School Apartments, which is fully leased.

Within the next two months, Sunflower Development Group plans to begin the transformation of the former Valentine Shopping Center, located across the street from the Uptown Theater, into the Uptown Lofts, a 226 apartment unit project.  The project also will contain a retail component.  In addition, Swords noted, Sunflower Development Group is working with Sky Real Estate to convert the historic American Electric Building located in downtown  St. Joseph, Missouri into the American Electric Lofts, which will contain 137 market rate apartments.

Swords wanted to dispel the myth that it’s cheaper to buy an older building and convert it than undertaking new construction.  “Renovating an older property, you’re going to spend more per foot than you would building a new construction,” he said.