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Blocks break ground on a dream: 46 Penn Centre

October 18, 2017
  • Projects
As seen in the Kansas City Business Journal. Reported by Rob Roberts. (October 16, 2017)

Allen Block, founder and chairman of the firm now known as Block Real Estate Services, shared a dream with his three sons prior to his death in 2009.

"We always had ambitions that we might want to build a really cool building on the (Country Club) Plaza," said one of the sons, BRES Managing Principal Ken Block. "The three boys and Dad used to talk about that, but he's gone now and it's our opportunity to do what we all talked about."

Ken Block and his brothers, fellow BRES principals Stephen and Michael Block, were on hand Monday to help break ground on their family's dream building, 46 Penn Centre, a $93 million Class A office tower at 4622 Pennsylvania Ave. in Kansas City.

"Our journey on this began back in 2010," Ken Block told the crowd that gathered on the site for the ceremony. "This was the (site of the blighted, 1950s) Victory Court Apartments, a piece of property we heard was going to the market. We picked it up very quickly" — because of their dream.

"I let my brother (Stephen), who never had a gray hair when he started the process, work (on the project) with the city, the Friends of the Plaza and the neighborhood," Ken added. "He did a really great job putting together an entitlement package, which was really important because these infill sites, when you're knocking down product and bringing in new utilities, are very, very expensive."

The "entitlement package" phrase he used is a euphemism for the local incentive package that included a 20-year property tax abatement and a sales tax exemption on the cost of building materials.

Mayor Sly James, one of the speakers during the groundbreaking ceremony, noted that residents more conservative than he is are often opposed to incentives.

 

"So first of all," he quipped, "I want to remark that I've always found it very interesting and rewarding to hear people to the right of me talk about how much they love entitlements. Thank you very much. A new day has dawned."

James went on to congratulate BRES on its development contributions across the metro area and its newest effort on the Plaza.

"The density that's being built is exactly what cities of our size need in order to sustain themselves," James said. "When you have a city this big, what you don't need is to be spreading out. You need to be contracting in so that services can be consolidated, transportation can be more focused.

"It's also very nice to have another Class A office space on the Plaza. It's the first time since 2005 that (a new Plaza multitenant office building) has been built. It shows a vision that really does capture the momentum we have been building.

"As we continue to grow and as we continue to do things like pursue Amazon and a new airport terminal, these are all things that will mesh together to make this city in the next 10 years even better than it is today and to bring its profile up, not just here in the city, not just in the state, not just in the region but around the country and the world."

Mike Maddox, CEO of CrossFirst Bank, also spoke during the ceremony. In addition to joining BRES as one of the first tenants to commit to leases at 46 Penn Centre, CrossFirst, along with First Security Bank, is providing construction financing for the project.

"Oct. 1 was our 10th birthday," Maddox said. "We are now the fourth-largest bank headquartered in Kansas City. We spent two years looking for some place to land in the core of the city. We looked for two years for space, and we couldn't find any.

"I walked down to Ken (Block's) office one afternoon, and he happened to be in and was kind enough to give me 10 minutes, which turned into two hours.

"We really saw his vision and wanted to be a part of it. We wanted a first-class location where we can be a part of the city, and Ken is going to build that building ... We're going to be on the top floor of this building, and we're going to have our name on it, so we're very proud."

The Leawood-based bank, which expanded to a temporary branch location at One Main Plaza in May, also will open a permanent ground-floor branch location at 46 Penn Centre and will occupy part of the 13th floor of the 14-story tower.

Slated for completion in late 2019, the building will include eight stories of office space totaling 209,500 square feet, six floors of parking and 10,500 square feet for the CrossFirst branch and two restaurants.

"In the next couple of months, when we get the utilities moved and all that, there will be a hole where I'm standing about 30 feet deep," Ken Block said. "Then, soon enough, there will be (vertical construction) that everybody can see. I think it will be breathtaking. I think it will be a vibrant addition to the Plaza and something we're all going to be proud of."

Designed by Hoefer Wysocki Architecture, 46 Penn Centre will be built by McCownGordon Construction. Multiple shades of precast concrete, natural stone and reflective glass will frame the exterior of the building, while stone-clad columns, granite flooring, wood-covered panels and stainless steel accents will greet tenants and visitors as they enter the building's two-story main entrance lobby. Nearly 70 percent of the exterior will be made of glass, including an insulated window wall system designed to reduce energy loss.

The signature feature at 46 Penn Centre will be its two-story-high monumental cap, which Block has variously called "the sweep," "the swoop" and "the swoosh" because of the way it will sweep, swoop or swoosh skyward to the east. The cap will be constructed with integrated LED-backlit, translucent glass panels. In addition, BRES is working on an exterior lighting system for the remainder of the building.

Smart technology also will be implemented throughout the building, including a digital control system with energy conservation logic that will continuously monitor power loads to minimize energy consumption. With expected energy savings of 30 to 40 percent compared to standard office buildings, 46 Penn Center will reduce operating costs for all tenants.

Other features will include private tenant balconies on all floors to offer views of the historic 15-block Plaza shopping district and a yet-to-be-named world-class restaurant to be accessible from Pennsylvania Avenue and the building's lobby.

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