Avenue 82 Q&A
An Insider Look with BRR, EPC, and McCownGordon
The Avenue 82 project is a new development in the heart of downtown Overland Park. It is the third development in a series by EPC Real Estate (following right after the Avenue 80 and 81 mixed-use buildings), but it’s the first office building. Designed by BRR Architecture, the building will be home to BRR Architecture’s Kansas City-area team as the primary tenant. McCownGordon joined the EPC and BRR team early in the planning process to help make all the project pieces fit together. We sat down with these key project team members to learn a little more about the unique new build.
What is your role on the project?
Mike McKeen, President, EPC Real Estate – We played a quarterback role with land acquisition and platting, contracts and negotiations for properties, providing cash up front to acquire property and worked with the city to make incentives work. Generally, EPC leads projects from the get go, but on this project, BRR and McCownGordon were instrumental in the process. My role has been easy because everyone’s interests are aligned. It’s my favorite project!
James Hailey, AIA, President/CEO, BRR Architecture – Rich Majors and I have been looking at downtown Overland Park properties for 8 to 10 years. We found EPC as a partner to make it happen and worked on the development for more than a year before it came to fruition. Since then, my role is primarily oversight. I’ve been working with Scott Richards and his team at McCownGordon to make decisions which will maintain the original scope of the project.
Rich Majors, AIA, COO, BRR Architecture – My goal is executing the vision for BRR. We have been in our current building for 30 years and really wanted a better community environment for our people. I’ve been focused on programming and design of both the shell and our tenant space.
Scott Richards, Project Executive, McCownGordon – Our team’s goal is to ensure we deliver top-notch construction services while looking after EPC’s and BRR’s needs and expectations. We were brought on early to drive value and maximize the budget by running various scenarios and analyzing cost options. We evaluated parking structures options, floor plate evaluations and various structural systems to find the best solutions for their investment. As project executive, I was involved from the start and am leading the construction team as we near completion.
Downtown Overland Park is booming. What started the development in this downtown area?
Mike (EPC) – We like developments with walkability, charm, character and areas that lend to features such as outdoor rooftops. In downtown Overland Park, we saw the opportunity for this type of environment. It has a great mix of businesses, professionals and empty nesters. For our developments here, Avenue 80 came first and Avenue 82 will be the third in this series. EPC Real Estate even left the Country Club Plaza to have our own office in the third and fourth floor office at Avenue 80. We really like it here. We’re invested and want to be involved in the area’s continued growth.
Rich (BRR) – When we reviewed where all of our Kansas City metro-area employees live, this location just makes sense for our team. We saw an opportunity in this neighborhood with the growing number of restaurants and the farmers market. We wanted to give our team a walkable area for lunches and happy hours after work, and downtown Overland Park has it. The city has a great vision for this area and we’re happy to become part of it all.
How was McCownGordon brought on to the project?
Mike (EPC) – We talked to a few potential partners, but ultimately our team went around the room and asked, “Who do we want to work with?” It was a unanimous decision to work with McCownGordon. Everyone recognized McCownGordon’s reputation and had witnessed their client-focused and integrated process.
BRR is moving their headquarters after 30 years. What precipitated this move?
James (BRR) – We had been looking to move for years. This presented a great opportunity to move to a more architecturally significant property, one that we could design from the very beginning. A new design with a better layout made more sense for the way we collaboratively work. And there’s the walkability and urban vibe. Having restaurants and nearby amenities for our team is a great benefit.
Are any other tenants involved in the development?
Mike (EPC) – BRR attracted their neighbors, Reach Healthcare Foundation. They’ll be tenants on the first and second floor. We are about 80 percent pre-leased on the building, which is good for a development at this phase in the process.
James (BRR) – Our friends and neighbors, Reach Healthcare Foundation, told us a long time ago to let them know if we ever thought about moving. So, when this project began to take shape, we approached them with the opportunity. They dove right in. We are designing their tenant finish as well, creating a cohesive look and feel for them.
What was the design inspiration for this project?
Rich (BRR) – The design is very in line with the Vision Metcalf plan, an initiative to create a pedestrian, walkable and urban feel. There is also a response to the existing vernacular with Avenue 80 and 81, and there’s a contemporary look and feel with glazing and wood, which creates warmth. It’ll be interesting to see what this area looks like in 10 years. We tried to plan for what it “could be” in the future.
James (BRR) – The space will also feature a very cool outdoor deck on the fourth floor. Plus, internal connecting stairs into each tenant space provide great connectivity for both BRR and Reach Healthcare Foundation.
Mike (EPC) – We plan to integrate art into the space through a rotating art program. We’ll be showcasing various themes annually and then offering the art for sale. It’s a great opportunity for local artists to increase exposure. In addition, we’re working with the city’s art director to put three art sculptures on the streetscape that will rotate annually.
What added value did the design and construction teams bring to the preconstruction phase of the project?
Rich (BRR) – The design and construction teams did a structural analysis of concrete versus steel (based on commodity prices). We looked at envelope options and reworked the site planning and parking options to stay within Vision Metcalf requirements. We made big decisions early on to ensure the project was feasible. The team’s flexibility with analyzing all these options and partnership approach is really what made the project possible.
Have there been any hold ups or concerns during the process? How has the team tackled those challenges?
Rich (BRR) – There’s always going to be challenges on any project. What’s unique on this project is everyone acted as owners. Everyone threw the ego away and solved problems, focusing on what’s best for the project. Solid relationships have really helped mitigate any conflicts.
Scott (McCownGordon) – Rich hit the nail on the head. Our team’s relationships on this project just made challenges easy—almost go away. From our team’s perspective, we wanted to deliver BRR’s design vision and exceed expectations. We take our responsibility seriously by ensuring we communicate the cost accurately while providing innovative strategies and alternatives.
When is the project expected to be complete? And what impact do you foresee this project having?
Scott (McCownGordon) – We’re right on track for our December completion date! Speaking from McCownGordon’s own experience in recently moving our headquarters to a more walkable area, I think this move to downtown Overland Park will bring more energy, productivity and team synergy to BRR’s associates. I’m excited to see the impact for their team.
James (BRR) – For the city, there will be 160+ new people on the streets over lunch and after work. That’s a big effect for downtown businesses. It’s a big change for our employees, too. It’s a better environment to live and work in and it’s huge for recruiting. It’s also significant for BRR beyond just our daily environment. We now have our own building as a case study for our design. We’ve seen a lot of brand recognition locally for making this move.
Rich (BRR) – Our goal is to be rooted in the community and this move will only enhance our ability to do so. We’ve completed 30 projects right along Metcalf Avenue in 30 years. Right now, we’re designing 12! It would be wonderful to be considered as THE architect working in Overland Park.
Mike (EPC) – This is EPC Real Estate’s first true office building, which is a big stepping stone for us. And it probably wouldn’t have happened without this team and the relationships that made it work. This development is much more than just Avenue 82, it’s a new home to BRR’s Kansas City-area team.
What is the most exciting or unique thing about this project?
James (BRR) – The coolest thing is we’ll be working in a building that BRR has designed from the beginning. Not many architects get to do that. And we’ve made a commitment to stay in this building for a long time.
Rich (BRR) – I’m most excited about connectivity between the floors with our large open staircase, it will really maximize how we collaborate with each other.
Scott (McCownGordon) – The best part of this project for us is these new relationships we’ve formed. It’s exciting to think about opportunities to do work with this team again.
Mike (EPC) – This has been a unique and enjoyable experience. We’ve had the least amount of construction issues I’ve ever experienced on a project. Seriously. On another note, our mission statement is “to build products that improve people’s lifestyles” and this project has allowed us to do that. While our history has been mostly mixed-use and multifamily, I’ve loved seeing the excitement that this new office building has been putting on the BRR team members’ faces.
Progress photos, provided by BRR and McCownGordon