KANSAS CITY—Many cities across the Midwest have seen a revival in recent years, as young people who reject the suburban lifestyle flock to the region’s downtowns. Companies that want to tap into this new and growing concentration of potential employees have also followed, filling up old, underused structures and even developing new towers.
“There is a stunning difference between downtown Kansas City ten years ago and today,” Bob Marcusse, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas City Area Development Council, tells GlobeSt.com. “You would never have thought ten years ago that this would be happening.”
Although many of the biggest office users in the Kansas City area have historically settled in the suburban hinterland, Marcusse adds that “a lot of the recent office successes have been in the urban core. There is the growing sense that they need to be in an urban environment because that’s where the young and the restless are likely to live. Today, it’s much more balanced between the urban core and the suburban areas.”
In the past decade, companies invested about $6 billion in downtown Kansas City, Marcusse says. In 2006, for example, Hines Interests finished the 18-story, 531,168-square-foot H & R Block World Headquarters. And adjacent to this glass-walled tower, the Baltimore-based Cordish Company has built the nine-block Power & Light District, an $850 million project that now provides a host of live music venues, theaters, bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
The downtown revival has also started to attract tech jobs.
The Omaha-based MindMixer, for example, recently selected the city for the firm’s national headquarters, bringing in 85 information technology, software and programming jobs. The company will consolidate its offices in Omaha and Lincoln, NE, into the new Kansas City office at 1627 Main St. in the Crossroads Art+Design District.
“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,” says Nick Bowden, chief executive officer and co-founder of MindMixer. “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.”
Company officials considered staying in Omaha and checked out other areas such as Silicon Valley, but Kansas City provides the truly urban setting now popular among many tech workers.
“We’re creating a very dynamic community,” Marcusse says.