CityPlace apartment project rises from the ashes
By: Rob Roberts, KCBJ
An eight-alarm fire sparked by a welding torch in an under-construction building at the Royale at CityPlace apartment project on March 20 caused about $20 million damage there and an estimated $5 million more to several surrounding homes.
Ten weeks later, however, there remains little evidence of the conflagration at The Royale — a five-building, 344-unit apartment project that represents Block Real Estate Services' first phase of development within its $450 million mixed-use CityPlace community.
The Royal at CityPlace features eighteen unique floor plans and a plethora of on-site amenities.
During a tour of The Royale on Wednesday, the only signs that the fire had taken place were a lone backhoe chipping away at the foundation of one of two apartment buildings destroyed at the complex plus rafters waiting for new roofs at a couple of fire-ravaged homes visible from the site.
The four-story, 205-unit Royale View Building, which includes the project's clubhouse, pool and structured parking, was not damaged in the fire and was buzzing with residents' functions, leasing activity and lookie loos. But the latter were not like those who swarmed to the site March 20 to watch the roaring flames and billowing smoke.
"It's just such a unique, positive development in this community that people are coming by just to take tours," said Bill Larson, president of Block Multifamily Group. "It really does have a resort hotel feel."
The Royale View Building remains the only structure in the complex with available units, and they're filling up fast, said Dana Robinson, a property manager with Block Multifamily Group.
At the time of the fire, she said, about 60 of the 205-unit building's apartments were leased, and 23 of those were occupied. Ten weeks later, 149 are leased, and 103 are occupied. That means that since the fire, 89 additional units — about nine a week — have been leased.
Chandler Thompson, an assistant vice president with Block Multifamily Group, said The Royale's remaining 139 units will be spread among the four four-story Royale Garden Buildings adjacent to the Royale View Building.
Thompson said two of those buildings, now scheduled for completion in the fall, were inspected by engineers after the fire and found to have sustained only minor damage.
The other two Royale Garden Buildings will have to be rebuilt from the ground up, she said. That work is just entering the final demo phase, Thompson said, and an estimate for completion has not been determined.
The fire also has pushed back work on Block Real Estate Services' second CityPlace phase — Apex at City Place. Work originally was expected to begin in the spring on that project, which will include 395 apartments over 30,000 square feet of retail, with two courtyards, structured parking and four pads sites for an additional 40,000 square feet of retail.
A new start date for Apex has not yet been established, Larson said. But the entire CityPlace project remains on target for completion within six to eight years, he said.
When completed, CityPlace will include a total of 1,382 apartments, about 70,000 square feet of retail, more than 600,000 square feet of Class A office space and a 116-unit senior-living facility. Called The Sheridan at Overland Park, the senior-living facility was developed by the senior-housing division of Chicago-based CA Ventures and is now open.
Work on the office segment of CityPlace could start yet this year with a four-story, 120,000-square-foot building if 40 percent of the space is leased soon.
Apartment leasing hasn't slowed at CityPlace, Larson said, because the public understands that the widespread fire damage there was due to the fact that blaze started in a building that was in its most vulnerable construction stage — not because of any lack of fireproofing materials in the complex's completed structures.
As Ken Block, managing principal of Block Real Estate Services, explained after the fire, it started in a building that had not yet had drywall installed or been equipped with firewalls, sprinklers and other fire-safety features.
Therefore, that building quickly burned to the ground, while an adjacent building, which had drywall and was equipped with other fireproofing materials, did not burn down, though it was not yet equipped with sprinklers, either.
"The fire in (that) building was started by the heat and flames in the (building where the fire originated)," Block said. "But most of the fire was between the roof, which was a TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) roof, and the ceilings, which were two-hour Sheetrock. So it raced through the building in the rafters and eventually burned through the roof and, in some places, burned down through the Sheetrock, but many hours later. And that's why that building itself did not burn down because it had been further along in the process."