Since its 2015 move to the Crossroads Arts District, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City has doubled its employee count and expanded its program reach.
Now, the youth mentoring nonprofit has entrenched its neighborhood footprint by acquiring more real estate as it prepares for further hiring and new community initiatives.
BBBSKC, the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, earlier this month acquired the historic Taylor Building, a five-story brick and stone building at 1701 Walnut St., and an adjacent 0.13-acre lot. The seller was an entity managed by Dan Nilsen, founder of event management company Bishop-McCann, which has offices in the building.
Built in 1902, the Taylor Building originally was a storage facility for the John Taylor Dry Goods Co., which was founded in Kansas City in 1881 and retained a landmark store at 10th and Main streets until 1947, when it was purchased by Macy’s. The warehouse features distinct Sullivanesque and Classical architectural elements, courtesy of Root & Siemens, its Kansas City design firm.
The 24,900-square-foot building in 1999 was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Walnut Street Warehouse and Commercial Historic District. In 2008, it underwent an extensive renovation by Helix Architecture + Design.
Established in 1964, BBBSKC had 33 employees in 2015, when it relocated from Westport to its current home at 1709 Walnut St., CEO Micheal Lawrence said. That figure has since doubled to 66 people, leaving the nonprofit to lease 7,500 square feet of temporary space to the south.
“We’ve always had an eye toward, what’s our long-term plan? How do we stay in the Crossroads?” Lawrence said. “Because we love being a part of the community, and it’s great access for children, families, volunteers and our staff.”
In the last five years, BBBSKC also has expanded the scope of its mentorship beyond students’ high school graduation, to their meaningful employment, creating space needs the nonprofit did not initially anticipate for 1709 Walnut, Chief Marketing Officer Kristi Hutchison said.
The right opportunity to secure space arose through BBBSKC’s long-term relationship with Nilsen, as he was considering selling the Taylor Building just north. Further support came from Commerce Bank, which provided $5.5 million in financing for the nonprofit’s Nov. 1 acquisition.
“The timing was just perfect for both of us — for us to identify our permanent home and for Dan to sell the building to a nonprofit that he’s been supportive of for years,” Lawrence said.
At this stage, BBBSKC has not yet determined precisely what its footprint will look like within the Taylor Building, or when, Lawrence said. The Taylor Building currently has active tenant leases that BBBSKC will honor. A 4,600-square-foot area on its third floor was available for sublease through Range Realty Partners at the time of its sale.
Down the road, likely in a year or more, Lawrence said BBBSKC will launch a capital campaign to raise funds to remodel its new building.
He said the nonprofit will need first-class gathering and conference spaces in connection with two community initiatives it plans to roll out in 2023 — “While They Wait,” a first-of-its-kind program designed to provide support for children and families waiting to be matched with mentors, and “Big Futures,” which will enhance the organization’s service for older mentees.
It also may remake the Taylor Building’s adjacent lot to host multipurpose outdoor event space. The building already sports a rooftop deck with 360-degree Downtown views. BBBSKC intends to retain ownership of its 1709 Walnut building, which it renovated with a theater and multipurpose space after its 2015 move-in.
“You can expect to see year-over-year growth because we now have the capacity to stay here and serve more children and families, but with these new programs, we will provide a deeper level of support and impact in the community,” Lawrence said.
BBBSKC’s acquisition of the Taylor Building further lengthens the list of Kansas City companies that recently have pursued new or expanded presences in the Crossroads.
Clarkson Construction Co. and Midwest Scrap Management in late October locked in new offices within the Kirkwood Building at 1737-1741 McGee St., following its sale to a partnership that included Clarkson and EPC Real Estate Group LLC. Hunt Midwest this summer opened new satellite offices in the Corrigan Station II building at 1881 Main St.
Travel nursing agency Next Move Inc. also will expand its district presence within the Grand Place redevelopment. BOK Financial in late October celebrated groundbreaking on a nearby pad-site banking center. And Scissors & Scotch, an upscale barber shop business, in June acquired the Pendergast Building at 1908 Main St. for a new headquarters and franchisee training center.