Former Cerner campus in KCK’s Village West may get new life as luxury senior housing

One of the sprawling office campuses abandoned by Cerner Corp. in recent years may get new life as developers ponder a massive overhaul.

Developers are considering repurposing Cerner’s Continuous campus near Village West in Kansas City, Kansas, which the company put on the market in the summer of 2021. Property records show Cerner, which last year was purchased by technology giant Oracle, still owns the campus. Last year, the property was valued at $44 million.

On Monday, the City Plan Commission in Kansas City, Kansas, recommended approval of a rezoning request sought by David Block with Block and Co. for the sprawling office complex near the intersection of interstates 70 and 435. That request will now go before the entire Board of Commissioners overseeing the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas.

Block and his partner Phillip Goforth of Genesis Companies are eyeing a transformation of the property, which Cerner opened in 2013. Goforth told the plan commission Monday evening the team currently aims at redeveloping one of the two office towers into multi-family housing, leaving the other tower as office space.

Rezoning the property from its commercial designation will allow more flexibility to repurpose the nearly 650,000 square feet of office space and bring new development to the 59-acre site, Goforth said.

“As you might know, it’s very difficult these days to lease 650,000 square feet in all office,” he said. “Without this mixed-use rezoning, it completely limits the ability for a successful development to happen.”

While no official development plan has been filed, Unified Government documents show conceptual plans for a luxury senior living complex that could house hundreds of new units.

Greg Kindle, president of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, objected to the rezoning request.

“If the rezoning is approved, every square foot that is converted to residential use is a reduction in property taxes,” he said.

That’s because commercial properties are assessed at 25%, while residential properties are assessed at 11.5%. Even sitting vacant, the Cerner property pays more than $1.8 million in property taxes per year to local governments.

“This is the potential loss of several hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes annually,” Kindle said. “We do not believe this is the highest and best use of this site at this time.”

Officials with Oracle Cerner did not respond to The Star’s request for comment.

Cerner opened the Continuous campus in 2013 as it continued to grow its footprint across the Kansas City area. But the coronavirus pandemic and the company’s acquisition by Texas-based Oracle has led to major changes to the company’s local real estate.

Last year, Cerner told employees it planned to vacate its world headquarters campus in North Kansas City and sell its Realizations campus, which was housed in the former Marion Labs facility in South Kansas City.

That leaves the company’s Innovations campus near Interstate 435 and Bannister Road as the only remaining local office site for Oracle Cerner employees.

The Kansas City, Kansas, campus was built with the aid of a complex and unusual financing arrangement that helped to build both the Cerner offices and the Sporting Kansas City stadium nearby.

Though Cerner and Sporting KC entered into separate agreements with local and state governments on their respective projects, they were intertwined from the start.

During the planning process, a new entity, Kansas Unified Development LLC, was created to develop the stadium and Cerner’s office complex. But government officials pushed for some sort of backing from an established and well capitalized firm in the case of a default. That’s how OnGoal LLC, the parent company of Sporting Kansas City, came into play: it served as a guarantor and was responsible if Cerner’s development did not meet certain payroll requirements.

After Cerner’s announced closure of the office, state officials said they may be able to recoup up to $15 million from Sporting. The Kansas Department of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment this week.

In a 2010 agreement with the state, Cerner was awarded $48 million for creating 4,500 jobs at the new campus in Kansas City, Kansas. It was the single largest award ever made in the state’s now-defunct IMPACT program.