The first time Steven Karbank was aware that his new office property was something special was when he booked a concert there. “We’d blown out the second floor, so it was a complete shell,” recalled Karbank, chairman of the Karbank Real Estate Company, one of Kansas City’s largest developers of industrial buildings. “We happened to have some musician friends in from out of town, and we arranged an impromptu concert on the second floor. We ordered some delicatessen food, had some family in and… Something magical happened that night.”
What happened was that 2000 Shawnee Mission Parkway, an unremarkable 1968 masonry and concrete building in the inner suburb of Mission Woods, Kansas, had shown her secret enchanted side to a developer to see if he would notice. And he did. The parkway seemed to disappear from view as the guests gazed through the single-pane windows, up the leafy residential hills to the south, nothing but soft porch lights as far as the eye could see. Karbank felt he had found a haven right in the middle of one of the region’s most heavily trafficked corridors.
His plan had been to take the Class C property, a rare foray of his into office development, and make it a LEED-certified Class A space. But he hadn’t seen himself in the picture until that night. Steven’s father, Barney Karbank, had founded the company in 1950, and all that time it had been headquartered in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. “We were on the 39th floor, with pretty much a 365-degree view, but no chance to get fresh air,” said Karbank. But here was an incredibly intimate connection to the outside and a chance to relocate his company much closer to where he, his employees, and many of his clients lived.
By then, architect Kyle Patneau of Kansas City–based RMTA, a longtime collaborator with Karbank, was already executing a design to open up the three-story building. He worked with Principal in Charge Mike Paxton, Pete Baird, and John Renner. “It was pretty depressing inside,” he said of his first walk-through. “You didn’t have any connection to the outside.” On the north end, every other section of brick was replaced with glass. On the south end, the load-bearing masonry was removed entirely and replaced with a curtain wall system. More than 50 percent of the building is now glass.
Patneau described Karbank as “a client who demands the absolute best,” yet because of his industrial focus he had never pursued LEED on a project. Still, when the designers suggested a path from LEED Certified to Silver, Karbank said yes. And when Patneau confirmed a micro-generator would easily get the project to Gold, he said yes to that as well. The twin 65-kW Capstone generators go online this month.
The penthouse suite was also designed so that with a light tug on a pocket door and a few rolling planters to serve as a barrier, the fourth floor’s east wing can be rented out as a party space. It is the same space where visitors arrive off the elevator, where they can sit in the modern waiting area and conference room, and have the tree house experience that first captivated Karbank.
“One of my favorite things is to see people’s reactions,” he said. “Even people who live nearby here, have driven by here 10,000 times, have no idea what it is like until they get up here.”