The former Federal Courthouse in Kansas City had been home to Harry S.Truman’s senatorial offices and had been the setting for several landmark Thurgood Marshall civil rights cases. It was used through 1998, when the new courthouse was built downtown. Now, it has been transformed into Courthouse Lofts, which will provide 176 units for residents earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income.

“It’s ironic that it was built during the Great Depression and that the redevelopment of the building was happening in the Great Recession,” says Matt Meier, vice president of real estate development for The Alexander Co.

This historic rehab wasn’t an easy task for the developer. The development team spent two years setting up the deal initially, and the lead investor pulled out the day before all the paperwork was to be signed at the front end of the financial meltdown. And then the team had to start over.
U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. stepped in as lead investor, and the Missouri Housing Development Commission and the Department of Housing and Urban Development agreed to a risk-share deal whereby they stood behind the bonds, which were underwritten by Morgan Keegan.

“To get a $40 million low-income housing tax credit and bond deal done was quite a feat. It took us a year to restructure the transaction and apply for Tax Credit Assistance Program and credit exchange dollars, which helped bridge the financial gap resulting from the drop in tax credit pricing and the more conservative lending environment we found ourselves in,” Meier says.

The deal closed in the nick of time, on Dec. 31, 2009. And residents just started to move in at the beginning of June.
As part of the rehab, the courthouse’s neoclassical design and art deco architectural elements have been revitalized, with the developer preserving historic doors, stone trim, and terrazzo floors. Two of the old judges’ chambers as well as Truman’s office have been converted into living rooms, and a bathroom has been built into an original safe in one unit. —Christine Serlin