Blue Hills Community Services To Renovate Historic Hiland Exchange Building

October 4, 2004

Blue Hills Community Services Corporation (BHCS) operated for many years in a building located at 1020 E. 63rd Street. In 1984 J.C. Nichols donated this building to the organization, and renovation of this building was completed by the corporation’s Construction Department.

Similar to BHCS, the building has a rich history. A telecommunications landmark, the building is one of nine original telephone exchange buildings. During its 97 years, the now vacant Hiland Exchange Building was used by the Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company, the Kansas City Telephone Company, South Side Moving and Storage Company, Butler Manufacturing Company, J.C. Nichols, and Blue Hills Community Services Corporation.

A tax assessor’s photograph shows a unique original design by noted Kansas City architect, Charles Smith. Reminiscent of early 20th century apartment building design, the structure consisted of brick and cut stone façade camouflaging the fire-proof concrete structure. White wood cornice with classical details encircled the eaves.

Blue Hills Community Services Corporation occupied the building from 1984-2001 and housed multiple departments: two federally funded education contracts and departments for the corporation’s construction, property management, development, real estate and administration. The building’s structure by the end of 2001 required extensive repairs, which prompted the organization to relocate to a leased facility on Armour Boulevard.

Neighborhood support to save the building from demolition prompted BHCS to determine a feasible reuse for its former office building. The adaptive reuse plan calls for 5000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor, including 1500 square feet of shared retail/community space, plus ten loft apartments/condos on the upper two floors and the roof. Renovation will preserve the building’s historical integrity and provide modern commercial and housing amenities. The mixed use proposal fits with the Troost Neighborhood Plan and the 63rd Street Corridor Plan and is endorsed by the Southtown Council. The building has been nominated for State and Federal Historic status in 2004.

The renovated Hiland Exchange Building will continue its original mission of serving community residents, but in a slightly different manner. Instead of telephone service, it will provide affordable housing in a loft environment, commercial space for lease, and space for community resident activity. Blue Hills Community Services Corporation will once again occupy the building, serving its communities and as a community development corporation—coming home to heritage and history.