Downtown lofts

The American Electric Building is under construction to be turned into an apartment building. The renovation is planned to be done by March 2021.

The historic architecture in the American Electric Building in Downtown St. Joseph grabbed the attention of a Kansas City real estate company, which now is designing new market-rate lofts.

In 2017, Wes Grammer, Sky Real Estate president, was looking for opportunity areas in St. Joseph and saw potential in the city’s Downtown area, particularly in the building at at 302 N. Third St.

“The building was really the thing that sold me on it, because it was a beautiful building that was built in 1892 and just the bones of it make it beautiful,” Grammer said.

Once Grammer and his development group created the idea, they had to prove that it would work from a market-feasibility standpoint.

“The total project cost is around $37 million, so historic tax credits were needed and it took about a year to a year and a half to get those in place,” Grammer said.

Grammer also said the project wouldn’t have been possible without the city’s support and the incentives provided.

“They all really helped us put together a structure that made this project work,” Grammer said.

Grammer plans to have the American Electric Lofts ready for lease in March of 2021. There will be 137 units, including studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments.

“The smallest is around 440 square feet that will have a washer and dryer with a kitchen and goes up to around 1,250 square feet,” Grammer said. “The pricing will start around $700 and go up from there.”

Grammer also wants to reserve the first floor for amenities, including a gym, common areas and kitchens, along with commercial space.

“We feel like the opportunity for a restaurant, coffee shop or bar here in the building is great because we’ll have 200-some people living above it,” Grammer said.

One of the biggest reasons Grammer wanted to do a project in St. Joseph was due to companies, like Mosaic and Triumph Foods, telling him a large amount of their employees commute.

“We found out that more people commute to Buchanan County every day than any other county in Missouri,”

Grammer said.

A number of commuters come from the Kansas City area, and Grammer said they felt a market like St. Joseph was perfect for nicer apartments.

“The companies here are so healthy and there are a number of people that would be perfect for renting in this building,” Grammer said.

RAU construction, the oldest general contractor in Kansas City, which specializes in historic renovation, is completing the construction.

The building was purchased on Dec. 6, and contractors were there the next day to start the work.

“The first phase is environmental remediation, which has to do with the lead-based paint and a little bit of asbestos, and then we’ll immediately commence the construction of the project,” Grammer said.

Through Gammer’s discussions with the city, he was able to bring in more than 15 sub-contractors from St. Joseph.

“That was a major goal and it’s really exciting to have them be a part of this project,” Grammer said.

The units all will have a large amount of natural light with big windows and tall ceilings that Grammer thinks will be very appealing.

They recently launched their website

To see pictures of the building and concept designs, visit

Bailey Ketcham can be reached at