Damon and Kari Heybrock are hard-core Hyde Parkers.
The couple moved to the midtown Kansas City neighborhood 10 years ago when Damon was in medical school. After a few years in a rented duplex, they bought their first home, a two-bedroom bungalow, a few blocks away.
As the couple built their careers — Damon’s a family medicine doctor and Kari is a glass artist — they renovated their starter home room by room. They planted trees in the tiny yard, formed close friendships with neighbors over front porch happy hours and started a family. First came Scarlett, 6, then Vesper, 2.
By 2009, the Heybrock bungalow was feeling more cramped than cozy. They needed more room, but they weren’t willing to move out of the heart of the city and away from a neighborhood that felt like home.
“We didn’t even want to move off our street,” Kari says.
When a three-story, century-old stone house across the street went into foreclosure, the Heybrocks jumped at the opportunity to buy the distressed property. After a frustrating 18-month buying process and 10 months of intensive renovation, the Heybrocks had their dream home. It’s one of 10 properties on display this weekend for the 30th Hyde Park Homes Tour.
Like other homes on the tour, the Heybrocks’ house has many of its original features. The couple worked with Studio Build, a local design/build company, to rehab the 2-foot-thick limestone walls and maple floors.
Studio Build installed a glass wall facing the leafy backyard, constructed an open staircase up through the center of the home and boxed out the bay windows for a more modern look. Damon poured concrete countertops in the Dwell magazine-worthy kitchen and built the wraparound deck shaded by a towering pin oak, believed to be the largest in Missouri.
The house also has several energy-saving features, from spray-foam insulation to a geothermal heating and cooling unit. But the Heybrocks’ favorite thing about their home remains location, location, location.
For decades, individuals and families have renovated homes in an effort to improve Hyde Park, a historic slice of Kansas City that extends from 31st to 47th streets and is bordered by Gillham Road on the west and Troost Avenue on the east. Hyde Park is known for beautiful architecture and a central location — it’s less than 10 minutes by car from downtown, the Crossroads Arts District, Westport and the Country Club Plaza.
Living in Hyde Park feels like living in a small town in the middle of a big city, Damon says.
Because the neighborhood offers a range of home prices and sizes — go to a real estate site such as trulia.com and you’ll find $40,000 fixer-uppers a few blocks from $1.6 million mansions — the population varies from art students to entrepreneurs. And lots of people, including the Heybrocks, are investing in the neighborhood for the long haul.
Academie Lafayette, a French immersion school in Brookside, recently bought a closed school at 3410 Cherry St. and turned it into a campus for students in kindergarten, first and second grade. The new school opened in August.
“We were looking for a socioeconomically and culturally diverse neighborhood,” explains school board member Pam Anderson Gard, who’s lived in Hyde Park since 1978.
A block south on Armour Boulevard, Chicago-based MAC Property Management is doing something similar, but on a much larger scale. In 2006, MAC started buying older apartment buildings along the boulevard, renovating them and renting them primarily to students and young professionals.
MAC marketing director Lorri Laughlin says the company started with three buildings and now owns 27. Fifteen of those are open, and seven more are expected to open by December, Laughlin says.
Most of the apartments have granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and laundry rooms. Residents who work at a company on MAC’s list of preferred employers, which includes Cerner, insurance broker Lockton and several local casinos, get a discount on rent. Rates range from $485 for a studio to $1,060 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit.
Laughlin says demand for the apartments has exploded in the last two years. Currently, the buildings are 98 percent occupied and there’s a waiting list for one-bedroom apartments and for units in buildings that haven’t even opened yet.
“We can’t build them fast enough,” Laughlin says.
Anderson Gard says she and other Hyde Park residents are happy to see MAC breathe new life into those old buildings.
“That is what we have been waiting for,” Gard says. “Someone or some entity with deep pockets to renovate the buildings the way they need to be renovated.”
Jan Peterson, a Realtor and longtime Hyde Parker, says recent improvements along Armour Boulevard combined with investments downtown, in the Crossroads Arts District and at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art over the past decade are inspiring more young people to consider putting down roots in the center of the city.
Peterson says South Hyde Park, from 39th to 47th streets, has been particularly popular among first-time home buyers because it offers a variety of home sizes and prices.
When engaged couple Chris Ciesiel and Cristin Llewellyn started looking for their starter home two years ago, they had three goals: Their future home had to be centrally located, with lots of character and a nice price.
Ciesiel, an emergency room nurse, and Llewellyn, a textile artist, found all of that in a 1920s Arts and Crafts bungalow with immaculate woodwork and a porch overlooking Gillham Park. Their home is on this weekend’s Hyde Park Homes Tour.
Because their bungalow was in such good shape, Ciesiel and Llewellyn didn’t have to do major renovations. But Llewellyn is planting succulents in the backyard and Ciesiel is turning the shed into a bar.
The Heybrocks say all of these big and small improvements make them happy to call Hyde Park home for good. Here’s a look inside their house, a two-year labor of love that houses Hyde Park’s past and future.
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