“I’m just coming back to my roots,” Midtown developer says

Developer John Hoffman is restoring properties in Midtown.

Developer John Hoffman is restoring properties in Midtown.

Developer John Hoffman, 75, sat in his tiny office this week and spoke of Kansas City’s history and what is to come.

Both in pedigree and actions, he seemed qualified.

He is the grandson of Isaac Katz, Kansas City founder of the famous drug store chain, inventor of the modern drug store business model.

As for actions, Hoffman’s office is beyond sparse, gritty even, directly across from the Filling Station coffee shop.

He renovated and owns that coffee shop building and built or renovated nearby condos and apartments that have transformed the east side of Gillham Road between 29th and 30th Streets.

Past area projects are called Battery Lofts and also the Gillham Row condominiums.

hoffman-buildingNow he is starting to lease 22 apartments in a new building to be finished this summer at 29th and Gillham, just north of the Gillham Row condos.

He recently also opened the Gillham Park Row Apartments1 at 37th and Gillham Road, the first new multi-family housing in Old Hyde Park in decades.

Here is where history seems to touch the present. Appropriate maybe, since Hoffman was once president of the Historic Kansas City Foundation.

Katz moved to Mission Hills after he became vastly wealthy. But when his children left home, Katz relocated to the penthouse at the Bellerive Hotel, which is on Armour near the Hoffman’s Old Hyde Park apartments.


A postcard of the Bellerive Hotel, constructed in 1921 and 1922.

“His grandson comes back and builds Gillham Park in the shadow of the Bellerive,” Hoffman said. “That’s the whole circle.”

His grandfather’s first house in the city was also in Hyde Park at 36th and Harrison streets, Hoffman said.
And this week, the City Plan Commission approved Hoffman’s plans to build 23 apartment units at 63rd Street and Holmes Street.

Those would be within blocks of where he grew up, where he used to ride his bike to one of his grandfather’s drug stores, he said. “I’m just coming back to my roots.”

And he has been since 2002, when the investment expert retired as a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley and became a developer.

As for his office where he works with Lance Carlton, his son-in-law, Hoffman said, “We’re not about offices, jet planes, country club memberships – we’re about rebuilding the urban core.”

He talks easily of the history of those urban areas. His father Bernie Hoffman married Saralee Katz and they sometimes worked with her famous father.

Bernie started his own first drug store downtown because companies wanted to come in to compete with Katz, and it already had four stores downtown and did not want any more.

Bernie’s Drug Store kept competitors away and he later started two more elsewhere, including one where the Gomer’s liquor store is now at 39th and Broadway.

The separate Katz chain had 69 stores at its high point, with many in Kansas City.

In the middle of the depression, Katz hired a nephew to design their landmark store at Main Street and Westport Road.

That was the first big design for Clarence Kivett, who later formed Kivett and Meyers, a leading Kansas City architectural firm for decades. In 1975, it merged with Howard, Needles, Tammen and Bergendoff, today known as HNTB.

Much more on the history of Katz and how the poor Ukrainian immigrant and his brother, Michael, founded the company,
Steve Katz, another Katz grandson, also collaborated with Brian Burnes, a Kansas City Star reporter, for a book called The Kings of Cut-Rate: The Very American Story of Isaac and Michael Katz.


  1. Greg Patterson says:

    In addition John and Lance have built and sold several new homes east of Troost north of 27th in Beacon Hill. John and I are partners on another venture in the works in the Troost corridor. Our work in that area will eventually come to fruition and certainly help revitalize the Troost corridor.

    Thanks John!

  2. Joann M Hoskins says:

    Would like to know if the Katz family has a iron smitten artist designed glass top table still in their pocession.
    Hoskins family has the second commissioned table. The unknown artist died shortly after completing this this for my aunt & uncle Lew and Mary Cole. Pharmacy/soda fountain owner in KSK. Park named for him. Sponsored little league baseball team. Way back. Any info appreciated!
    Kind regards, Joann Hoskins joannhoskins70@gmaiil.com

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