The Evolving Face of Kansas City: Ora Reynolds – Leads The Change at Hunt Midwest
Kelly Phillips – KC RELO Magazine
After 29 years with the same company, Ora Reynolds, President and CEO of Hunt Midwest, says she still has fun at work. She credits this, in large part, to the great strides Hunt Midwest has made in helping shape the face of Kansas City over the past 25 years. While Reynolds oversees the entire full-service real estate operation for the company, her roots are in residential development. Starting with the Northland, Hunt Midwest has orchestrated the development of 6,000 lots on over 3,000 acres throughout the city, adding approximately 20,000 residents to the area and providing Kansas Citians with housing options designed to fit any age, lifestyle, life stage, or budget. Spearheading this development is an impressive feat for anyone, but when one considers that Reynolds started at Hunt Midwest with no real estate experience at all, it’s mind-boggling Hunt Midwest is one of Kansas City’s leading real estate development companies.
To date, the company has developed residential communities in ten different cities throughout the metropolitan area and continues to build wherever there’s a need. Many of Hunt Midwest’s communities are award-winning properties, and much of the vision for this success comes from Reynolds. Without her drive to create communities that facilitate instant connections and
encourage long-lasting friendships, many of the neighborhoods in Kansas City would come up short. They would not be as accommodating, vibrant, or exciting as they are today. In short, they wouldn’t feel like home.
Reynolds is modest about her success. She moved here from Chicago, joining Hunt Midwest in 1990 as an ex-banker in charge of looking for new investment opportunities for the Hunt family. The family’s holdings at the time included ownership of the Kansas City Chiefs, Worlds of Fun, and the world’s largest underground business complex, SubTropolis, located north of the river. When the opportunity arose for Reynolds to start a residential real estate development division, she accepted the challenge. Her first project involved 300 acres owned by the Hunt family in the Northland; Reynolds was tasked with figuring out how to best utilize that acreage.
Today, residents in a Hunt Midwest community can choose an entry-level townhome, an entry-level single-family home, a luxury home, or a villa – all in the same neighborhood. The connecting thread is that of facilitating interactions between people. This strategy gives residents, especially those moving into Kansas City from elsewhere, the opportunity to become immersed in an immediate friend group. Hunt Midwest continues to use this tactic when looking at future neighborhood developments.
“The goal of Hunt Midwest is to find a need and then figure out a way to meet it,” explains Reynolds. “When I think about growing up, your life is made up of the memories you created where you lived, just down the street.” Future nostalgia is what Reynolds wants to foster in Hunt Midwest’s residential communities, and it’s a strategy that has served the company well thus far.
Today, in addition to its master-planned communities, the company also plans and develops for-lease in-fill projects, such as The Vue in downtown Overland Park and The Fairways at City Center. These new communities, inserted into infill suburban locations, often labeled “urban-suburban,” provide a mix of high-quality finishes, smaller footprints, and heavy amenities combined with a high walkability factor similar to what one finds in an urban setting. The Vue exudes a country club atmosphere that appeals to those who want on-site conveniences such as workout facilities, pools, bars, event spaces, game rooms, dog washing stations, and more. Fairway Villas, located steps away from Lenexa City Center, provides an opportunity for renters who prefer a more traditional, maintenance-free single-family home with a basement, two-car garage and golf course views.
“People expect amenities these days,” says Reynolds. She continues by saying that age seems to be irrelevant. “Millennials and empty nesters both want the same thing. They want something that’s vibrant, stimulating, and that keeps them engaged. They want experiences, and they want flexibility to do things rather than taking care of their house.” This is what Hunt Midwest delivers.
So how does Kansas City benefit from all this development? Reynolds says it boils down to quality of life and economic development, two tenets that are integral to Hunt Midwest’s business philosophy. The residential communities built by Hunt Midwest provide affordable housing options for every person and every lifestyle within the city. New neighborhoods create more jobs, and jobs bring more revenue into the city. This, in turn, fuels retail, entertainment, and other commerce. Education systems benefit through the influx of new students moving into the area. Weave all this together, and you have a stronger, more dynamic tapestry, one that sustains the current population while attracting new residents to the area each year.
Reynolds’ passion for Kansas City is palpable. In her spare time, she sits on the board of the Kansas City Area Development Council where she works to entice companies to move to the Kansas City area. She also chairs the board of Starlight Theatre. When asked about Kansas City’s arts and culture scene, she doesn’t hesitate. “We have so many amazing theater options, from Starlight to the Kauffman Center. We have opportunities for cutting edge theater, for Broadway, and everything in between. We also have a world-class art museum. When people come here, they’ll find that we don’t have water, we don’t have mountains, but we have all those other things.”
Hunt Midwest has also changed over the years, and Reynolds says she has enjoyed participating in that transformation. Evolution is the key to staying relevant and successful, but she’s quick to point out that as the company has evolved, its core values have remained the same: honesty, integrity, and a commitment to the betterment of Kansas City. For Hunt Midwest – and Reynolds herself – these are non-negotiables.
Hunt Midwest is changing the face of Kansas City one community at a time, and Ora Reynolds is spearheading the movement. The fabric of the city is stronger because of her passion and leadership. With Reynolds at the helm, Kansas City can look forward to a future that fully embraces all the word community stands for: a unified body of unique individuals, coming together to share common interests within a broader social setting. Hunt Midwest’s residential developments are part of what makes Kansas City so special. They’re the reason Kansas Citians call this place “home.”