Keynote to feature Loews Hotels, H&R Block CEOs

Downtown Kansas City’s progress in becoming the region’s leading destination for visitors, tourists and conventioneers will be the main course of the Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 24 at the Kansas City Convention Center.

Headlining the annual event will be a Keynote Conversation with Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co., and Jeffrey J. Jones II, president and CEO of Kansas City-based H&R Block. They will discuss opportunities and challenges ahead to maintain and accelerate the growth of Downtown KC.

Loews Kansas City Hotel – the $325 million convention hotel currently under construction at 1534 Baltimore – is due to open in spring 2020. It will be located a short walk from the H&R Block World Headquarters at 13th & Main. The H&R Block move to Downtown in 2006 has long been considered a critical turning point in the early stages of Downtown’s renaissance.

Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co., will join Jeffrey J. Jones, president and CEO of H&R Block, in a Keynote Conversation at the Downtown Council Annual Luncheon on Jan. 24.

The Downtown Council’s annual event – this year, Destination Downtown KC – will illustrate how Downtown’s remarkable renaissance is attracting residents, conferences,  visitors, employers and workers to a thriving arts, cultural and business scene.

Downtown’s emerging role as a leading destination was underscored this week, when National Geographic Traveler selected Kansas City, Mo. as one of eight cities worldwide on its listing of 28 Best Trips Around the World that appears in its current edition.

“Most visitors to this Midwest outpost come for the barbecue and that jazz, but soon find themselves caught up in an urban renaissance,” the magazine reported.

The Destination theme also serves as a platform to showcase an urban hotel boom that is currently unfolding in Downtown, including a 200 percent increase in hotels (from eight in 2015 to 24 by 2020) and an 85 percent increase in rooms (from 3,414 to 6,415), including the 800-room Loews hotel.

Destination Downtown KC is expected to attract more than 1,000 business, civic and philanthropic leaders to celebrate progress and accomplishments; present awards; explore the trajectory of Downtown Kansas City for the long-term; and, enjoy the largest urban networking event of the year. The luncheon is set for 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24 in the Kay Barnes Ballroom at the Kansas City Convention Center.

Additional luncheon highlights

  • Annual State of Downtown update by William Dietrich, president & CEO of the Downtown Council.
  • Immediately before the luncheon, guests will participate in the Spirit of Downtown KC Exhibit. More than 50 booth spaces will highlight new developments, creative businesses and the arts of Downtown.

The Annual Luncheon will feature three honorary co-chairs, including Paul Neidlein, Midwest Regional President, JE Dunn Construction; Jeffrey J. Jones II, H&R Block; and Brenda Tinnen, Senior Vice President/General Manager, Sprint Center.

Luncheon planning chairs include Jerry Riffel, Attorney, Lathrop Gage, and 2019 chair the Downtown Council Board of Directors; Julie Pierce, Vice President / Director of Kansas City Operations, Henderson Engineers; and Nate Orr, Partner, Spencer Fane, and immediate past chair of the DTC Board of Directors.

To reserve your seats, visit https://www.downtownkc.org/2019-luncheon/  or contact Ann Holliday, ann@downtownkc.org, or Ashley Broockerd, abroockerd@evenergy.com.

 

KC Streetcar to ‘Roll with the Chiefs’ beginning Friday

One of the KC Streetcars will be wrapped in Kansas City Chiefs colors and images today in preparation for a Red Friday debut on, well, Friday. Go Chiefs!

One of the KC Streetcars will be wrapped in Kansas City Chiefs colors and images in preparation for a Red Friday debut on, well, today. Go Chiefs!

The KC Streetcar is doing something it has never done before – turning over a streetcar to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Beginning Friday, all of Kansas City is invited to Roll with the Chiefs on a specially branded Chiefs KC Streetcar. The Kansas City Chiefs and the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA), together with Hy-Vee and Sprint, wrapped one streetcar in Chiefs branding to kick off Red Friday and the Chiefs playoff run, which begins Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts.

In addition to the Chiefs Streetcar, the Chiefs and the KCSA are throwing a Red Friday celebration.

Rolling with the Chiefs will include Chiefs representatives, KC Wolf, Chiefs Cheerleaders, Chiefs Ambassadors and the Chiefs Rumble for Kansas City’s first-ever Rolling with the Chiefs party. The celebration will start on board the Chiefs Streetcar at 5 p.m. Friday and continue for one loop around Downtown.

The Chiefs crew will then head back to the Power & Light District Streetcar stop at 14th & Main Street where the Red Friday celebration continues as well as at BRGR Kitchen + Bar. There will be giveaways and prizes for those in attendance, including four tickets and pregame sideline passes for Saturday’s AFC Divisional Game at Arrowhead Stadium courtesy of Hy-Vee, presenting partner of the playoffs.

Getting off work early this Red Friday? Join the Streetcar team and 810 Sports Radio as they broadcast live from on board the Chiefs Streetcar starting at 3 p.m. Friday. You can track the exact location of the Chiefs Streetcar, otherwise known as Streetcar 804, using the free KCity Post tracker for or the RideKC Transit App for smart phones.

For KC Streetcar inquiries, contact Donna Mandelbaum with the KC Streetcar Authority at 816.627.2526 (office), 816.877.3219 (cell) or by email at dmandelbaum@kcstreetcar.org. The KC Streetcar is also online at www.kcstreetcar.org and on Twitter (@kcstreetcar), Facebook (@kcstreetcar) and Instagram.

Downtown KC rings out 2018 with growth, optimism

The Loews convention hotel is scheduled to open in April 2020 (Image from Cooper Carry architects)

Courtesy, Kevin Collison, CityScene KC

“Downtown Kansas City ended 2018 on a strong note with new apartment and hotel projects seemingly announced every other week and finally, after much talk, a couple of significant office developments, notably a 25-story project planned for the Power & Light District.

It also saw a growing street scene of new retailers, micro-breweries and restaurants.

In particular, the East Crossroads and Delaware Street in the River Market are emerging as the kind of fun, walkable districts that make the city a much more vibrant and appealing place.

There are warning signs heading into the new year though.

As apartment rents ratchet up closer to levels long experienced in places like Minneapolis and Denver, the call for more affordable housing is prompting City Hall to become proactive in encouraging–or forcing–developers to set aside part of their projects to meet that need.

It’s an important conversation to have, but it also has been accompanied by exaggerated fears among some people of gentrification and a growing backlash about the use of tax incentives in general to help revitalize greater Downtown.

All political fodder for the upcoming mayoral election.

Construction is underway on a nine-story research tower at Children’s Mercy Hospital’s downtown campus.

It’s important to remember that a healthy, growing greater Downtown is not only critical if Kansas City is to compete nationally with places like Nashville and Austin, but it’s also a major source of accessible jobs for people living in nearby East and West Side neighborhoods.

A prime example is the huge investments underway in the Hospital Hill medical complex which are providing both good jobs and stimulating new residential investment along Troost Avenue.

It’s not a case of Downtown vs the East Side as some people would like to frame it.

So here’s a list of notable greater Downtown news from the year gone by as covered by CityScene KC in its first full year of operation:

Downtown Kansas City – 2018

  • Jan. 4: Plan announced for a bookstore and cafe at 304 Delaware called Our Daily Nada, opens in August. Kicks off a big year of new businesses opening along a historic stretch of Delaware Street in the River Market.
  • Jan. 15: Children’s Mercy begins work on a 9-story research building following a record $150 million in donations. Hospital Hill continues to grow as major job source and development trigger for nearby Troost Avenue.
  • Jan. 18: City warns of looming affordable housing crunch downtown as tax credits begin to expire on previous affordable housing projects, number of units could decline from 2,759 to 1,140 units over next five years.
  • Jan. 19: Corrigan Station announces $11 million office expansion at the northeast corner of 19th and Main.
  • Jan. 24: Milhaus buys about two blocks in East Crossroads at 19th and Oak for apartment project, first major construction in area. By year’s end, planning well underway for a 338-unit, $72 million project.
The UMKC Conservatory originally was proposed for a site at 17th and Broadway across from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Jan. 25: Plans for a new UMKC Downtown Conservatory across from the Kauffman Center are dealt a mortal blow when the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation withdraws its $20 million pledge. In September, UMKC makes it official when it decides to no longer pursue a downtown location for the facility.
  • Feb. 6: Casual Animal opens a brew pub at 1725 McGee, the latest addition to the growing “neigh-brew-hood” of micro-breweries in the East Crossroads.
  • Feb. 22: Crossroads Academy, downtown’s K-12 charter school, finds a new home for its high school in the historic Thayer Building at 816 Broadway. Classes began in August.
  • March 2: A groundbreaking ceremony is held for the 24-story Loews Kansas City Convention Hotel at 17th and Wyandotte. The $322.7 million project is expected to open in late April 2020.
  • March 5: An ambitious proposal to deck the South Loop with a park comes back with a cost estimate of $139 million, $60 million less than previously estimated. By year’s end, discussion were continuing.
  • March 8: Tribe, a restaurant featuring street food from around the world, opens at 316 Delaware, part of a wave of new places opening along in that historic River Market street.
  • March 12: Mildred’s, the venerable Crossroads cafe, announces its expanding into new space across the street at 1901 Wyandotte.
  • March 14: Construction kicks off on a 232-unit apartment project called The Yard in the West Bottoms, first major new construction in that area.
  • March 19: Plans announced for Parlor at 1707 Locust in the East Crossroads, part of a national food hall trend.
David Friesen decorated the new Betty Rae’s Ice Cream in the River Market with some of his vintage, ice cream-themed album covers. (Photo by Kate Collison)
  • April 17: Betty Rae’s ice cream announces it plans to join the River Market cafe scene on Delaware. It opens its second outlet at 412 Delaware in August.
  • May 4: Two Light, a 296-unit luxury apartment project opens in the Power & Light District.
  • May 9: Developers say a plan to renovate the historic Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City building at 925 Grand into a 321-room Embassy Suites hotel is still on track with a mid-2020 opening envisioned.
  • May 18: MAC Properties proposes a $78 million redevelopment plan for the four corners of Armour and Troost that would add 450 apartments, part of an wave of new investment along Troost after decades of neglect.
  • May 19: The Buck O’Neil Bridge closes its southbound lane for a six-month repair job. Bigger news, a new replacement bridge with a vastly improved connection to I-35 is in the works with an expected completion in 2023.
  • May 22: The Crossroads building housing YJ’s Snack Bar is sold, a milestone moment in the evolution of the area. YJ’s owner, artist and entrepreneur David Ford, later finds a new home for the cafe at 128 W. 18th St.
  • May 24: Plans for Three Light, a 300-unit luxury apartment project in the Power & Light District, are approved after heated debate at City Hall over city tax incentives for the project; as part of the deal, the Cordish Co. promises to renovate the historic Midland Building into affordable housing units.
The Platform Ventures redevelopment plan includes an office building and garage at the northeast corner of 13th and Wyandotte . (Image from Hoefer Wysocki)
  • May 29: Platform Ventures reveals a $132.5 million plan to redevelop the block east of Barney Allis Plaza with a 100,000 square-foot office building and garage, and renovating the historic Kansas City Club into a 144-room hotel and the upper floors of the historic Muehlbach Hotel into 190 apartments.
  • June 1: Church of the Resurrection opens a new church at 1601 Grand, the first new church to be built downtown in more than a century.
  • June 20: Plans to extend the streetcar from downtown to UMKC along Main Street advance when voters living in the Transportation Development District approve local funding. By year’s end, the Streetcar Authority was awaiting word on its application for $151.6 million in federal funding for the project.
  • June 22: The 221-unit Crossroads Westside apartment project opens between the Broadway and I-35 viaducts.
  • June 22: Copaken Brooks announces a plan for a 14-story, $40 million apartment tower with 132 units at 18th and Walnut streets.
  • June 27: The 410-unit Union apartment project opens near Berkley Riverfront Park, the first new development along the riverfront since cleanup began in the 1970s.
  • June 29: The Downtown Community Improvement District, whose workers in their black and yellow uniforms are a familiar downtown feature, is renewed through 2034.
  • July 1: The first Bird electric scooters arrive downtown.
  • July 2: Former Mayor Kay Barnes, a major force in revitalizing downtown in the early 2000s, is recognized by having the Grand Ballroom at the Convention Center named after her.
  • July 18: The 120-room 21c Museum Hotel opens in the historic Savoy Hotel and Grill following a $47.5 million renovation.
  • July 25: Plans are announced for a 13-story, 153-room Hyatt House Hotel at Ninth and Broadway.
A food hall, boutique grocer and office complex along 18th Street is planned along with renovation of the historic Star building. (Image from 3D Development)
  • July 26: Developer Vincent Bryant reveals his $95 million plan to renovate the historic Kansas City Star building into an office and data center project, the plan also includes a 500-space underground garage and new food pavilion. Earlier in the month, Kansas City Star employees leave their century-old home for new digs across McGee Street in the production building.
  • Aug. 19: Bar K, a dog park, bar and cafe, opens along the riverfront near the Union apartments.
  • Aug. 22: Longtime downtown retailer Bob Jones Shoes announces its closing at 1914 Grand.
  • Aug. 29: Work begins on a $16 million, 92-room LaQuinta Hotel at 24th and Troost.
  • Sept. 12: An ultra-luxury, 145-room hotel is proposed across from the Kauffman Center on Wyandotte; it faces a tough reception in its request for tax incentives in the new year.
  • Sept. 14: The $76.8 million City Club Apartment project at 20th and Main breaks ground after several years of planning, the 283-unit development includes the renovation of the historic Midwest Hotel.
  • Sept. 28: Afterword Tavern, a new bookstore and cafe, opens at 19th and Grand.
  • Oct. 8: Hy-Vee Arena opens in West Bottoms following a $39 million renovation of the former Kemper Arena into an amateur sports center that includes a dozen basketball courts and 350-meter indoor track.
  • Oct. 17: The 131-room Crossroads Hotel opens at 2101 Central, a post-industrial chic renovation of a former bottling plant and warehouse in the historic Pabst and Pendergast buildings.
  • Oct. 23: Drury Hotels drops a plan to build a $50 million, 242-unit hotel on the site of the vacant Board of Eduction building, saying the incentive package offered by the city was not enough to make the project financially viable.
  • Nov. 12: The historic Traders National Bank at 1125 Grand reopens following a $65 million renovation into a 201-unit luxury apartment project called The Grand.
Afterword Tavern and Shelves features a custom-built bar and small bookstore.
  • Nov. 19: A groundbreaking is held for the $35 million renovation of the historic Lyric Theater into a new, 62,000 square-foot Downtown YMCA that will include a swimming pool, indoor track fitness center and other health-related services. It’s expected to open in Spring 2021.
  • Nov. 29: Plans are announced to renovate the historic 23-story Mark Twain Tower building at 11th and Baltimore into a 202-unit apartment project at cost of $51.9 million.
  • Dec. 13: A 25-story office project called Strata is proposed for the Power & Light District at 13th and Main. The $132 million spec office building is intended to help downtown attract more private jobs.
  • Dec. 19: A plan to build a $40 million, 248-unit apartment project at 25th and Troost is announced, bringing the number of new apartments in the works along a several block stretch of Troost to almost 1,000.
  • Dec. 24: Thou Mayest, the popular East Crossroads coffee house and tavern, closes after operating four years at 419 E. 18th St. Its owners plan to find a new Downtown location in the new year.”

Don’t miss any downtown news, sign up for our weekly CityScene KC email review here.

Crossroads bar nabs national attention for its holiday spirit(s)

The Miracle at Rockhill, on the second floor of The Rockhill Grille in the Crossroads, tops the list of holiday pop-up bars that recently received national attention in The Daily Beast.

A Downtown Kansas City holiday pop-up bar is featured in a national story featuring “Bars that really get into the holiday spirit.”

The Daily Beast pointed its national spotlight last week on festive pop-up bars, which “have officially taken over America.” The Miracle at Rockhill on the second floor of The Rockhill Grille, 2000 Grand, topped the list of The Daily Beast’s story on the best, brightest, and most enthusiastic spots.

The Daily Beast reported:

“From tinsel and twinkling garlands to life-size reindeer and towering nutcrackers, the last few years have seen an influx of holiday themed bars—and to be honest every year they keep getting better and better.

Whether you’re into festive cocktails with a hint of the beach, or want to go full candy cane and Santa Claus, there’s a holiday bar just for you. But there are only a few weeks left to get your fill of holiday cheer before the season comes to a close, so slip on your favorite ugly sweater and visit one of these bedecked bars tonight.

Miracle at The Rockhill Grille, Kansas City, Missouri

Back for its fifth year in a row, more than 80 bars around the country have signed up for a festive Miracle makeover, which includes signature drinks and seasonal glassware. For the first time, The Rockhill Grille in Kansas City, Missouri, is participating in the Miracle program, and the bar team has injected plenty of merriment into the experience. Along with the standard drinks menu, including the Christmapolitan and the Snowball Old-Fashioned that are featured at all of the participating Miracle locations, the bar is also serving a roster of its own recipes using products from local distiller, J. Rieger & Co. The pop-up will run through December 31. Find a list of all of this year’s Miracle locations here.

Erica Verges

Mele Kalikimaka at SOS Tiki, Atlanta, Georgia

At first blush, tiki drinks and the holiday spirit may not seem to go together at all, but for a second year in a row SOS Tiki’s Mele Kalikimaka is proving that it’s actually a match made in heaven. The name of the pop up is, of course, a Hawaiian phrase meaning “Merry Christmas.” (It’s also the title of a Bing Crosby tune popularized in the 1950s.) SOS Tiki, which is pictured above, has 10 Christmas-y cocktails to choose from, including a frozen, rum-spiked Eggnog, and the Jack Frost that combines rums, vanilla, coconut, pineapple, and lemon.

Craft & Commerce and False Idol, San Diego, California

Celebrating the holidays in balmy San Diego means you can have all the holiday cheer you want without having to bundle up. Local bar Craft & Commerce has turned itself into Whoville Winter Wonderland and the nearby False Idol is temporarily The Grinch’s Lair. That means after you’ve enjoyed a Reindeer Games cocktail (apple brandy, aquavit, chile liqueur, apple cider) or any of the other eight holiday-themed cocktails in Whoville, you can then drink a Holiday Mouth Feels (Angostura Bitters, pot still rum, lemon, falernum, orgeat) with the Grinch. Be sure to stop in before January 1, which is the last day for both pop ups.

Santa Baby, Chicago, Illinois

If you’re obsessed with tinsel, taken by wreaths, and blown away by a perfectly bedazzled tree, this immersive Chicago Christmas bar is where you need to celebrate the holidays. Not only will Santa Baby be decked out in over-the-top decorations, but it will also feature multiple bars slinging drinks that Kris Kringle would certainly enjoy. If you’re going with a group, try the oversized Jingle Juice, which blends a base of spiced rum, Grand Marnier and amaretto with a bright, bubbly blend of pineapple, Sprite, citrus and cranberry. And don’t forget to try the Atomic Yule Log (Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, cheddar, Sriracha dust) or a few Lumps of Coal (puffed rice, marshmallow, chocolate cookie dust).

Donn’s Depot, Austin, Texas

For more than two decades, Donn’s Depot in Austin has gotten gussied up for the holidays—and each year the decorations have gotten more intricate. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, more than 40 staff members work together to transform the bar and music venue into what it calls a “magical winter wonderland.” Snowflake ornaments hang from the ceiling and nutcrackers, mini-trees, and rows of stockings cover just about every possible surface. Visitors can sip on boozy and non-alcoholic holiday cocktails, including the Little Drummer Boy (tequila, allspice, pear, lemon), Mazel Tov (rum, chocolate, gelt), and warming hot chocolate.

Winter Chalet at Industry Kitchen, New York

Through the end of January, when you walk into the South Street Seaport’s Industry Kitchen you’ll be greeted by a canopy of twinkling lights, life-size reindeer and a swath of holiday greenery that transforms the space into a cozy getaway. But the wintry chalet experience is not complete without a festive cocktail in hand. Luckily, you’ll have plenty of options when deciding what to pair with your Gingernut Pizza—a pie made with a ginger crust, Eggnog frosting and candy canes. Go for The Flurry, a simple sour that mixes gin, St-Germain and lemon, or gather a group of friends and order the crowd-friendly Frozen Peppermint Slide (Baileys, candy canes, peppermint bark).

Sleyenda at Leyenda, Brooklyn, New York

Last year, Leyenda’s co-owners and bartenders extraordinaire, Julie Reiner and Ivy Mix, debuted their holiday pop-up bar Sleyenda—and this year, it’s back! Celebrating strong women the world over, the award-winning watering hole will donate $1 from each holiday drink sold to different charities, including the Global Fund for Women, New York Women’s Foundation, Outsmart NYC, and the Me Too Movement. That means no matter what Christmas or Hanukkah-themed drink you choose, from the Coquito Ho Ho Ho (reposado tequila, Oloroso sherry, coconut, Braulio, cinnamon) to the Chutzpah Spritzah (Aperol, Campari, gin, Manischewitz, Amaro Angostura, brut rosé), you can be sure you’re contributing to a good cause while spreading a bit of holiday cheer.”

The Miracle at Rockhill is open nightly through New Year’s Eve. Ho, ho, ho…

 

Rebuttal – ‘Denverization’ is not the problem on Troost

A rendering shows UC-B’s proposed development at Linwood Boulevard and Troost Avenue. COURTESY OF DRAW ARCHITECTURE + URBAN DESIGN LLC

By GIB KERR, special to The Kansas City Star, Dec. 12, 2018

I grew up here in Kansas City, just a few blocks from Troost Avenue. For my entire life, Troost has been an ugly dividing line — both physically and psychologically — between black and white. Politicians, ministers and civic leaders have forever implored employers and developers to invest along the Troost corridor.

For decades, middle-class residents have been abandoning Troost and the urban core for the greener pastures of the suburbs. The population along Troost plummeted. Businesses, churches and schools closed in staggering numbers. The area became a desolate urban wasteland.

Over the last couple years, however, several pioneering developers have made the bold decision to risk their capital and build new apartments along the Troost corridor. We are witnessing some of the first new construction on Troost in our lifetime.

Most exciting of all (to me, at least) is that a new generation is not only willing to move there, but they’re excited to be part of a 21st-century urban environment where black and white Kansas Citians (along with Hispanics, Asians and maybe even millennials who grew up in Johnson County) can all live together without regard to the racial hang-ups that seemed so big to previous generations.

Maybe Kansas City can show America how to heal the wounds that have divided us for too long. These new developments are not just building a bridge across Troost. They are weaving a new urban quilt that earlier generations could never have imagined.

Granted, we have a long, long way to go. But this seems to be a very promising beginning.

So why does The Kansas City Star’s editorial board see only the manure and not the pony in the barn? Its recent editorial rebuking the “Denverization of Kansas City” completely misses the mark.

Yes, we need more affordable housing. But first we need to restore the urban population that we have lost over the last 50 years.

“Gentrification” is the dirty new buzzword among those for whom the perfect is the enemy of the good. In order for our urban core to thrive, we need to increase population density. We need to replace the thousands of residents who moved away, even if some of those new residents are (God forbid) “hipsters” who come from more affluent backgrounds.

I’m pretty sure that the residents moving into new apartment projects along the Troost corridor are not displacing anyone. They are moving into new housing units mostly built on vacant lots.

The economically distressed areas of the city’s East Side are full of thousands of abandoned houses, which are now attracting investors to renovate them — and in the process delivering more affordable housing options.

Jason Segedy, director of planning and urban development for the city of Akron, Ohio, notes that the problem with economically distressed areas is not inequality. The problem is poverty. Too many residents are equally poor.

By introducing a more diverse socioeconomic population, a rising tide will lift all boats. Higher population leads to healthier businesses, schools, churches and a stronger community overall. Remember, we closed more than 20 schools in the Kansas City Public Schools district over the past decade. Imagine what a few thousand new residents could do for our schools.

My observation is that both the developers and their residents along this new urban frontier are keenly sensitive to the cultural legacy of Kansas City’s East Side, which must not only be respected but celebrated. Rather than disparaging the economic progress along Troost, we should encourage its continuation and make Kansas City a model for American urban renewal.

Gib Kerr is a commercial real estate broker focusing on investment sales, with an emphasis on development transactions in Downtown Kansas CityHe served as co-chair of the sell-out Downtown Office Summit meeting for the Downtown Council in October at Crown Center.

Downtown Council, CIDs begin annual Toy & Coat Drive

The Downtown Council and the Community Improvement Districts have kicked off the annual Toy & Coat Drive to benefit the men, women and children served by the Downtown Community Services Center.
This is your opportunity to fill the barrels (several of them!) with new or gently used toys and clothing/coats for those in need in Downtown Kansas City. Collection barrels will be accepting donations at the Downtown Council office, 1000 Walnut, Suite 200 now through Dec. 21.
All donations will be distributed to friends and clients at the Downtown Community Services Center before Christmas.
“Help us to make this year really special for those in need,” said Sean O’Byrne, vice president for business development and executive director of the CIDs. “Thank you for your support.”
To learn more, contact O’Byrne at sean@downtownkc.org

 

All aboard for 2019 Annual Luncheon: Destination Downtown KC

Kansas City Mayor Sly James addressed the 2018 Downtown Council Annual Luncheon full house audience early this year.

Downtown Kansas City’s ascension to becoming the region’s leading destination for conventions, visitors, and business and leisure travelers will be the main course of the next Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 at the Kansas City Convention Center.

“Today, Kansas City can be said to have actually achieved the elusive dream of scores of proud old American cities that have seen better days: It has a revised downtown, which now skews closer to “bustling” than “desolate” many nights,” The New York Times reported in July.

“You can see what is arguably the single best embodiment of the phenomenon for yourself” – the KC Streetcar – “at regular intervals as you stroll along – or even stand still – on Downtown’s Main Street.”

The Downtown Council’s annual event – this year, Destination Downtown KC – will illustrate Downtown’s miraculous renaissance that is attracting meetings, residents, visitors, employers, workers and riders to a thriving arts, cultural and business scene.

Downtown’s emerging role as a leading destination was underscored this week, when National Geographic Traveler selected Kansas City, Mo. as the only U.S. city or destination on its listing of 28 Best Trips Around the World in the December/January edition.

“Most visitors to this Midwest outpost come for the barbecue and that jazz, but soon find themselves caught up in an urban renaissance,” the magazine reported.

Jonathan Tisch, Chairman & CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co., will deliver the keynote address at the Downtown Council Annual Luncheon next month.

The Destination theme also serves as a platform to showcase an urban hotel boom that is currently unfolding in Downtown, including a 200 percent increase in hotels (from eight in 2015 to 24 by 2020) and an 85 percent increase in rooms (from 3,414 to 6,415), including the $325 million Loews Kansas City Hotel that will open 800 new convention hotel rooms in two years.

The keynote address will be delivered by Jonathan Tisch, Chairman & CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co. Tisch joined city leaders in August, at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the convention hotel.

“Kansas City is a vibrant destination which has experienced significant growth over the past several years,” Tisch told the Downtown Council, as he accepted this speaking invitation. “We look forward to investing in and becoming an integral part of the Downtown community with our new hotel, Loews Kansas City, opening in May of 2020.”

Destination Downtown KC is expected to attract about 1,000 business, civic and philanthropic leaders to celebrate progress and accomplishments; present awards; assess the trajectory of Downtown Kansas City for the long-term; and, embraces the largest urban networking event of the year. The luncheon is set for 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 24 in the Kay Barnes Ballroom.

Luncheon Highlights

  • Keynote speaker Jonathan Tisch, Chairman & CEO of Loews Hotels & Co., will identify the challenges to maintain or even accelerate the growth of Downtown, and then discuss the challenges ahead.
  • Presentation of the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award in Recognition of Downtown Stewardship & Community Vision to Kay Waldo Barnes
  • Announcement of the 2018 Urban Hero Awards honoring individuals who impact Downtown on the grassroots level. The Urban Heroes also will be honored during a reception on Wednesday evening, Jan. 23
  • Annual State of Downtown update by William Dietrich, President & CEO of the Downtown Council.
  • Immediately before the luncheon, guests will participate in the Spirit of Downtown KC Exhibit. More than 50 booth spaces will highlight new developments, creative businesses and the arts of Downtown.

The Annual Luncheon will feature three honorary co-chairs, including Tim Dunn, Chief Investment & Treasury Officer, JE Dunn Construction; Jeffrey J. Jones II, President & CEO of H&R Block; and Brenda Tinnen, Senior Vice President/General Manager, Sprint Center.

Luncheon planning chairs are Jerry Riffel, Attorney, Lathrop Gage, who also currently chairs the Downtown Council; Julie Pierce, Vice President / Director of Kansas City Operations, Henderson Engineers; and Nate Orr, Partner, Spencer Fane.

To reserve your space at the luncheon, visit https://www.downtownkc.org/2019-luncheon/  or contact Ann Holliday, ann@downtownkc.org, or Ashley Broockerd, abroockerd@evenergy.com.

 

Natl Geographic Traveler names KC one of the world’s ‘best trips’

Courtesy, The Kansas City Star

“One may wonder what Kansas City has in common with Dakar, Senegal, or Perth, Australia.

It seems they are among must-see destinations for travelers in 2019. That’s according to National Geographic Traveler magazine, which published the list last week in the December-January issue.

Why go now? To “revel in the revival,” the magazine says.

“Most visitors to the Midwestern city come for the barbecue and all that jazz but soon find themselves caught up in an urban renaissance,” according to the piece.

It goes on to tout the “reinvention of the historic Savoy Hotel and Grill as the 21cMuseum Hotel Kansas City and the free downtown streetcar.

The article also encourages visitors to check out the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It touts the “retro-cool retailers and clubs” of the industrial West Bottoms.

“To me, West Bottoms speaks to the history of Kansas City: the stockyards and trains and commerce moving through the middle of the country,” Chris Goode, CEO and founder of Ruby Jean’s Juicery, told the magazine. “But no matter where you go in Kansas City, it will feel like home. “The city just has soul.”

National Geographic Traveler editor-in-chief George Stone said the Best Trips issue “features 28 destinations and experiences that can inspire us, change our perspectives and connect us with cultures, places and ideas that matter in the world.”

National Geographic travel editors and explorers selected their top destinations in four categories: cities, nature, culture and adventure.

Kansas City is the only American destination on the cities list, which includes Dakar; Perth; Salvador, Brazil; Toronto, Canada; Matera, Italy; and Mexico City. (The magazine specified that it is referring to Kansas City, Mo.)”

Click here to read the complete story.

Holidays Come Alive beginning Saturday at Union Station

The holiday season officially returns to Downtown this weekend, as the Holidays Come Alive at Union Station beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The event is a day-long, free celebration packed with festive entertainment and family activities. It will conclude with a spectacular holiday lighting ceremony at 6:30 p.m. featuring Kansas City’s largest indoor Christmas tree and a breathtaking performance by Quixotic. All events will be held inside Union Station so there’s no need to bundle up the kids!

“The holidays at Union Station are more than lights,” said George Guastello, president and CEO of Union Station. “What Union Station does for the holidays is what it’s done for over 100 years; Union Station creates memories. We do that by creating holiday experiences you can’t find anywhere else.”

But, never fear, there will be lots of lights at Union Station. There are 25,000 lights on the gorgeous indoor Grand Hall Tree alone! Yards and yards of garland, mammoth wreaths, 70 Christmas trees and more will all be lit inside the Station on Saturday night.

The holiday will really come to life beginning at 6:30 p.m. Saturday with a ceremony that leads into a magical performance designed by the creative genius of Kansas City’s own Quixotic. Inside Grand Plaza, aerialists will fly through the air while magical reindeer, standing eight feet tall, will roam through the crowd leading them on a magical trip to the North Pole. Throughout the performance the interior will be lit in waves, ending with the Union Station ablaze in its holiday glory.

The exterior of the Station will also come alive in a dazzling holiday light show every evening on the half hour. This choreographed display will not only entertain, but also add to the festive illumination of the Downtown skyline.

In addition, there will be plenty of family photo opportunities (think holiday cards!) with larger-than life holiday props and décor, and concessions sold throughout the day. Kiss Under the Clock, a Union Station holiday tradition, returns this year from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. with Kelly Urich from 94.9 KCMO Radio and holiday favorite,

National Lampoon’s, Christmas Vacation, will be running on the Regnier Extreme Screen throughout the day for only $3 per person. 

DAY OF ACTIVITIES – Saturday

All located in Grand Plaza, unless otherwise notated.

10:00 am – 4:00 pm:  Hands on Activities: Maker Studio & Strawberry Swing Holiday Activity

10:00 am – 4:00 pm:  Mesner Puppets Holiday Activity

10:00 am – 8:00 pm:  Letters to Santa (in Model Rail)

1:00 – 4:30 pm:  Balloon Artist & Sister Act Face Painters

6:00  – 6:30 pm:  Candy Cane Stop with 94.9 
7:00  – 8:30 PM Free Mini Train Rides

7:00 – 9:00 pm:  Holiday Model Rail

Stage Performances

*All located in Grand Plaza, unless otherwise notated.

10 – 10:45 am:  Mrs. Claus Holiday Stories

11:00 – 11:45 am:  KC Ballet 2 Performance

11:30 am – 12:30 pm:  Salvation Army Band

12:30 – 1:15 pm:  Quite Frankly the Band

2:00 – 2:45 pm:  Dan Riggs Big Band

3:15 – 3:30 pm:  Starlight Stars

4:00 – 4:45 pm:  Miller Marley Youth Ballet

5:00 – 6:00 pm:  HARMONIUM

6:30 – 7:00 pm:  Holiday Lighting Ceremony Featuring Quixotic

7:00 – 7:30 pm:  HARMONIUM

Event parking rate of $10 applies.

For a complete list of family friendly events that last all season long, visit www.unionstation.org/holidays

Construction to proceed on Downtown YMCA / Community Center

The Downtown YMCA/Kirk Family Community Center will celebrate the beginning of construction of the former Lyric Theatre building on Friday.

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City will host a Construction Kickoff Celebration for the new Downtown YMCA/Kirk Family Community Center this Friday.

Donors, volunteers, members and the community are invited to gather at a special celebration at 11:15 a.m. Friday on the front steps of the former Lyric Theatre building at 1029 Central St.

The event will include a ceremony to commemorate the redevelopment of the 92-year-old building and illustrate bringing healthy living, youth and community programs to Downtown Kansas City. The new Y will bring important programs to the families and commuters in the heart of Downtown for the first time, including a medical clinic, swim lessons, healthy living classes for children and adults, community events, and opportunities for people of all ages to improve quality of life.

“The new Y builds on the success of Kansas City’s Downtown revitalization, and will bring much-needed community programs to this diverse and growing community,” said David Byrd, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City. “This is a new chapter in history for our Y and for Kansas City as we transform the historic Lyric Theatre building into a community center that will benefit generations for years to come. We are so grateful to all of our donors and partners for their support to make this project possible.”

The $35-million renovation and reconstruction project is expected to be completed by spring of 2021. It’s funded by $16.9 million from the 11th Street Corridor Tax Increment Financing District, additional funding from the Missouri Development Finance Board, as well as charitable gifts from foundations and individual donors.

The Y will be named the Kirk Family Community Center. The Kirks are longtime YMCA of Greater Kansas City donors and supporters of the new Downtown Y. The family includes the late Phil Kirk, the former chairman of DST Realty, now part of SS&C Technologies. He played a key role in Kansas City’s Downtown revitalization and was instrumental in bringing the new Y to the former Lyric Theatre.

The Downtown Council honors Kirk’s strength and leadership each year by awarding its Philip J. Kirk Jr. Award to a community leader in recognition of community vision and Downtown stewardship. The Kirk Award will be presented to former Mayor Kay Barnes at the next DTC Annual Luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019.

Other donors to the Downtown Y/Kirk Family Community Center include the Sunderland Foundation; Tom and Jean McDonnell; Illig Family Foundation; William T. Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank, Trustee; The Kirk Foundation Trust; SS&C Technologies; Victor Speas Foundation, US Trust, Bank of America Corporation; Gary Dickinson Family Charitable Foundation; Kansas City Southern; Mabee Foundation; Dunn Family Foundation; UMB Trusts & Foundations: Arvin Gottlieb Charitable Foundation; Jim and Annabelle Nutter Family; Sherman Foundation; KCP&L; Frank and Nancy Kirk; Mark One Electric; Tom and Jill McGee; Natalie Kirk Welch and J.C. Welch; Allen and Libby Blair; Charles and Judy Kahn; and Ron and Nancy Jones.

Features of the 62,000-square-foot Downtown YMCA/Kirk Family Community Center:

  • Preservation of the facade and lobby of the historic building including the original marble floors, ceiling tiles and more to become the new Y entrance.
  • A 42,000-square-foot section of new construction built on the north side of the lobby featuring a contemporary design. Behind the building, there will be a small green space for events and youth sports.
  • Dramatic two-story windows will be inserted into the new limestone walls along Central bringing natural light into the space and creating a contemporary, eye-catching look to the building’s exterior. The limestone will come from the same quarry that provided the limestone for the original Lyric building.\

Amenities inside the new Downtown YMCA/Kirk Family Community Center:

  • Three community rooms to give members and the community the opportunity to host meetings, celebrations of family and friends, and more. One of the community rooms will feature a teaching kitchen for healthy eating, nutrition and cooking classes.
  • A Kids Zone constructed near the entrance that will provide a safe and fun place for kids to learn and play.
  • An indoor family pool and lap pool to bring year-round life-saving swim lessons, exercise and recreational opportunities to families downtown for the first time.
  • An enclosed wood-floor gymnasium that can be used for basketball, volleyball, and other youth and adult sports.
  • A large health and wellness area offers a space for guests to improve their health through cardiovascular exercise and strength training featuring the latest state-of-the-art equipment.
  • Three studios for group exercise.
  • A suspended indoor walking and jogging track that will offer views of the lower levels of the center.

Truman Medical Center to offer a medical clinic at the new Downtown Y

The YMCA and Truman Medical Center will team up to offer a medical clinic at the Downtown Y. The two organizations first partnered to open TMC’s University Health Clinic adjoining the Linwood YMCA/James B. Nutter, Sr. Community Center in February 2018.
The Linwood Y partnership has already proven that working together toward a common vision and mission can improve community health at a time when chronic disease is rising and access to quality health care remains a challenge for many.
The Downtown clinic will make health care more accessible to Y members, as well as those in the surrounding area.
“It is part of our mission to get out of the four walls of the hospital and bring health care where it’s needed,” said Charlie Shields, president and CEO of Truman Medical Center. “We are excited about the construction of this new University Health clinic, because it’s in the right place, at the right time. The power of our combined services will make a great impact on the area’s health and wellness.”
TMC’s University Health Clinic is planned for the lower levels of the building. TMC also will partner with Cerner to bring advanced technology to the patient experience at the clinic.
“Bringing this Y and medical clinic to Downtown is truly a game changer and an important milestone for the Kansas City community,” said CiCi Rojas, chief volunteer officer for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.
“We look forward to the completion of this project so that the Y may impact more lives for the better,” Rojas said. “There are still opportunities to give. The new Y will allow us to meet the changing needs of the community as more young professionals, families and empty-nesters call Downtown home, and will serve as a destination for the entire metro.”
Design and construction partners include BNIM Architects, JE Dunn Construction, Structural Engineering Associates, Henderson Engineers, Antella, Taliaferro & Browne, New Horizons, Land3 Studio, Larkin and FSC.
Development partners include Broadway Square Partners, the Downtown Council and MC Realty.
Financing partners include Sun Trust Bank, Industrial Development Authority of the City of Kansas City Missouri, and Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority.
To read more about the Downtown Y/Kirk Community Center announcement, visit CityScene KC.

Amistice Commemoration continues through Sunday

The National WWI Museum and Memorial will continue to capture the world’s attention this weekend with a flurry of activities to commemorate the centennial of the World War I Armistice on Sunday.

Highlights include Peace and Remembrance, the spectacular illumination of America’s official World War I Memorial that began last Friday and continues through Armistice Day on Sunday in recognition of the 9 million soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War.

Comprised of nearly 55 million pixels to cover the Memorial with red poppies – a traditional symbol for commemorating military personnel who died inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Field.” Peace and Remembrance is viewable from a significant distance.

From today (Friday) through Sunday, admission to the Museum and Memorial is free for veterans and active-duty military personnel; general admission for the public is half-price.

On Sunday, Nov. 11, the multi-national Armistice Commemoration Ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Museum’s Memorial Courtyard. Free to the public, this special ceremony features moving readings of letters from soldiers, poetry, musical performances and more.

Armistice Commemoration – Friday to Sunday, Nov. 9-11

Reflections of Hope: Armistice 1918

When: All Day through Sunday, Nov. 11
Where: Reflection Pool outside the National WWI Museum and Memorial
What: Artist Ada Koch’s moving installation features 117 intricate metal poppy sculptures in a symbolic arrangement. Each poppy represents 1,000 American soldiers killed during the Great War.

Peace and Remembrance

When: Friday-Sunday, Nov. 9-11 (6 p.m.-1 a.m.)
Where: North Lawn outside the National WWI Museum and Memorial
What: The official WWI Memorial of the United States will be illuminated with a nearly 55 million pixel, 800,000 lumens display featuring more than 5,000 poppies each evening with a massive and moving light installation. Every 15 minutes, special presentations of images, footage and details about World War I will appear. The public is welcome to view the illumination from the grounds of the Museum and Memorial with the North Lawn being the best viewing location. Parking is available in the Museum and Memorial lots as well as along Kessler Road. In the event of inclement weather, the illumination will pause until the weather clears.

World War I Research Stations:

When: All Day, Friday-Sunday, Nov. 9-11
Where: Outside J.C. Nichols Auditorium Lobby inside the National WWI Museum and Memorial
What: Find your connection to World War I during Memorial Day weekend through research stations. With access to multiple databases including, Fold3.com, Ancestry.com, the Museum and Memorial’s online collections database, the American Battlefield Monuments Commission and the National Archives, discover how the Great War affected your family through records, photographs and much more. FREE to the public.

Vehicle Donation to Combat-Wounded Veteran:

When: 2 p.m. today (Friday, Nov. 9)
Where: South Lawn outside the National WWI Museum and Memorial
What: Join Robert Brogden Buick GMC, Wells Fargo and Military Warriors Support Foundation for a special payment-free vehicle presentation to retired U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Steven Wacker. FREE to the public

Craft Your Own Poppy:

When: 10 a.m. -Noon, Saturday, Nov. 10
Where: J.C. Nichols Auditorium Lobby inside the National WWI Museum and Memorial
What:Commemorate the Armistice by creating your own felt poppy pin or ornament in this family-friendly craft experience. FREE to the public.

Hands-on History:

When: 11 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 10
Where: Near Paul Sunderland Glass Bridge inside the National WWI Museum and Memorial
What: History is brought to life during this family-friendly program, where kids of all ages are invited to handle Great War artifacts. FREE to the public.

Armistice Ceremony:

When: 9:30 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 11
Where: Memorial Courtyard outside the National WWI Museum and Memorial
What: Join us for a commemoration of the Armistice of 1918 featuring representatives from more than 10 nations around the world, moving readings of poems and letters from soldiers, musical performances and more. FREE to the public.

Bells of Peace:

When: 10:55 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 11
Where: Memorial Courtyard outside the National WWI Museum and Memorial
What: Exactly 100 years after fighting ceased in Europe, organizations across the globe participate in a traditional bell tolling to commemorate this momentous event. Those unable to attend the ceremony are also invited to toll bells at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 to honor those who served. Collectively, the sound of bells represent this incredible moment of peace. The bell used for this ceremony was originally located at one of the federal buildings in downtown Kansas City and was rung daily by the Daughters of the American Revolution during U.S. involvement in WWI (1917-1918). It was also tolled 11 times at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1926 during the dedication ceremony of the Liberty Memorial.FREE to the public.

Walk of Honor Dedication Ceremony:

When: 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 11
Where: J.C. Nichols Auditorium inside the National WWI Museum and Memorial
What: More than 100 new Walk of Honor granite bricks will be dedicated during a special ceremony. The Walk of Honor, now more than 11,000 bricks strong, is divided into three sections: bricks dedicated solely to those who served in World War I; bricks dedicated to veterans of any military service; and bricks that honor civilian friends, family or organizations. Walk of Honor bricks are dedicated twice each year during Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. FREE to the public.

Special Exhibitions

For Liberty: American Jewish Experience in WWI

Where: Wylie Gallery
What: Hailed as “remarkably prescient” by the New York Times, this special exhibition examines the American Jewish battlefield and homefront participation through a series of remarkable stories and objects. Featured items including Irving Berlin’s draft registration card and the handwritten draft of the Balfour Declaration, which eventually paved the way for the establishment of the Jewish state. Closes Sunday, Nov. 11.

Diggers and Doughboys: The Art of Allies 100 Years On

Where: Memory Hall
What: Australian and American troops fought side-by-side for the first time in July 1918 during World War I. Since then, the Diggers (Australians) and Doughboys (Americans) supported each other in every major military conflict, including Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. This exhibition features incredible artwork from the Australian War Memorial Collection illustrating the unique comradeship between the two countries.

The World Remembers

Where: Main Gallery
What: The World Remembers is an international education project whose purpose is to remember and honor these combatants who perished during each year of the war by displaying their names in more than 75 locations throughout Europe and North America for a period of eight weeks ending with the Western Front Armistice Day of Nov. 11. Closes Sunday, Nov. 11.

War Around Us: Soldier Artist Impressions

Where: Ellis Gallery
What: Creating art when surrounded by war seems contradictory. Artists Jean Lefort, Curtiney George Foote, Charles Thatcher Shellabarger, Myron Chapin and Jean Berne-Bellecour demonstrate several ways one can capture wartime experiences using the fields, villages, and people who witnessed the devastation of WWI. Closes Jan. 13, 2019.

Crucible: Life & Death in 1918

Where: Exhibit Hall
What: For the Doughboys on the Western Front, 1918 was their year. It was the crucible where the American land forces forged their fighting force. They fought alongside their main allies from Cantigny to Belleau Wood to the Champagne Region, the Piave River to the Marne to St. Mihiel to the Meuse Argonne to Vladivostok. This exhibition is not an illustration or timeline of how the 1918 battles were fought, rather it focuses on individuals and their lives and deaths in the crucible of 1918. Closes March 10, 2019.

Armistice Day Weekend Hours and Parking

The National WWI Museum and Memorial will be open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday-Saturday and from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday. To accommodate expected high Armistice Day Weekend attendance, additional parking will be available on the Southeast lawn of the complex (weather permitting).

The United States World War One Centennial Commission is the presenting sponsor of the Museum and Memorial’s Armistice Commemoration activities with Pioneer Services serving as the premier sponsor and Jackson County Executive and Legislature, the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund of Kansas City, Mo., and Wells Fargo providing additional support.

Click here for a complete list of Armistice Commemoration Activities.

Office Summit program illustrates opportunities in Downtown

A slide of potential Downtown office development sites was presented by Gib Kerr of Cushman & Wakefield and Mike Klamm of CBRE.

Courtesy of Kevin Collison, CityScene KC

Lack of a big chunk of premier, new office space likely cost Downtown Kansas City a major Starbucks operation with 900 jobs last summer, and how to address that challenge was the focus recently of the second annual Downtown Office Summit.

Mayor Sly James kicked off the Oct. 17th summit – organized by the Downtown Council – by citing the accomplishments of recent years in revitalizing Downtown.

“We’re building cities for the future, for our kids,” he told the sold-out audience of more than 250 people at the BNIM offices in Crown Center. “One key is our ability to attract talent. People go where they want to live and Kansas City is moving up that chart at an extremely rapid pace. We are a city on the rise and people are taking notice.”

But while Downtown has benefited greatly from a boom in apartment, hotel, entertainment and restaurant investment in recent years, office development continues to lag. The last big new office building to go up here was the H&R Block building in 2006 and it was done for its namesake tenant.

Craig Slawson (left) of Epoch Development and Vincent Bryant of 3D Development were among the Office Summit developers’ panelists to present to a full house audience at BNIM last month.

“Starbucks representatives were “blown away by how cool (Downtown) Kansas City was and what’s happening here” and was runner-up in the firm’s extensive national search, according to Tim Cowden, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council.

But Starbucks needed 100,000 square feet of Class A space relatively quickly, and it would take 18 to 24 months to build it in Downtown KC. Starbucks went to Atlanta instead, where there’s already “four- to five cranes in the air.”

Members of the Office Summit development panel said Downtown is ripe for new office construction, pointing to a steady decline in vacancy rates, but differed on just how soon and how big the next wave of activity will be.

Vince Bryant, whose 3D Development firm partnered with Copaken Brooks on the most recent big office project, the renovation of the 10-story Corrigan Station building, believes Downtown should be adding 700,000 square feet of office space annually just to keep up with the residential boom.

Instead, about 700,000 square feet has been done in the past four to five years. Bryant is currently pursuing the redevelopment of the historic Kansas City Star building, a 275,000 square-foot project.

“There hasn’t been a new spec office building built Downtown since 1987 and that’s something we ought to figure out how to change,” Bryant said. “I view the Downtown market as having its historical stock drying up, most buildings have been renovated. The next phase is new construction.”

 

The growth of co-working office space downtown was highlighted, another 100,000 square feet is anticipated.

The biggest new downtown office project in the works currently is being planned by Platform Ventures on a site across from Barney Allis Plaza at 13th and Wyandotte. An earlier concept called for 70,000 square feet, but Terry Anderson of Platform said it could grow up to 120,000 square feet.

“We’re very optimistic,” Anderson said.

The kind of big skyscrapers that were built however in the 1980s and 1990s, such as One Kansas City Place and the Town Pavilion, are problematic.

Tim Schaeffer, president of AREA Real Estate Advisors, said lenders are much more strict now, and demand 40 to 50 percent of buildings be pre-leased before providing financing.

“I don’t believe the confidence is there yet for lenders to say ‘let’s do this,’” Schaeffer said.

Developers estimated it would take rents of $34-$35 per square foot to spur new construction. Currently, rates at Corrigan Station, one of Downtown’s premier  addresses, are in the $25- to $30 range, Bryant said.

Development attorney Jerry Riffel, another panelist, said it will require some boldness to change the Downtown office status quo.

“Somebody is going to have to jump out,” he said. “We’ve got something to sell and good locations, we need to talk about being proactive.”

Bryant suggested a proposed River Market office site controlled by the Kansas City Area Development Authority at Third and Grand could have been ideal for Starbucks—if development of a parking garage had been underway.

“Third and Grand would have been a perfect location for them,” he said.

“If that garage project was a year ahead of schedule, they might have waited 12 or 18 months knowing it was the ideal building they wanted.”

The Downtown office vacancy rate has been declining in recent years.

 

Schaeffer observed that Downtown Kansas City always has been a more affordable place for firms on either Coast, but until recently didn’t have the quality of life to close the deal.

“Now we have a cool city where young people want to stay and live, our city is entirely different from what I could have envisioned 10 years ago,” he said.

As to where a sizable new office project might occur next, Schaeffer believes property controlled mostly by Copaken Brooks west of Broadway between Southwest Boulevard and I-670 would be attractive because its eligible for hefty federal tax breaks.

Anderson was skeptical about the prospects for high-rise construction within the Downtown Loop, saying a more modest, 50,000 to 75,000 square foot project could occur in the Crossroads or East Village areas.

But Riffel was bullish on going big.

“The next high-rise is more likely to be in the Power & Light District,” he said. “I think there will be one.”

And panelist Stacy Paine, CEO of Crown Center Redevelopment, said vacant property her firm recently offered for development along 27th Street between Grand and Main is ripe for something larger.

“It’s right along the streetcar and walkable from new apartments and Crown Center,” she said. “I think it will be bigger than 50,000 or 60,000 square feet.”

Bryant added, “We’re all rooting for new construction and new office because that pulls the price point up to $34-$35.”

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