Monday, August 23, 2010

Respect the Historical Context of the Plaza

The law firm of Polsinelli and Shughart is planning to build a new headquarters on Kansas City's Country Club Plaza. They would take down a 1920s vintage original plaza building and an apartment building on the corner of 47th Street and Broadway, and build the new building. That sounds pretty cool on the face of it, economic engine and all that.

Until everyone got a gander at the architectural renderings. There was almost a universal WTF reaction to the eight story glass and metal structure. Both the law firm, and the owner/developer of the plaza, North Carolina's Highwoods Properties, have heard an earful from frustrated and upset citizens about the design and plan.

The Plaza is constructed with a Spanish architectural theme, reminiscent of Seville and the proposed building does not even make a modern bow in the direction of that theme. Furthermore, it is out of scale for the area that it sits in, down the hill, towards Brush Creek and 47th Street/Cleaver II Boulevard, where most of the buildings are 2-3 stories tall.

The Plaza, despite the age of many of its buildings, is not on the historical registry. The restrictions of the registry on the kind of alterations that retail sometimes demands is something that didn't work for the Plaza in the past. There are zoning and development restrictions on the height of buildings in certain places on the Plaza.

While Polsinelli can build any zoning compliant building they would like, they need to reconsider this design, which now they are saying was highly preliminary and released prematurely (sounds like excuse making to me, but never mind) and create a design that is more compatible with the look and feel of the Plaza as a whole. If they can't do that, then they should consider a site north of the Plaza, rescue the lost West End project, or consider down town or the Crossroads districts of Kansas City. I suppose if they are feeling especially spiteful after the outcry over this design they can decide to move to Johnson County, Kansas, but if they are really the civic citizens they are trying to make themselves out to be, they will be willing to compromise on either design or location and remain in Kansas City, MO. I, for one, would applaud them for that compromise.

Right now, both Polsinelli and Highwoods look arrogant and greedy, all about making a show and making the benjamins. The ball is in their court now.

The Kansas City Star Irate Plaza fans object to law office building plan. The illustration and photo are from The Star.

Of course, there is a Facebook page, Save the Plaza


Bob G. said...

Indeed, it IS all about GREED...they just like to label it under "re-branding"...
Be VARY cautious of this kind of thing.

Good post..and good luck with the preservation.

the observer said...

Bob G:
It appears that the general community outcry and offense at this proposal has provoked the kind of compromise that we hoped for. However, the final chapter has not yet been written! We can't let up until the final blue print is submitted and approved.

Thanks for reading
The Observer

Groucho K. Marx said...

This Southlander is ALSO with the preservationists!


(Now return you to regular programming and good blog Observer)

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
All the photos I have taken of my neighborhood have started to sink in. Many a fine building has been torn down amongst the brownstones to make room for an ugly box.

It's true that the brownstones are difficult to fit to fire codes, handicap access, other things. But with no nod to history or the continuum of design, they create the site of future "low-rent" or "vacant" buildings.

Thank goodness you and others in SoKC are looking past the desperation of the current economy and to the long-term beauty and health of your community.

Ann T.

the observer said...

Ann T:
As I said, compromise is in the air. Polsinelli is going to present another proposal at the City Council's business meeting tomorrow at 1300. (They swear there will be no leaks before then!)

But, you know: "It ain't over until it's over."

Thanks for reading!
The Observer

the observer said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting. I like your blog too (although I must say the pink shocked me when I first saw it!) keeping us all informed on the goings on in the metro.

I personally still listen to my scanner (Old EMS habits die hard), and am a little bit of a weather wonk.

We'll see the new drawings tomorrow, hopefully better than the first one!

The Observer