February 13, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – An application for a project plan has been submitted for a new one-story, 8,000 square-foot retail building at the intersection of Independence Ave. and Prospect – the site of the deadly fire that took the lives of KCFD firefighters John Mesh and Larry Leggio.
Kansas City, Missouri City Planning staff confirmed on Wednesday, February 8 that the application had been submitted. Jackson County records list the property owner as BA Properties, LLC, as does the project plan application submitted to City Planning.
Renderings of the proposed development were made publicly available on the City Planning and Development department’s Development Tracker Map on Tuesday, February 7. According to those renderings, the proposed development would include six commercial storefronts facing southbound towards Independence Avenue, with a total of 35 parking spaces located in the rear of the building, accessible off of Prospect. One element not explicitly included in the current plans is a public memorial to Mesh and Leggio, though project developer M.A.C. Corporation indicated on Monday, February 13, that the notion is being considered. While the site owners are apparently open to allocating space for a memorial, they don’t have the budget to fund it. The developer added that the new owners would require private funding in order to include a memorial in the scope of work.
“I think that was a tragic, tragic event. We have volunteered to allocate space for some sort of a memorial, but it hasn’t gone beyond that statement,” said Robert Andrew, President and Senior Project Engineer of M.A.C. Corporation. “We want to be good neighbors in any way that we can, but we have some real-world limitations from a budgeting standpoint.”
Andrew noted that some specifics have already been discussed regarding the potential placement of a memorial. One option involved allocating space at the southwest corner of the building to install some type of engraved masonry in honor of the firefighters. Another option being considered is to install a memorial at the southeast corner of the building.
Andrew said that the new owners are eager to get the work started, as they’ve already closed on the property. He described the ownership group as anxious, even frustrated, with what they view as a slow development process, especially since there have already been “some nibbles” from businesses interested in leasing space in the building.
“I think when people step into the realm of real estate development and haven’t experienced this process before, it becomes difficult for them to comprehend the timeline and the slow speed at which these things advance,” said Andrew. “They are nervous because they have a significant amount of money on the line, and they want to move forward. This is a small business; it’s family-owned. They can’t go out and build the Taj Mahal here.”
The city planner assigned to the project, Ashley Winchell, said that the development will likely be considered during a City Plan Commission meeting in March. In the meantime, she’ll thoroughly inspect the plan to ensure that it complies with area zoning requirements, including those laid out in the Independence Avenue Overlay.
“We’ll be looking at the transparency, the building materials, and the general design. There’s a number of standards we need to look at to see if it complies,” said Winchell. “If it didn’t meet the Independence Avenue Overlay, and they needed to make specific changes, we would probably hold it.”
The site of the deadly fire has remained empty since the October 12, 2015 incident. During a memorial ceremony held on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, some attendees advocated in favor of turning the site into a permanent public park dedicated to the memories of the two Northeast firefighters.
“This should be considered sacred ground, dedicated to the memory of these local heroes.” said Deacon Mike Lewis, a Historic Northeast native.
Renderings of the proposed development have been provided below.