February 22, 2016
Last week the city’s PZED – that’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee to the untrained reader – voted against history by voting to demolish even MORE Kansas City history in favor of big development. The buildings in question are the Colonial Court apartments, a complex of five historic, colonnaded buildings built around the turn of the 20th century on then highly fashionable Maple Boulevard. They stand in the way of KCU’s Master Planned Development that seeks to raze these historic buildings in the Pendleton Heights Historic District in favor of relocating surface parking for their growing campus. While this dog isn’t against smart development, such as the razing of the seedy Royale Inn we talked about last week, we are in favor of adaptively re-using historic structures whenever possible as part of a planned development. The astute reader will note that last year at this very time, local preservationists were having the very same fight with the same Council committee about the Nelle Peters apartments on the Country Club Plaza. Those buildings, also designated as historic landmarks, ultimately fell to the wrecking ball thanks to, as this dog dubbed them, “the spineless nine” on the City Council who didn’t have the stones to stand up to a hot shot development lawyer and voted for demolition of the properties.
Which brings us full circle to the present fight against a development plan that advocates the razing of historic buildings instead of adaptively reusing them, maintaining the historic character and fabric of the Pendleton Heights Historic District. This dog has sat on more than one city-sponsored, punch and cookies planning sessions for a number of Historic Northeast neighborhood and community plans, including the St. John Corridor Plan and the Independence Avenue Corridor Plan; the latter adopted by Council Resolution 920263 in 1993. Interesting to note that sub-point 8 in that plan states: “To portray, develop and market the entire area as a historic asset to the City for both external and internal visitors.”
This fed up newshound is through. Why take the extra time from an already hectic schedule to offer input at a punch and cookies planning session on how your historic neighborhood should be preserved, when you know a holier than thou City Hall committee will throw it all out the window at the behest of some heavy-handed, $500 an hour development lawyer who starts reeling off why these shabby old colonnaded facades should be ground in to dust in favor of his client’s new development. The cause certainly isn’t helped when a Northland Councilwoman declares how much better the neighborhood would be without these historic colonnaded edifices. This preservation minded news-dog remembers last year’s “spineless nine.” We’ll see, when this hits the full Council, who’s on the side of historic preservation and who gets fed by the big developers. The dog will be watching.