March 29, 2017
While this history-minded canine wasn’t around during the fall of 1864, when Confederate General Sterling Price was chased from Westport by Union troops with his flank hanging out, we’re old enough to know when one of Kansas City’s most historic crossroads is once again under siege. This time, however, the marauders aren’t wearing Confederate grey with red stockings. Oh no, a far more nefarious enemy is laying siege to Westport and they’re dressed in pinstripe blue and carry portfolios full of architectural renderings designed to impress and bedazzle city committees with shiny new, multi-story developments that will blot out history on two prominent corners in Westport.
The more egregious development is that which is going in just north of the old Manor bread Bakery in the 4000 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, where a pair of fourteen-story, high rise towers dubbed as “mixed-use” are proposed. The development would cram over 500 apartment units into the two towers and would replace the single-story building that currently houses the CharBar and extend north, also encompassing the Westport Coffee House, also a single story building, both of which add to Westport’s character as a historic community. Sit back and think about the traffic and parking impact that would create in an already cramped-for-growth area.
The other development, slated for the corner of Westport Road and Broadway, is a six-story, “mixed use” development that would house 256 apartments over retail shops on the first floor. It would replace the two-story Bank of America building currently occupying the site.
With history in this Cow-Town under attack the way that it has been recently, this dog is not surprised as to the brazen attitude of developers to try and bamboozle historic neighborhoods and communities into allowing these concrete and glass abominations to be constructed, razing layer after layer of history in the process. This dog warned that the city’s PZED committee’s passing of a local MPD would set a dangerous precedent and that cross is coming to bear in a big way with these two developments that in no way, shape or form match the scope, elevation, setback and material designations listed forth in the Urban Design Guidelines used by the City’s Landmarks Commission in determining what should and shouldn’t be constructed in a historic neighborhood.
Oh, but wait. This dog forgets that we don’t have a Historic Preservation office that truly functions as an entity that stands up and preserves history. Oh sure, they show up to the annual Old House Expo at the Kansas City Museum, but when the rubber meets the road, they’re largely missing in action when it comes to defending and preserving history. One look at their abysmal prosecutorial record tells the story. It’s easy to not lose any cases when you haven’t seen the inside of a courtroom in over a decade.
Here’s the bottom line. If you’re fine with these marauding, suit-wearing developers running roughshod over historic properties and neighborhoods in the name of progress, then by all means, continue to support the status quo and play grab hand at the high dollar awards dinners that allegedly recognize historic preservation high achievers. To the converse, however, if you’re sick and tired of said developers razing historic structure after historic structure in order to erect grand monuments to the modern age that defy scope, elevation and setback, then get involved at the grass roots level, either individually or as a member of the various activist historic preservation organizations in town. A recent article in the Kansas City Midtown Post (midtownkcpost.com) penned by former KCUR staffer Mary Jo Draper expertly outlines the importance of historic preservation and the current effort to have the Westport community surveyed for preservation purposes.