Dorri Partain

What’s for lunch? For a wide selection of menu options, head to the International Cafe.

For nearly a decade, visitors to Kansas City Crown Center’s shopping, dining, working and living complex experienced a world of choices when the cafe opened on September 24, 1973.

As conceived by Hallmark Cards founder Joyce C. Hall (1891- 1982), Crown Center would not only create a new office expansion for Hallmark, but a “city within a city” with additional office buildings, hotels, apartments, shopping and dining, and a public square for community events that included convenient parking.

Ground broke on the $220 million project on September 16, 1968, beginning a multi-year building project that was projected to be completed in phases through the 1980’s. The area chosen included the bluff across from Union Station that earned the nickname “Signboard Hill’’ for the numerous billboards that graced the hillside for decades.

A newspaper ad from 1971 praising Hall’s vision stated, “Here, on a broad slope in the heart of the city, an area of 85 acres, 25 full city blocks, is being wrought into a complete, ideal city within a city, a project so great it is difficult to comprehend.”

Architect Edward L. Barnes (1915-2004) of Chicago was selected to design and oversee additional architects brought in to create a modern style that incorporated ideas and styles unlike anything Kansas Citians had yet to experience.

Upon entering Crown Center Shops Level 1, visitors encountered an open market area featuring foods from around the world: wine, cheese and sausage, breads and pastries, produce, flowers, fresh fish, coffee, candy, and health food.

Adjacent to the market, The International Cafe was styled as an “open-air” collection of “seven cafeterias offering authentic Oriental, Italian and Mexican food areas, as well as a New York deli, chicken and ribs barbeque, fresh seafood and cocktail bar and American broiler.”

Seating was centered in between the cafeterias, which served entrees on plates with silverware instead of paper or foam to-go containers. The graphic for the cafe, which appears to be a waving flag, was designed by the New York design team Harper & George, which designed all the signage for the market as well as other areas of the complex.

Despite attracting up to 6000 work-day lunch eaters, Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation announced in July 1981 that changes were coming to the shopping and dining areas and that the International Cafe, along with the West Village “boutique shopping town”, were being phased out for new concepts that would offer even more choices. The changes were completed by 1983.