While grabbing a quick Saturday morning breakfast, the front page Kansas City Star headline immediately caught my eye.
“Irate Plaza fans object to plan”
“Irate?” I thought to myself. “Why would people be angry about the construction of a new office building near the Plaza?”
Now that I’m fully informed, count me among the city’s seething masses. Law firm Polsinelli Shughart has proposed a demolition of the 1920s building at 47th and Broadway (commonly referred to as “the balcony building”) and the Neptune Apartments on 46th Terrace. The replacement? An 8-story glass structure that retains none of the Plaza’s signature Spanish architectural elements, a towering eyesore in the heart of the historic neighborhood.
I’m pretty sure that the last time I checked my list, it didn’t mention anything about gawking at coldly modern architecture better suited for a downtown or suburban setting. The Plaza’s design uniformity is one of many factors that has contributed to the district’s iconic status, inviting comparisons that range from Santa Barbara to a picturesque Spanish village.
In a city that continues to struggle with finding–and promoting–its identity, permitting the blatant banality of the Plaza is nothing short of a sucker punch. Even if you, personally, don’t have use for the Plaza, you can’t deny what it’s done for Kansas City, both in terms of tourism and civic pride.
Polsinelli Shughart should be commended for committing to expanding within Kansas City, yet setting what could be an incredibly risky precedent is not the way to demonstrate a continued commitment to the city.
And on that note, I’d like to address something with Plaza owner Highwoods Properties. How about getting the Plaza listed on the National Register of Historic Places? Kevin Collison reports that this designation will place building and development restrictions on the Plaza, resulting in Highwoods’ reluctance to pursue this matter. Yet what’s more costly over the long-term? Missing out on some prospective development revenue, or attempting to recoup a devastating loss once the Plaza morphs into an unrecognizable strip area, devoid of character, history and meaning? You decide.