In a dramatic turn of events, opposition to the construction of a new office tower in the Country Club Plaza district of Kansas City, Missouri faded for good in August, when law firm Polsinelli Shughart chose the site of the unfinished West Edge development designed by Moshe Safdie for its new headquarters. After months of battling over another site on the Plaza, Polsinelli announced that the office portion of the project, an unfinished structure that was originally designed to suit advertising agency Bernstein-Rein, will be demolished and replaced with a new office tower. Selective demolition of the structure began September 26. Safdie Architects declined to comment for this story.
In a statement, Kansas City Mayor Sly James said, “The West Edge location helps to replace an abandoned project, eliminates the controversy of the site on the Plaza, and retains a valuable corporation and its employees in Kansas City."
The Safdie structure currently being demolished is the skeleton of what was planned to be a nine-story, 203,000-square-foot building, part of an $80 million mixed-use project. The 134-room hotel and the 940-car six-level underground garage, which along with other infrastructure improvements around the 2.4-acre site was funded by $32 million in Tax Increment Financing, will remain. Local firm 360 Architecture will design the new structure for Caymus Real Estate, which took over the project last February. The cost to both dismantle the existing building to save the underground parking and to rebuild the new structure is $80 million. Dave Harrison, President of Caymus Real Estate, said, “Polisnelli approached us with 360 Architecture in tow and offered up our most probable scenario to advance the project.”
The saga surrounding the site goes back nearly a decade when current owner Cecil Van Tuyl proposed a redevelopment that was ultimately rejected due to public opposition. After the West Edge development under new owner Trilogy Development was approved five years ago following an extensive community planning process, Trilogy filed for bankruptcy in 2009 as construction was nearing completion. At an auction in 2010, Cecil Van Tuyl with partner B.B. Andersen bought the project for $9.5 million. Last February, Van Tuyl was sued by his now former partner Andersen under claims that he violated their original contract. It is unclear how this lawsuit will affect the overall project.
Courtesy 360 Architecture
The new building will be a nine-story, 250,000-square-foot steel structure with standard floor plates. The Class A office tower will fit into the site in much the same way as the previous building, with 22,000 square feet of retail along the north and east ground floors, but a second story patio above the retail on the east and a new plaza at the northwest corner will be added. Bill Johnson, principal at 360, said, “The geometry is based on the structure we were given, and by shifting the building to create public spaces at the corners and edges it produces a great addition to the feel of the Plaza.”
The new office tower is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2013. At this point, Kansas City is hoping that this long battle comes to a close.