Formerly Royal Towers

Kansas City’s Pickwick Plaza Hotel undergoing major renovation

Development Midwest Preservation
(Courtesy Helix Architecture + Design)
(Courtesy Helix Architecture + Design)

In downtown Kansas City, the former Pickwick Plaza Hotel is currently being remade into an apartment building. Built in 1930, the streamline Gothic structure was a popular destination for County Judge Harry S. Truman prior to his presidency. The building, aside from being a hotel, also offered transit, office, and commercial services.

Now, Helix Architecture + Design, with the backing of developers Gold Crown Properties, is transforming the vacant building into market-rate apartments while retaining its mixed-use history: the building will feature “hospitality rooms,” street level retail shopping, laundry, recreation/workout facilities, parking garage, and a pool. According to the architects, the majority of the apartments are due to be one bedrooms, each covering approximately 500 square feet. Repairs to clock which dominates the arcade and former bus terminal will also be made as part of the project.

Lobby Area (Courtesy Helix Architecture + Design)

Lobby Area (Courtesy Helix Architecture + Design)

Speaking to the Kansas City Star, Thomas Smith, President of Gold Crown Properties, said on July 11 this year that the renovation was “about 50-percent complete.” The developer has reportedly been chasing the project since 2009. “It’s had many challenges, but it’s too worth it,” Smith said in 2013. “This building has fascinated me from the get-go.”

Before construction began, the building had been subject to vandalism while also suffering damage from fire in 1996. Under the name Royal Towers, the building had served as a development for government-assisted housing for the elderly, but closed in 2009.


The Pool (Courtesy Helix Architecture + Design)

The Pool (Courtesy Helix Architecture + Design)

Since Smith began his pursuit of the property, the scheme’s price has risen significantly from an initial estimate of $46 million to $65 million. “Up on the top floor of the garage, we ran into a $5 million surprise,” said Smith. “The major structural repairs stretched our already stretched budget.”

45 housing units are due to be available from November while the South towers will come onto the market March 2017, offering more apartments, a large glass-encased saltwater pool as well as commercial space and an Easterly view of Ilus Davis Park.

So far the project has garnered positive responses. Jan Beately of Historic Kansas City said that even those who were resident “architecture junkies” weren’t quite aware of the Pickwick hotel’s architectural significance before plans were revealed to retain its former glory.

Related Stories