Community organizes to preserve the Plaza’s legacy

Greta Moore

The Balcony Building on The Plaza
The Balcony Building on The Plaza

Due to public outcry, Highwoods Properties changed its plans to demolish the historic Balcony Building on the Country Club Plaza.

On Aug. 26, Highwoods released a new plan attempting to preserve the building’s facade.

“I publicly and privately, in conversations with the Highwoods executives, expressed my opposition to the initial plan for the office building at 47th and Broadway,” Kansas City Councilwoman Jan Marcason said. “The original plan was modified to save most of the Balcony Building and set back the office building from the street.”

Some plaza area residents are not satisfied with the proposed compromise.

“Don’t be fooled,” said Ric Eberle, a founder of the “Save the Plaza 2010” Facebook page. “While the new drawing for the Highwoods’ Properties/Polsinelli Shughart office building spares ‘part’ of the Balcony Building, it still violates the Plaza Plan and fundamental urban design principles as well as cuts an alley through the middle of the Balcony Building so Polsinelli Shughart can have a 47th Street address.”

The Plaza ‘Urban Design & Development Plan’ of 1989 was an agreement to preserve the historical look of the plaza and keep buildings over three stories outside the boundaries of the historic plaza core.

“In 1989, the City Council unanimously voted in the Plaza Plan,” Eberle said. “This document was put into place to protect the historical integrity of the Country Club Plaza and its surrounding area. The boundaries are 43rd Street to 55th Street and State Line Road to the Paseo Boulevard. We want the city council and the mayor to stick with the plan. If the city council starts to ignore its adopted plan on the plaza – it can ignore plans in any neighborhood. Approval of this building would set a bad precedent for both the plaza and the city-at-large in terms of re-zoning, plan amendments and public process.”

This building has brought up other concerns about how it would affect the community.

“The proposed building is too big for this location,” said Eberle. “As designed, the building would destroy the historic buildings and street-scape along 47th street, impacting the value of existing residential, office and retail commercial real estate.”

The city is attempting to work with both sides to get issues around construction resolved.

At 6 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 14, Highwoods’ Property Executives will be at Unity Temple to discuss the plans with those involved with the “Save the Plaza” movement.

“The process is as follows: Highwoods will present their plan at the Oct. 5 meeting of the City Planning Commission on the 26th floor of City Hall. There will be public testimony at that meeting,” Marcason said.

There will be many meetings where citizens can voice their concerns. The final vote will go to the city council. It is encouraged for neighborhood associations to attend and voice their opinion.

Though Highwoods is willing to speak with local stakeholders, there are still other issues related to the building.

“If Polsinelli wants to help our local economy and create jobs – they should hire a local planning and urban design firm to find a better location and design a building that contributes to Kansas City’s architectural heritage,” Eberle said.

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