31st & Main could be spared demolition if given historic recognition

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 5:51 AM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Historic Kansas City is working to save the buildings at 31st Street and Main Street, asking the City Planning Commission to give the area a historic designation.

The commission will review the recommendation and make a decision on what will happen to the four buildings at 9 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

A new KC Streetcar route is being constructed right now just outside the building doors, so the Historic Preservation Commission wants these buildings to stay as they are rather than what a builder has in mind.

Developer Doug Price of PriceMgmtCo. bought the four buildings at 31st and Main five years ago with no development plan. Price presented at a Historic Preservation Commission hearing a concept for redevelopment that calls for a recreation of the buildings into a 12-story residential project.

“What I want to do is build a big building that provides a lot of tax dollars and that helps the streetcar fulfill its mission. It shouldn’t have four people on it, it should have 40 every day, and it will,” he said.

The Historic Preservation Commission voted 6-0 to support the historic designation.

The four buildings, dating back to 1888 with the Jeserich Building, are covered in rich history, despite the beat-up exterior facing the streets. The other three buildings---the Ward, Union Hill Commons Atrium, and the building on East 31st were all built in the 1900s.

The landmark designation request is getting backup from City Council members Katheryn Shields and Eric Bunch. It’s supported by Historic Kansas City, the Union Hill Neighborhood Association, and had more than 70 letters of support sent to the Historic Preservation Commission.

“The person who has purchased this property has a clear record of destroying historic properties and then sitting on the vacant sites, and when he came forward with this application for a demolition permit, he indicated that he had no plan in place as to what he would do with the property,” said Shields.

City Historic Preservation Officer Brad Wolfe said during his presentation to the commission Tuesday morning that the designation of the 31st and Main Historic District to the Kansas City Register of Historic Places (H/O Overlay) will not conflict with the recommendations of the Greater Downtown Area Plan and will support:

  • Retain and Promote Safe, Authentic Neighborhoods – Identify and protect iconic features
  • Encourage the Preservation and Adaptive Re-Use of Historic Buildings – protect historically and/or architecturally significant structures, they should be listed on the National and/or Local Register of Historic Places
  • Area Identity – Encourage preservation and reuse of area historic buildings
  • Older buildings should be rehabilitated into and reused via the use of historic tax credits and other incentives wherever feasible instead of being torn down.
  • Maintain unique character and improve the appearance of downtown neighborhoods, Preserve or enhance buildings and icons
  • Guidelines for Development Form Categories – Architectural Character: General Character, Preserve and enhance resources as development occurs