New entertainment district aims to breathe new life into old industrial area of KC

Published: Jul. 13, 2023 at 10:55 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Driving north on I-35, you might never have noticed the empty industrial buildings below on 25th Street. They’re tucked between the highway and West Pennway, across from the IRS building. A group of local developers is hoping you’ll start noticing soon.

“It’s been an industrial construction site for the past 100 years,” said Dante Passantino. “Kind of overlooked by everybody, set below two bridges, not really in the Crossroads, not really on the West Side. That’s where the name Pennway Point came from.”

SEE IT: First concepts released for entertainment district at Pennway Point

Passantino is a managing partner of DAVINCI KC, the master tenant developer for the project. He describes it as a family-friendly development that is local, local, local.

“It is developed by Kansas City developers. We have Kansas City brands and licensees,” he remarked.

KCTV5 first reported on the project when it was revealed a 150-foot, multi-season ferris wheel (which they call an observation wheel) would be installed there. On Thursday, developers gave a look into exactly which food and drink concepts will be included.

The old buildings are being repurposed, not demolished.

The former home of Pennway Oil has had barrel timbers placed in the roof and will be home to, among other things, a Boulevard barrel aged beer experience.

“We have a huge barrel aging program, world renowned, and we have a massive warehouse outside with 5000 barrels and we’re going to bring a little bit of that here so people can see it,” described Boulevard’s Amber Ayres, “and we’re gonna have experiences where people can taste beer that’s been aging in barrels of over various points in its life.”

That building, which they are calling BARREL HALL, will house three other food and drink areas:

  • Nicholas Grünauer will have a Viennese sausage stand called Würstl
  • Bull Creek Distillery, based in Spring Hill, will have craft cocktails
  • Chef J BBQ will serve food and have its smokehouse right next to the dining area

“We’ll have 40 feet of smokers going this way and 40 feet of smokers going to right down this way,” said Chef J BBQ owner/operator Justin Easterwood.

Easterwood currently serves his meat and sides as a periodic pop-up inside The Beast Haunted House in the West Bottoms.

“You’ll be able to see it, smell it and interact with us, kind of see what it’s all about,” Easterwood said.

The old Funkhouser Equipment building will be called TALEGATE. The three entertainment concepts in that area will be managed and operated by the owners of the Brooksider Sportsbar.

Outside will be yard games by day, concerts, movie nights and watch parties by night.

Upstairs, is what they’re calling the Funkhouse. That’s an homage to its predecessor, Funkhouser Equipment. It’s also a wink and nod to what you’ll hear on weekends at night.

“We’ll have a DJ spinning vinyl: funk music, soul, R&B, disco,” Passantino detailed.

On the mezzanine you’ll find VIP boxes with a view of the ferris wheel down there on 25th Street. Exposed steel beams are the same ones that supported the 100-year-old equipment building. They were made by Carnegie Steel. The logo is written by hand on them. The wood boards on the walls were reclaimed from the historic Superior Storage building. Some of the doors come from the old Kansas City Star building.

“This is one little three-acre site in the middle of downtown that had not been touched for 100 years,” Passantino said, “and it was just waiting for someone to discover it and figure out what it needed to be.”

They are aiming to open early next year, just in time for the NCAA Big 12 Basketball Tournament.