By Kevin Collison
A plan to revive Barney Allis Plaza from crumbling civic embarrassment to a showcase for the 2023 NFL Draft is moving ahead with anticipation that Washington will help finance the estimated $70 million undertaking.
The City Council voted last week to approve funding a final design plan to have the project “shovel-ready” this summer if an anticipated big infrastructure program being considered by the Biden Administration is approved by Congress.
“I do believe that with the new administration in Washington.. if we have a design we can move forward and avail ourselves of those infrastructure dollars,” said Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, chief backer of the proposal.
“Congressman Cleaver believes there are several potential federal sources that can be put together to fund this project.”
At a hearing last week, City Architect James Freed testified the garage and plaza, which opened in the heart of downtown in 1955, is in dire need of replacement.
“Make no mistake, this garage is nearly DOA,” he said. It is safe it can be used for a short period of time but the garage structure is deteriorating from the inside.
“The water from salts has bleached into the concrete and deteriorated the rebar. The fountains are leaking into the garage.
“It is a systemic decline in deterioration of this garage and no matter what you think about this garage, it is in the heart of the hotel and convention district.”
City officials have been pursuing the proposed redevelopment of Barney Allis for more than a year and a half. The planning effort has stalled at the Council a couple of times, only to come back, the latest revival being last August.
The decision last week authorized $1.3 million to hire McCown Gordon to come up with a design-contract and continue the planning contract with CBC Real Estate, which has been advising the city on the process throughout.
The funding originally had been expected to come from the city downtown arena account, but in a late switch, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority offered to provide the money.
The KCATA said its decision was based on the fact Barney Allis is an important transit hub for its system, and that part of the redevelopment calls for creating a new passenger station and a layover facility where bus drivers can take a break and use restrooms.
The redevelopment plan for Barney Allis Plaza calls for the current 960-space underground garage to be replaced with a 500-space garage, and the Plaza above to be rebuilt as a street-level amenity.
There also is a potential for a commercial project to be developed on the south side of the Plaza facing Municipal Auditorium.
The private development could include apartments, and retail uses on the gournd floor including restaurants.
“The introduction of complementary real estate uses will be very positive and conducive to having a great activated plaza,” said Bill Crandall of CBC. ” Imagine restaurants and entertainment on lower level of this commercial use spilling out to the Plaza.”
Several dozen letters in support of the project were submitted to the Council, including many from minority business organizations and labor groups. The project, if it was to proceed, would employ about 300 construction workers, Crandall said.
Freed also warned it would cost about $50 million to remove the deteriorating garage and simply restore the Plaza. The lower level of the three level garage has been closed because of advanced deterioration, leaving about 595 parking spaces currently available.
Should funding be identified, a tentative schedule calls for work to begin by mid-2021 with completion by spring 2023. Crandall said its anticipated completion would be in time for the NFL Draft, an event that drew 600,000 people to Nashville in 2019.
“We’re hopeful we can deliver project by the NFL draft and roll it out at that time,” he said. “What a great way to present the project to a national platform.”
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