By Kevin Collison
A dangerous, unfenced demolition site in the heart of downtown across from Municipal Auditorium is again raising questions about how well City Hall protects pedestrians from hazardous conditions.
The exposed property at 1319 Wyandotte adjoins the sidewalk with no barriers to prevent passersby from falling 10- to 15 feet onto concrete rubble and exposed rebar. The site has been unprotected for about a month.
It’s next door to the Crowne Plaza hotel, and near the Power & Light Apartments, the site of the new Waddell & Reed headquarters at 14th and Baltimore, and the new Loews Convention Center Hotel due to open in April.
Even while it was fenced, the property has been an unsightly mess since an old garage located there was razed more than four years ago.
“Crowne Plaza has been concerned with the vacant lot next to the hotel for some time,” said Carissa Giliam, general manager of the hotel.
“Although complaints have been filed with the city which appear to have gone unanswered, with the removal of the fencing on the sidewalk, it is unsafe for Kansas City residents to walk along this popular walkway.”
County records show the property is owned by Bravicci LLC, the same firm that bought a parking lot immediately to the south at 14th and Wyandotte last summer.
Bravicci is registered to Dilip Desai, who could not be reached for comment.
Another firm controlled by Desai, Aclore Investment of Overland Park, has posted a vague description on its website about a proposal to redevelop the lot at 14th and Wyandotte into a multi-use tower that would include office, hotel and residential space.
A 311 complaint was reported to the city four weeks ago by a citizen who noted its temporary fencing had been removed leaving the site unprotected.
City Councilman Eric Bunch said he reached out the the City Planning Department after learning about the “treacherous” property through recent posts on social media.
“We need to do something about it, I made a 311 report to get the ball rolling and I’ve contacted the planning department…it’s on their radar.”
A spokesperson for the Planning Department said her office is working to find a temporary fix while reviewing the owners responsibility.
“We are coordinating next steps with Public Works on what safety measures the city can take for a temporary solution to secure the site after the property owner left it in this condition,” Beth Breitenstein said in an email.
“The city is working to determine what the responsibilities are for the property owner and whether citations can be issued since the hazard was made present after their action on site.”
The demolition site is close to major convention facilities including several hotels, Bartle Hall and Municipal Auditorium.
“It is especially concerning for guests of the downtown area who are spending time in the Power and Light District or walking to the convention center, as they may not be familiar with the vicinity,” Giliam said.
“It is not a well-lit area and a tourist coming to our Midwestern city could easily fall in the unfenced area.”
Sean O’Byrne, vice president of the Downtown Council, said Desai should take responsibility for the condition of the demolition site.
“We appreciate anyone who invests in downtown Kansas City, but you have to be a good neighbor and keep your property up and not be a detriment to others,” he said.
Giliam said the city’s failure to address the problem reflects poorly on the ongoing effort to revitalize downtown.
“With all of the new development announced for the downtown area and the continued growth of hotels, businesses and high-end residential units in the immediate area, we are troubled the city has left this area in the unsafe and unattractive condition that it is in,” she said.
Bunch said the pedestrian hazard posed by the open demolition site was unfortunately not uncommon in downtown and elsewhere.
“It points to a larger issue, not confined to a dangerous situation adjacent to a sidewalk,” he said. “I was out running in my neighborhood and the utility disruptions to sidewalks and yards was concerning to me.”
Bunch observed that a stretch of Walnut Street in downtown between 11th and 12th streets where Spire, the natural gas utility, has been working on a project has disrupted several pedestrian crosswalks.
“The city needs to get a handle on what utilities are doing,” he said.
“The bigger issue is how are we keeping track of this stuff–utilities, dangerous situations next to sidewalks. We need to do a better job.”
(Editor’s note: Beginning in December 2019, CityScene KC has become a paid subscription publication)
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