Downtown Kansas City Convention Hotel Project Gets New Investor and Operator; Groundbreaking Expected Oct. 1

View of planned Loews convention hotel looking southwest from central business district.

By Kevin Collison

The long-planned Kansas City downtown convention hotel has a new flag and welcome infusion of cash from Loews Hotels, a New York-based luxury hotel operator.

Attorney Mike Burke, principal at KC Hotel Developers LLC, says Loews has agreed to invest a “substantial” amount of equity in the 800-room project and operate the hotel.

The previous designated operator, Hyatt, did not have a financial stake in the project, only a naming rights or flag, and operating agreement.

Burke expects to break ground Oct. 1 on the three-acre site bound by Wyandotte, Baltimore, 16th Street and Truman Road and completion is anticipated in late 2019 or early 2020.

“We’re very excited to partner with Loews,” says Burke. “They’ll tailor this hotel for Kansas City, it’s not just another hotel for them.

“They understand this is a special opportunity for them and for Kansas City. The biggest change is they’re will to joint venture and put a substantial amount of equity into the project.”

The construction cost alone is estimated at $250 million, and the total price tag, including soft costs such as engineering and architecture, is in the low $300 millions.

Burke says officials at Loews, which owns and operates 24 hotels in major cities in the U.S. and Canada, made several trips to Kansas City inspecting the site. Chairman Jonathan Tisch also visited the city and came away impressed.

“Jonathan said he loves Kansas City and he loves the location,” Burke says. “This is a big move for them.”

In a statement, Tisch describes Kansas City as a “vibrant location.”

“At Loews, we carefully and deliberately choose which markets to enter and we are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to add to our Midwest footprint with the new Loews Kansas City Convention Center Hotel, Tisch says.

City officials also released statements praising Loews’ decision.

“To be able to leverage the Loews Hotels’ reputation and that of its chairman, Jonathan Tisch, one of the biggest advocates for the travel and tourism industry, is an added bonus for our entire destination,” says Mayor Sly James.

Burke says the basic design of the hotel is expected to remain unchanged with the same number of rooms, restaurants and meeting space. The main lobby will be off Wyandotte, across from the Bartle Hall Grand Ballroom.

“It’s great to know this project is going to be built,” says Burke. “It’s been a six-year odyssey and we’ve had some bumps in the road, but I’m convinced this is right for Kansas City and needed to happen.”

The planned hotel already has landed Kansas City the Shriner’s Convention in 2020 with 20,000 people expected. Burke also believes it’s spurred other hotel operators in the city to upgrade their facilities.

“This will be a game changer,” he says.

This article also is available on the KCUR public radio website.