By Kevin Collison
A former downtown gathering place for Kansas City power brokers back in the day has reopened as spiffed-up venue for a new generation of festive occasions and business gatherings.
The historic University Club building at 918 Baltimore, which opened in 1923, has been converted to a four-level event space that can accommodate gatherings for up to 300 people.
“This was once a community of the downtown core and now it’s opening to the broader community,” Slaws said at the grand opening last week.
The building once housed the University Club which was founded in 1886 by East Coast transplants who wanted a place where “college men” could mingle in what was then a raw, frontier city.
Over the years, it welcomed such notables as former Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, and local big shots including political boss Tom Pendergast. But as time went on, membership dwindled.
It merged in 2001 with another struggling club, the Kansas City Club, which left its former home at 13th and Baltimore. The University name was dropped in favor of its new partner. The entire venture closed in 2015.
Slawson bought the building out of bankruptcy in 2015 for $1.76 million and has spent about $3 million to convert it into modern event space while keeping its historic flourishes.
“This building is a Kansas City icon, so when it became available I jumped at a chance to restore it,” he said in a statement. ”
“I believe very strongly in preserving and honoring the past through rescuing and reinventing vintage properties, particularly in urban areas.”
The renovation retained its stained glass windows, fireplace, chandeliers and the original Steinway grand piano, but several of the rooms have been revamped to allow more natural light. Carpet also has been replaced with marble and Brazilian walnut flooring.
The facility now includes 10 venues and an outdoor courtyard that accommodate events for 30- to 300 people. A full kitchen and bar remains as well.
The fourth floor will feature a club lounge that includes a Full Swing golf simulator, basketball half courts, pool table, wallyball and video lounge.
The Kansas City Club is the latest entry into what’s become a recent boom in downtown event spaces and Slawson is confident of its success.
“Anybody with a warehouse can paint it black and put a chandelier in,” he said.
“Here, you have a beautiful neoclassical interior, you have all the beautiful woodwork inside and the historic aspects preserved.”
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