By Kevin Collison
(Updated Sept. 11) After running routes from Kansas City to San Francisco with a long layover at Union Station, the old Country Club streetcar has found a new home in the River Market where it’s expected to become an ice cream parlor.
On Monday morning, the 46-foot streetcar was at its new permanent site at the northwest corner of Fifth and Delaware. It’s a gift of sorts from the city and Union Station, Slawson will foot the bill for the repairs.
“(Kansas City Streetcar Executive Director) Tom Gerend called me and said we want to better expose it to the public,” developer Craig Slawson said. “I thought it was cool. I want to reuse it and let people use it and touch it.”
The old streetcar made its last trip here in 1957 and had a second life running as a tourist attraction in downtown San Francisco along with other vintage streetcars.
The KC Regional Transit Alliance purchased the old car and returned it to Kansas City where it was displayed behind Union Station for 10 years. But the old car had to roll on again to make way for the new Haverty Family Yards festival area.
The car was then hauled to a Kansas City Area Transportation Authority storage lot. But when the KCATA property was slated to be used for parking for the new Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy baseball complex, a new home had to be found.
“Craig came to mind because of his interest in rejuvenating Delaware Avenue and he was interested in it,” Gerend said. “It’s a total win-win. He’ll be helping with the restoration of the car and it will be in a historically appropriate location.
“It fits well with the River Market and its a very visible location at the entry to the Market and visible from the current streetcar.”
Gerend said the Streetcar Authority had considered repairing and reusing the old car, but had to scrap that idea because it’s a “single-ended” car, not the double-ended new vehicles used by the authority.
“If it was double-end, we would have looked at a full restoration and used it for special events,” he said.
Slawson’s Denver-based firm, Epoch Development, has purchased the properties on the west side of Delaware from Third Street to Independence Avenue. He is upgrading the residences in existing historic buildings and has plans to do new infill projects including a hotel and condo development.
Slawson always thought the corner of Fifth and Delaware would be a great location for an ice cream kiosk, and believes the old streetcar will be a fun space for ice cream, and perhaps another vendor for crepes.
It’s all about creating a diverse and fun environment along Delaware.
“I want to be able to serve all kinds of people,” he said. “It’s an iconic attraction. Give me ice cream and you have families. I want diversity.”
He said the permanent site for the old streetcar will cost about $10,000 to build. The car itself will need extensive repairs as well.
“We need to find parts for it,” Slawson said. “It’s in bad shape.”
And when it’s completed, Slawson plans to call it “Trolley Tom” in honor of the late Tom Trabon.
Trabon, who died last year, was a tireless advocate for the River Market and downtown Kansas City, and was a major force in pushing for the new downtown streetcar.