Katz Proposal Purrs Past Plan Commission

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The apartment project that will incorporate the historic Katz Drug Store has been tweaked to meet neighborhood and preservationist concerns. (Rendering by Hoefer Welker)

By Kevin Collison

Some design tweaks to a proposed apartment development that also would restore the historic Katz Drug Store in Midtown helped the project win unanimous support from the City Plan Commission Tuesday.

In response to feedback from neighborhood groups and preservationists, the lower levels of the six-story apartment building now will be likely clad in red brick, and the building design modified to better showcase the iconic Art Deco clock tower of the drugstore.

“I feel good about the solution that’s been reached with the neighborhood,” Commissioner Ashley Sadowski said. “They’ve done a great job working with the existing building.”

Lux Living, a St. Louis firm, wants to incorporate the landmark drugstore at the corner of Main and Westport Road as amenity space for 192-unit apartment project, including a rooftop pool and deck.

Victor Alston, CEO of Lux Living, was pleased the design changes appear to be supported by the neighborhood and historic preservationists.

“The neighborhood is interested in seeing that building preserved and the new building built in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the design of the old building,” he said. “It’s a process, not a problem.”

Lux Living is planning this 228-unit apartment building at the corner of 19th and Broadway in the Crossroads. (Rendering from Lux Living)

In a related matter, Alston said preliminary work is expected to begin next month on another apartment project his firm is planning in the Crossroads Arts District at 19th and Broadway.

Lux Living is planning to raze the old Faultless Linen building at 1923 Broadway to make way for a 228-unit apartment building. In order to prepare the building for demolition, environmental remediation will be required.

As for the Katz-anchored apartment plan, it also won the endorsement of the city’s premier historic preservation group, Historic Kansas City.

“The Katz Drug Store building is an architectural icon and landmark in this community and is really considered a high priority save for all preservationists,” said Lisa Briscoe, executive director of Historic KC.

“As preservationists, Historic Kansas City knows that adaptive reuse is frequently the best outcome and sometimes really the only outcome for saving some historic places.

The design of the apartment project planned for behind Katz has been tweaked to add a brick exterior to the lower levels. (Rendering from Hoefer Welker)

“Because of that, we’re willing to accept this project may entail additional construction in and around this building, and if it’s properly done, that is a price we believe is more than acceptable to pay.”

The Katz Drug Store on Main opened in 1934 and was the first outlet of the well-known Kansas City drug store chain outside downtown, according to Historic KC.

It was the first major building designed by famed Kansas City architect Clarence Kivett, who used the Art Deco style for the landmark clock tower and Art Moderne for the remainder of the building.

It was included on the 2019 Places in Peril list by the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation.

The apartment building design has been modified to better set off the iconic Katz Drug clock tower. (Rendering from City Plan Commission presentation)

The Katz apartment project also was supported by the city planning staff and Midtown KC Now, the nonprofit serving the Main Street and Broadway corridors between Crown Center and the Country Club Plaza.

The developer is planning to seek state and federal historic tax credits to help finance the estimated $50- to $70 million project.

Alston said the plan is expected to be introduced to the City Council within the next 30 days.

In another matter, the City Plan Commission endorsed a proposed 84-unit apartment project at the corner of Valentine Road and Broadway. It would be in addition to the 223-unit Uptown Lofts project already under construction by Sunflower Development Group.

Sunflower originally planned to build a hotel at the site, but switched to an apartment project instead because of the steep decline in the hospitality industry caused by the Covid pandemic.

The project also will include 6,000 square-feet of retail space at the corner of Valentine and Broadway across from the Uptown Theater. The entire Uptown Lofts plan includes 752 parking spaces, with 450 available as free parking for events and shopping.

The Katz apartment project plans to use the rooftop of the historic drugstore for a pool and other resident amenities. (Rendering from Hoefer Welker)

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