KC Preservationists Pursue Campaign to Document Westport Architecture as Development Pressure Mounts

Opus Development is proposing this six-story, 256-unit apartment building at southeast corner of Westport Road and Broadway

By Kevin Collison

New projects in the works for historic Westport are prompting a grassroots effort to survey the district’s buildings to provide a solid planning base for future development decisions.

Plans for two apartment projects and a hotel are being reviewed at City Hall for a district that’s been popular destination since before Kansas City was born.

The area traces its roots to 1833, when John McCoy established a trading post for wagon trains heading West, Kansas City came along about 20 years later. Westport eventually was annexed by Kansas City in 1897.

The proposed Westport projects are:

–A 256-unit apartment building proposed by Opus Development Group at the southeast corner of Westport Road and Broadway. The six-story building would replace an existing Bank of America branch and parking lot.

-Westport Terrace at Manor Square, a two-building project proposed by Pulse Development Group. It would include 205 apartments and a 120-room hotel in seven-story and nine-story buildings. The project would wrap around the existing Manor Square garage between Mill Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Char Bar at 4050 Pennsylvania.

-A Townplace Suites Marriott proposed by Wichitawest Hospitality on the site of the old XO Club at 3954 Central St. The four-story project would include 96 units.

The increased interest in Westport development has prompted Historic Kansas City, a nonprofit architectural preservation group, to launch a GoFundMe campaign at the request of nearby neighborhood organizations.

While several Westport buildings’ roots have been documented including the 1851 structure housing Kelly’s at 500 Westport Rd., and the Harris House at 4000 Baltimore, 1855, little is known about many of the others, said Lisa Lassman Briscoe, executive director of Historic Kansas City.

Her group has raised $22,000 toward its $25,000 goal on GoFundMe, and if successful, would like to start work in the next couple of weeks. It’s goal is to inventory approximately 400 buildings in Westport, both east and west of Broadway.

“With all community planning, not just preservation, you need good data to make informed decisions,” says Briscoe.

“Right now, there’s not good data about the historic resources and how that plays into the long-term future of Westport.”

The Opus apartment project had its hearing before the Kansas City Plan Commission continued until May 16 after neighbors complained the project was too large for the location.

The zoning currently allows four-story structures, Opus Development wants to rezone it for six-stories. Joe Downs, vice president, says in a statement his firm continues to refine the project design.

“We are engaged in the preliminary stages of working to incorporate the best of Westport into a new mixed-use residential project,” he says.

“At this point, we are continuing to collaborate with the stakeholders and look forward to meeting with the City Plan Commission in mid-May.”

This article appeared originally on the KCUR public radio website.