Kemper Arena, Traders Among Projects Honored by Historic KC

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The interior of the historic Pabst building was opened to create a dramatic, five-level lobby for the new Crossroads Hotel. It received an Excellence Award for Contemporary Design in a Historic Context.

By Kevin Collison

The redevelopment of two mid-20th Century buildings in greater downtown you wouldn’t automatically consider historic plus more traditional landmarks such as the old Savoy Hotel were honored recently by Historic Kansas City, the city’s premier preservation organization.

The $65 million renovation of the Traders on Grand, a 1962 office building, into the 201-unit The Grand apartment project, was recognized with an Excellence Award in the Best Adaptive Re-Use category by the organization.

It was joined by the $39 million renovation of the 1973 Kemper Arena into the Hy-Vee Arena amateur sports complex, which received and Excellence Award in the Best Preservation Practices category.

Lisa Briscoe, executive director of Historic KC, said mid-century modern buildings such as Traders and Kemper are being recognized as an important part of Kansas City’s architectural and cultural fabric.

“Mid-century modern is gaining attention and respect,” she said, referring to Traders and its developer, Sunflower Development Group. “It has been in downtown a long time and ignored.

“Their work in leveraging its mid-century appeal gave it a lot of excitement and appeal.”

The Traders National Bank Building was converted into a 201-unit apartments project called The Grand.

As for the Kemper Arena, Briscoe said Historic KC worked with its developer, Foutch Brothers, on saving the West Bottoms sports and concert icon.

At one point, the American Royal and it’s influential civic backers wanted the city to demolish the structure and build a smaller equestrian center in its place.

When the city said no, the Royal decided to pursue its arena plan in the Village West district in western Wyandotte County.

“How could we not recognize the Kemper given our history with it?” Briscoe said. “It was a tremendous effort that went toward preventing its demolition.”

While greater downtown structures dominated this year’s Historic KC recognition list, Briscoe did point out an Excellence Award for Best Adaptive Re-Use given for the St. Mary’s Church/Police Athletic League project at 800 N. Fifth St. in KCK.

“It was an all-volunteer effort to restore it led by existing and former police officers,” she said.

Norman School was built in 1906 and 1910. It was redeveloped as the Norman School Lofts apartments.

Here are the other greater downtown award winners with links to previous stories about their redevelopment in CitySceneKC:

Best Adaptive Re-Use: St. Marys, Excellent; Traders, Excellent; Norman School Lofts, 3514 Jefferson, Honors; Interstate Building/Holiday Inn Express, 417 E. 13th St., Merit.

Best Preservation Practices: Kemper/HyVee Arena, Excellence; Hotel Savoy/21C Museum Hotel, 219 W. Ninth St., Honors; University Club/Kansas City Club, 918 Baltimore, Merit.

Contemporary Design in Historic Context: Pabst Building/Crossroads Hotel, 2101-07 Central St., Excellence.

Outstanding Work by a Craftsperson: Structural Engineering Associates, Boley Building Facade, Excellence Award; Tudor Woodworks, Savoy Grill Millwork Restoration, Honors; Joe Munson, Savoy Bar Restoration, Honors.

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