By Kevin Collison
A massive industrial plant at First and Grand that opened in 1904 to supply electricity to the old Kansas City streetcar system may wind up capitalizing on the popularity of its revival.
Veolia energy, the French firm that began operating the five-story behemoth in 2008, has begun marketing a nearby four-acre site for a mixed-use, mostly residential project, potentially up to 10 stories tall, according to a company official.
The development site was formerly used to store a veritable mountain of coal–the old plant at 115 Grand Blvd. burned 300- to 500 tons daily. It became available for development after Veolia switched to natural gas in January. The plant now furnishes steam and chilled water to downtown buildings.
The newly-opened development site to the northwest of Second and Grand offers views of the Missouri River and historic ASB Bridge, and is near the new streetcar line through the River Market. It’s biggest drawback is a Kansas City Power & Light substation that borders it to the south.
“Mixed-use, residential and commercial, is being discussed,” said Scott Stordahl, Veolia general manager. “I don’t forsee too much this year, but next year I believe it will hit.”
And Veolia also has big plans for expanding its steam and chilled water service in downtown Kansas City.
It’s soon to embark on a $5 million extension of its chilled water line down Wyandotte with plans to serve the new convention hotel that’s scheduled to break ground at 17th and Wyandotte in October.
The old plant originally opened as the Metropolitan Street Railway Company Powerhouse and furnished electricity for the streetcars by day and streetlights at night. Not long after, it also was supplying steam to heat major buildings in the central business district.
It was operated for many years by KCP&L, but was purchased in 1990 by Trigen. In 1997, Trigen added chilled water capacity to the facility, and scored one of its bigger customers when the Sprint Center began using both steam and chilled water generated there.
Buildings that use chilled water and steam supplied by the plant are spared the expense and additional space required to have their own boilers and chillers. The concept is known as district energy.
The switch to gas also has significantly reduced the pollution caused by burning coal.
“It’s the right product for the right time because it’s sustainable,” said Jim Miller, Veolia director of business development.
Paris-based Veolia is a world leader in water reclamation and district energy. It now operates in about 10 U.S. cities. Besides downtown, the facility also supplies businesses in the East Bottoms and Cargill. It also furnishes steam to the Truman Medical Center.