By Kevin Collison
Jim Leedy, the renowned artist who pioneered the Crossroads Arts District in 1985, knows what he wants when someone decides to name a hotel bar after him.
“If I have a bar named after me, I should get free drinks,” Leedy quipped at the festive grand opening last week of the Hotel Indigo at 2020 Grand.
He also approved of how things have evolved since he fled a “gentrifying” Westport 30-plus years ago to find a cheap haven in what was then a forlorn backwater of downtown.
“I think the continued growth with the art emphasis maintained is fantastic,” he said. “For example, this place came in and blends in to what’s already here, which is an arts district.”
“It’s the coolest hotel this town has ever seen in the neighborhood it belongs,” he said.
“The basis of Hotel Indigo is about the neighborhood and the story of the neighborhood. This hotel is all about the art.”
From the first floor lobby, bar, restaurant and adjoining gallery to the 81 guest rooms upstairs, original works of art both delight and challenge guests and visitors. Most works were done by artists who do their creating in the adjoining Crossroads District.
The transformation of what had been a semi-vacant, rundown building into a boutique hotel that’s sold out its first weekends received financial help from the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority. The agency granted it a 10-year, 100 percent property tax abatement.
City Councilman Scott Wagner, one of the guests at the opening, offered a humorous nod to the building’s previous life.
“I know many of you have this question, is there any leftover costumes somewhere in this building?” Wagner said.
Reflecting on how the Crossroads has prospered, Leedy said it’s fulfilling the vision he had back then. Many skeptics didn’t believe his original gallery would be a success, but on opening day people were standing in the streets to come inside.
“My dream was this area would develop into an important and popular part of Kansas City,” he said. “Thank you folks for opening this hotel, you’re making a dream come true.”
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