By Kevin Collison
The developer of the Carnival building hopes a party it’s helping host this Wednesday (Oct. 12) will spur interest in a downtown pocket park that’s become threadbare after losing its major corporate supporter.
The “Garment District Grooves” party is being held at what’s known as the Garment District Park. It is co-sponsored by the Downtown Council and Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department and goes from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
“We’re doing this concert to help the Parks Department and the Downtown Council bring some attention to the Garment District Park,” said developer Bob Mayer.
Mayer is a member of the Exact Partners development team that’s planning to convert the historic Carnival building next to the park at 802 Broadway into 48 apartments. Work is expected to begin early next year with completion in late 2024.
“We want the park to look better for our own building and other residential buildings in the area,” Mayer said.
For many years, the narrow, publicly-owned Garment District Park and its fountain near Eighth and Broadway received extra care from DST Real Estate, an arm of DST Systems.
During its downtown heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s, DST was a huge player in utilizing and preserving real estate on the west side of downtown. Tom McDonnell, its former chief executive, has an honorary street sign on the nearby stretch of Broadway.
But when DST was sold in 2018 to Connecticut-based SS&C Technologies Holdings, its downtown luster began to fade rapidly. The latest example of its decline is the planned downsizing of the State Street Bank operation at 801 Penn into space at WeWork.
Now, the Garment District Park fountain is broken and its landscaping, sidewalks and fixtures showing wear. The small park is located near the The Roaster’s Block, Fountain Lofts and Mulberry Lofts as well as the Quality Hill residential district.
It’s also close to the Crossroads Academy high school at 816 Broadway.
Mayer said the park is owned by the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, but that agency has too many facilities to take care of.
“They’re open to establishing a memorandum of understanding, possibly with the Downtown Council, to take over the park,” he said.
The Downtown Council, an organization of downtown businesses and property owners, already has experience assuming responsibility for struggling urban park, having taken over Oppenstein Brothers Park from the county more than a decade ago.
Bill Dietrich, president and CEO of the Downtown Council, says his organization is interested in helping Garment District Park. It already sponsors a summertime concert series called “Garment District Grooves” at the park.
“It’s a beautiful urban space with full grown trees, a cobblestone sidewalk, it’s really fabulous,” he said. “Green spaces like that with shade are a premium right now.
“We’d like to see it active and programmed. If we could do a partnership with the parks department and property owners around it we’d be very open to that.”
Mayer and Dietrich also would like to have the name of the park amended to honor Harvey Fried, a longtime downtown activist.
Fried was co-founder of the Historic Garment District Museum and president of the Historic Garment District Association.
The party Wednesday will have food and drinks for purchase from Cliff’s Taphouse on Broadway. Cliff’s is leasing the first floor of the Carnival building for pop-up events.
The event at the park includes a free concert by Sisters & Strings Infusion. Afterwards, people are invited to go Cliff’s for more live music.
Don’t miss any downtown news, sign up for our weekly CityScene KC email review here.