Plan Calls for Historic Boone Theater to be Media Hub for 18th & Vine

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The historic Boone Theater at 1701 E. 18th St. has been vacant for many years and currently is owned by the city.

By Kevin Collison

The historic Boone Theater in the 18th & Vine District would be redeveloped as a media and entertainment center under a proposal backed by several influential Kansas City businesses and civic leaders.

The vacant theater would be restored by the Vine St. Collaborative with the support of firms including J.E. Construction and BNIM architects, and community leaders including Tom McDonnell, former head of DST; Jeff Krum, president of Boulevard Brewing and Michael Collins of J.E. Dunn, according to a presentation to the city.

“Our goal is for it to be a flexible space for media and other uses,” said Jason Parson of Parson + Associates, one of the partners of the Vine St. Collaborative.

“I think it would be a wonderful opportunity to create a flexible space we can be proud of…We’re excited and positioned well to move this project forward.”

The Boone Theater opened in 1924 as The New Rialto Theater. It was renamed the Boone Theater in 1929 to honor John Boone, a nationally-renowned, blind Black pianist and composer from Missouri who died in 1927.

A sketch of how a redeveloped Boone Theater would appear. (Image by BNIM)

The building at 1701 E. 18th St. has been vacant for many years, and is owned by the city. A previous effort led by the Downtown Council a decade ago to redevelop it as performance space and the home for the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey failed to materialize.

Parson estimated the project cost at more than $3 million. The developers are negotiating its acquisition from the city and anticipate completing those  discussions in four- to six months.

The other members of Vine St. Collaborative are Tim Duggan of phronesis and attorney Shomari Benton.

Duggan was part of a group that redeveloped the historic Bancroft School at 43rd and Tracy  into 50 apartments in 2013. He, Benton and Parson also are redeveloping the historic City Water and Street Department buildings at 2000 Vine.

The uses listed for the Boone Theater redevelopment proposal include a digital media lab, Black Movie Hall of Fame, YouTube studio, flexible event space, co-working space, an indoor/outdoor movie theater and food hub, including restaurants and food trucks.

A “pocket park” is planned for a vacant lot next door to the building.

In their proposal to the city, the Vine St. Collaborative states financing would come from the federal New Market Tax Credit program, state and federal historic tax credits, and money raised by investments in the federal Economic Opportunity Zone program.

An aerial view of the Boone Theater redevelopment proposal, a pocket park would be located next to the theater building on right. (Image from developer)

It lists individual investors as McDonnell and Krum, as well as Steve McDowell of BNIM, Dennis Eskie of Eskie & Associates and developer Adam Jones.

Parson also said the team is exploring ways to engage the nearby community in the redevelopment effort.

“We want this project to be something all of Kansas City is proud of, but also want those who live in the neighborhood to have an ownership piece,” he said.

The timetable calls for design and construction to begin next year with completion of the building restoration and the park to be completed by 2022.

The proposed redevelopment of the Boone Theater joins another recent announcement about potential reinvestment in the 18th & Vine District.

Two development proposals calling for major residential developments in the area were first reported by CityScene KC last week.

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