By Kevin Collison
The Cocina47 restaurant project at the Plaza had a big day Wednesday, winning support from City Hall and Port KC, and converting a former staunch critic into an ally and indirect partner.
The plan for a three-story building at 47th and Pennsylvania at the Country Club Plaza was unanimously endorsed by the City Council Neighborhood, Planning and Development committee and is expected to win full approval today from the Council.
The Port KC board also approved its incentive plan to levy a special 2-cent sales tax on restaurant sales to help build it. The sales tax on construction materials also was waived.
The project will pay full property taxes at a set assessed rate, estimated at $5.8 million over 33 years. It also will generate an estimated $59 million in sales tax revenue during that period.
The public approvals were unsurprising after the developer, Matt Pennington, had agreed to eliminate the six levels of condos proposed in an earlier version to satisfy the height limits of the Plaza Bowl overlay district.
What was unexpected was a disclosure that Ken Block, the developer of the 46 Penn Centre office tower immediately to the north of the Cocina47 site, is now an indirect partner in the deal.
Block had been a big opponent both early on, when Cocina47 was first proposed in March 2022 as a three-story building, and even more so when Pennington upped the height a month later to nine stories with the condo addition.
But in a new deal that came to light during the Port KC meeting, Block has agreed to provide parking for the Cocina47 patrons in his 46 Penn garage. The project’s lack of parking had been one of its chief obstacles.
In return, Port KC is allowing Block to implement a special one-cent sales tax at the two restaurants at 46 Penn–Ocean Prime and Prime Social–as part of an agreement struck with Pennington, whose firm is Drake Development.
“We have worked very closely with Matt (Pennington) and Historic (KC), and literally everyone including Katheryn (Shields), who took a very important lead role in this,” Block told the Council Committee.
“It was a long negotiated settlement, but I think one that will be a good addition to the Plaza. I’m in support of this project now and wanted you to know that.”
Shield, who had been a vocal critic of the nine-story plan, also has praised the revised Cocina47 agreement both at the Council committee meeting and Port KC, where she is a board member.
The only element of the Cocina47 development plan that lost out was The Seventh Church of Christ, Scientists.
The graceful, Romanesque Revival-design brick church built in 1942 will be demolished to make way for the project. It doesn’t have local landmark status to protect it.
Lisa Briscoe, executive director of Historic Kansas City, said her organization was satisfied the new project will respect the Plaza Overlay district height restrictions, but lamented the loss of the church.
“Our role has been to advocate for infill development that followed the guidance of the Plaza Bowl Overlay district,” she said.
“Today, unfortunately is the loss of the historic church,” she added. “There really is no consolation for that loss, a very scenic and historic feature of the Plaza will now disappear.”
Plans call for the church, which was sold by the congregation to Drake Development, to be demolished early next year. Church members will have a reading room and sanctuary on the west side of the first floor of the project.
The $34 million Cocina47 project is expected to be completed by Summer 2026.
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Why is KC so obsessed with these short uninspiring suburban buildings in urban neighborhoods? It seems like Historic KC’s only mission is to curb progress.
I completely agree! I am all for historic preservation when it makes sense, but Historic KC seems like it exists just to stymie literally any development at all. I also scoffed at “lack of parking” being an impediment to this building. The Plaza has an insane amount of parking. KC is still very much stuck in a mid-20th century development pattern and we’re never going to be a true world class city until we get out of it.
We lose a beautiful church and gain a nothing building that fits the Plaza bowl requirements. Woo Hoo.