Public Garage Plan Revived at 12th & Broadway, Land Deal Back Before Council

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The city wants to buy this parking lot at 1200 Broadway across from Bartle Hall to build a garage.

(Updated: The City Council Finance Committee endorsed the purchase agreement for the proposed garage site at its meeting today (Dec. 11) and the matter is scheduled to be considered by the full Council tomorrow)

By Kevin Collison

A plan to build a city parking garage at 12th and Broadway that was narrowly defeated last month by the Kansas City Council has been resurrected with apparently enough votes now to be approved.

The proposal, which calls for the city to buy the so-called Carpenter site at 1200-1210 Broadway for $5.45 million for the proposed garage, is scheduled to be reviewed by the Council Finance Committee today (see above).

Councilman Eric Bunch, who has introduced a resolution calling for the garage to at least be part of a mixed-use development, believes the purchase ordinance sponsored by Councilwoman Kathryn Shields could be approved by the full Council as early as Thursday.

“It’s got the votes,” Bunch said. “A couple of people have changed their minds, so I dropped this resolution to ensure it’s not just a garage and its future-proofed.”

At its Nov. 14 meeting, legislation to approve the purchase of the land for the garage was defeated on a 6-6 Council vote. Several opponents argued the site southwest of 12th and Broadway was too valuable to be solely used for a garage.

The property is currently a surface parking lot adjacent to the Kansas City Southern railroad headquarters and is immediately across Broadway from Bartle Hall.

The proposed garage site is located at 1200-1210 Broadway across from Bartle Hall. (Image from City of KC)

The garage plan was introduced by city staff as a way to reduce the cost of rebuilding Barney Allis Plaza, which opened in the mid-1950s, and replacing the 970-space garage beneath it.

The Barney Allis underground garage has deteriorated significantly over the years, and about 200 spaces are currently out of service.

In a briefing to the City Finance Committee last month, Russ Johnson, chief capital projects officer for the city, estimated the cost of completely rebuilding Barney Allis Plaza and its underground garage at $60- to $70 million.

Johnson said the cost of rebuilding the Barney Allis garage could be reduced substantially if much of the replacement parking was shifted to the proposed conventional garage at 12th and Broadway.

He told the committee in November that a 500-space garage would cost an estimated $21 million.

“It’s the cheapest, closest alternative for convention parking,” Johnson said at the time, “far cheaper than Barney Allis Plaza.”

A smaller, possibly 300-space garage beneath Barney Allis Plaza would reduce the cost of its roof, although the city does still plan to renovate the outdated Plaza itself.

Oscar McGaskey, executive director of the Kansas City Convention Center, told the Finance Committee the convention center required at least 800 parking spaces.

Several renovation concepts for Barney Allis Plaza were suggested in 2018 after a study by the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute study, but no decision on a final design for rebuilding the civic landmark has been made by the city.

Barney Allis Plaza would be lowered to street level with many new amenities added under the preferred option suggested by the Urban Land Institute. (Image from Urban Land Institute)

Making the entire potential garage deal possible was a decision by the Carpenter family to sell the property at 1200-1210 Broadway to the city. Several efforts by private developers to purchase the strategic site over the past 20 years have been rebuffed.

Johnson told the Finance Comittee last month the city’s purchase agreement with the Carpenters would expire Dec. 27.

The Finance Committee ultimately endorsed the proposal on a 3-2 vote, but it failed the next day when the Council split evenly over the purchase plan. Mayor Quinton Lucas was among those voting against the proposal.

Bunch said he was resigned to the likelihood the garage project will be approved and had introduced his resolution to push the city toward a more thoughtful project.

It calls for any project to go through a public review process and to be of a “mixed-use nature, incorporating commercial, residential and/or retail use.”

“To me, it’s got the votes and I want to make sure we do something decent with it,” Bunch said.

The councilman is the co-founder of BikeWalkKC, which encourages alternatives to driving, and remains active with the organization.

“We’ve got to get to the point where parking is not the first entrance point when we talk about downtown development,” Bunch said. “Every project is asking for parking…

“I’m not claiming to be an expert on parking, but we need a more comprehensive solution or we’ll keep knee-capping our investment in public transportation.”

(Editor’s note: Beginning Dec. 2, CityScene KC has become a paid subscription publication)

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