Waddell & Reed Project’s Lack of Sidewalk Appeal Gets Chilly Reception

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A view of the planned Waddell & Reed headquarters looking west. (Image by Burns & McDonnell)

By Kevin Collison

The proposed design of the new Waddell & Reed downtown headquarters got a chilly reception at its first public hearing Monday, primarily for its lack of sidewalk appeal to passersby.

The only-pedestrian oriented feature planned for the ground floor of the 18-story building at this point is a 3,000 square-foot public lobby at the southwest corner of 14th and Baltimore. No retail space is planned.

The first 10 floors of the building will be a 1,000-space garage with its 260,000 square-feet of office space occupying the top eight levels. The design plan calls for three garage entrances off Wyandotte, 14th street and Baltimore.

That didn’t cut it with City Councilman Eric Bunch, who noted the proposed design does not meet the standards established in the Greater Downtown Area Plan and Transit Oriented Development Policy.

The 18-story Waddell & Reed headquarters is planned for the southwest corner of 14th and Baltimore. (Rendering by Burns & McDonnell)

Bunch was one of about 20 people attending a briefing by the building’s architect, Burns & McDonnell at the Downtown Central Library. Most were critical of the building’s ground level design, which aside from the small lobby and garage entrances, will be a blank wall.

“We’re focused on what it will look like on the third floor and up, and how it’ll contribute to the skyline, but personally, I need to see how it interacts at the ground level,” Bunch said.

“How is this making downtown a better place to live, work and play?”

Bunch urged downtown residents and others to continue pushing for improvements in the design. The project will be considered by the City Plan Commission on Feb. 4.

Trevor Hoiland, the lead architect on the project for Burns & McDonnell, said extensive landscaping, which he described as an “urban garden” is planned along 14th street and Baltimore, to make the project more appealing to passersby.

The plan calls for a 12-foot sidewalk and 25-feet of green space along both streets. The Wyandotte side, which has a more narrow, 10-foot sidewalk, will feature street trees. The south side overlooking the South Loop freeway will be used for loading docks

Several people attending the hearing urged the architect to consider removing the garage entrance planned off 14th street, noting it would be a significant disruption to pedestrians.

There was a suggestion that an alternative garage access point could be off Truman Road on the south side of the planned building.

A preliminary rendering of the landscaping planned for the Waddell & Reed headquarters along 14th street and Baltimore. (Image from Burns & McDonnell)

Hoiland said the property along Truman required to access the project is not owned by the developer, but indicated it was an idea worth exploring.

He said the pedestrian and elevator lobby at 14th and Baltimore also will be designed to have a “fantastic look and appeal about it.”

The architect, who also is the primary designer of the new REVERB apartment tower going up in the Crossroads, acknowledged that ground-level retail had not been considered for the building.

The main reception lobby of the Waddell & Reed headquarters however, will be on the 10th floor, where employees will enter from the garage.

That led to several of the people observing that Waddell & Reed’s employees will be isolated from the surrounding downtown environment.

“What I’m looking for is how does this improve street activity?” one participant said. “It sounds like your client doesn’t want to be integrated with downtown.”

The new Waddell & Reed tower is going up on the site of the former IBM Building, which is currently being demolished.

Hoiland said the 1,000 Waddell & Reed employees will patronize surrounding restaurants, bars and other businesses, noting the cafeteria in the headquarters is not expected to be the primary dining option.

The Kansas City Council approved the redevelopment plan and incentives for the headquarters project last month.

Construction is expected to begin within the next couple months on the $148 million project, with completion during the first half of 2022.

The building is being developed by Burns & McDonnell and Financial Holding Corp. Waddell & Reed signed a 15-year lease last week.

Burns & McDonnell will build the new headquarters as well as design its exterior. HOK will design the interior space. The project is expected to be designed to LEED environmental efficiency standards.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. The ground space needs public interaction, which a coffee shop or counter eats could address. Dump the cafeteria plans entirely and dedicate some street accessible space to public restaurant, even if just a counter. The City needs to prevent these isolated island developments, local developers need to understand how to create public pedestrian scale friendly environments.

    Those aluminum panel wals are 3 or 4 floors tall/wide, they’ll be obnoxious looking if blank (like the Loews blank wall on S side). They could at least add some vertical LEED-certified windows within those panels. And with 4 Light going in next door, will have nothing to reflect yet would prevent additional natural lighting and no outside view from inside.

    • Waddell and Reed is wasting their time developing a brand new building when they already have a great HQ in Overland Park. They are touting bringing 1k employees with them, but I can promise you I and many others won’t be coming. I’d rather quit than commute to and work in downtown KC. This isn’t a move to benefit employees, the company, or KC, it’s pure ego fellating for the execs there.

      • I for one hope attrition will lessen the amount of employees that move. Most of the complaining has been from people who live in Johnson County and do not want to make the drive. I am looking forward to those people leaving because it will create a lot of mobility within the company. So sayonara to those who don’t want to come. You and those others. I’m also sure you’re probably in the latter years of your career anyway.

      • People always forget that Johnson County wouldn’t be what it is if downtown Kansas City had not grown so much during the first half of the 20th century. Glad to hear that some of the narrow-minded folks won’t be joining us downtown.

  2. Other than callous statements like “shaking off the dust,” please enlighten me: how does this move, and this giant expense, benefit the company? Does it somehow change its business model? Does it somehow increase its assets under management or restore its stock price? Does it make it a competitive company?

    News flash. A new location won’t make a difference if the company and its culture doesnt change.

    Besides, overland park was ranked 1st for best cities for families. The armpit of the state, KC, is a shell of its former self. No one in their right mind wants to go there–everyone fled ages ago. The CEO sees an opportunity to make a monument to his own ego with this and nothing more. He has what he needs to make this company a success right here and right now if he wants to.

  3. You have to be registered and licensed to be able to claim the title, architect. Whether that was the editor’s error or the person claiming it, it needs to be corrected. Trevor Hoiland is not an architect in Missouri or Kansas and until he passes the AREs and applies for licensure he is just a designer.

  4. Wow this is interesting to get so much public tea from current employees.

    I will add that this will absolutely shake off the dust for that firm and enable it to attract younger talent. In addition anyone coming from out of town won’t have to make the I35 trek to OP which quite frankly, stinks. If you’re young or have any kinda pulse stuffy old OP is not where you want to be(even OP realizes it). For way too long that city has been beholden to residents who complained at the drop of a hat to any entertainment moving into the area. Ohh you want to build a nightclub… No, too noisy. You want to build an entertainment district… No, too much congestion. OP has been held hostage by a very loud contingent of NIMBYs who simply hate change. Kudos to this company and others who are looking towards the future and giving downtown a second look.

    • “OP has been held hostage by a very loud contingent of NIMBYs who simply hate change.” is one of the most ludicrous things I’ve heard. Derek? How long have you been in the KC area? Do you remember driving down 135th 15 years ago? No where in the state (maybe even the Midwest) has grown at the rate Overland Park has. A negatively-toned and uniformed post.

    • Derek, I am not sure you know where Overland Park is. The Overland Park you referenced is not the same one I’ve lived in for 30+ years.

      • While I think Derek might have been over-generalizing and dabbling in stereotypes a bit, the irony of a response like “Spoken by someone who can’t afford to live in OP” is searingly loud.

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