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Kansas City History Group Crowdfunds To Preserve Westport's Architecture

Courtesy Opus Developement Group
A rendering of a proposed six-story apartment building that would sit at Westport Road and Broadway has raised hackles of some who say it doesn't fit Westport's architectural or historical presence.

New projects in the works for historic Westport are prompting a grassroots effort to survey the district’s buildings to help provide a solid planning base for future development decisions.

Plans for two apartment projects and a hotel are being reviewed at City Hall for a district that’s been popular destination since before Kansas City was born.

The area traces its roots to 1833, when John McCoy established a trading post for wagon trains heading west. Kansas City developed about 20 years later, but Westport was eventually annexed by the city in 1897.

The proposed Westport projects are:

  • A 256-unit apartment building proposed by Opus Development Group at the southeast corner of Westport Road and Broadway. The six-story building would replace an existing Bank of America branch and parking lot.
  • Westport Terrace at Manor Square, a two-building project proposed by Pulse Development Group. It would include 205 apartments and a 120-room hotel in a seven-story and nine-story building. The project would wrap around the existing Manor Square garage between Mill Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, and Char Bar at 4050 Pennsylvania.
  • A TownePlace Suites Marriott proposed by Wichitawest Hospitality Inc. on the site of the old Club XO at 3954 Central St. The four-story project would include 96 units.

The increased interest in Westport development has prompted Historic Kansas City, a nonprofit architectural preservation group, to launch a GoFundMe campaign at the request of nearby neighborhood organizations.

While several Westport buildings’ roots have been documented including the 1851 structure housing Kelly’s at 500 Westport Rd., and the Harris House at 4000 Baltimore which dates to 1855, little is known about most others, said Lisa Lassman Briscoe, executive director of Historic Kansas City.

Her group has raised more than $22,000 toward its $25,000 goal on GoFundMe, and if successful, would like to start work in the next couple of weeks. It’s goal is to inventory approximately 400 buildings in Westport, both east and west of Broadway.

“With all community planning, not just preservation, you need good data to make informed decisions,” says Briscoe. “Right now, there’s not good data about the historic resources and how that plays into the long-term future of Westport.”

The Opus apartment project had its hearing before the Kansas City Plan Commission continued until May 16 after neighbors complained the project was too large for the location.

The zoning currently allows four-story structures; Opus Development wants to rezone it for six-stories. Joe Downs, Opus vice president, says in a statement his firm continues to refine the project design.

“We are engaged in the preliminary stages of working to incorporate the best of Westport into a new mixed-use residential project,” he says.

“At this point, we are continuing to collaborate with the stakeholders and look forward to meeting with the City Plan Commission in mid-May.”

Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.

Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.
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