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New Plan Would Protect Style And Use Of For-Sale Country Club Plaza


A Kansas City Council Committee on Thursday endorsed the long-awaited new Midtown/Plaza Area Plan. Though the plan covers an area from 31st to 55th Street, State Line to Paseo and affects 27 neighborhoods, the peak interest was in what it prescribed for Kansas City's landmark Country Club Plaza.

This has been a matter of extra concern to Plaza purists because the second and current owner of the Plaza, Highwoods Properties, is offering it for sale.

Highwoods executives had expressed concern that a too-restrictive plan would hamper the economic future of the Spanish-Baroque styled icon, lessening its attractiveness to buyers.

Highwoods endorsed the plan the committee approved.

Highwoods representatives and members of the committee that created the new plan say it seeks to preserve the look, feel, architectural style and mix of residential and business types in the treasured area, which is said to be the nation's first major non-downtown shopping district.

It was also endorsed by Historic Kansas City Foundation president Greg Allen who noted that the Plaza's creators and original owners are no longer in control of its future.

“The Plaza,” Allen told the committee, “had this benevolent interest called the J. C. Nichols Company, and we looked to the Nichols Company to do the right thing. Well, that time is passed. It is now time that the Plaza be protected in a reasonable and orthodox fashion.”

The plan sets height limits for future buildings in the central “bowl” area of the Plaza at 45 feet. Where taller structures are allowed, the limit is 90 feet, but there are some potential exceptions for projects already proposed should they receive zoning approval within one year.

Some neighbors expressed opposition to the one such project mentioned – a proposed 7-story twin tower office building at 4600 Madison, which would exceed the 90-foot limit.

Committee members emphasized that passing the plan did not constitute approval for the structure, and that it still must go through the normal approval process.

A proposed building of similar height about one block away was rejected just a few years ago.

Steve Bell is afternoon news anchor and business news reporter for KCUR.  He may be reached at 816-235-5173 or at steveb@kcur.org

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