Plaza Rezoning Repeal

Plaza Rezoning Repeal

Location: 47th and Broadway Kansas City, MO

Stakeholders: Historic Kansas City, Friends of the Plaza, Kansas City Neighborhoods and Residents

In August 2010, Highwoods Properties, the east coast suburban office park developer that owns much of the Plaza, announced a plan to bulldoze the Balcony Building and 94 apartment homes to build a 200,000 square foot office tower.  Under this plan, the Balcony Building, a 90 year-old landmark in the core of the original Plaza, and the Neptune Apartments would be razed to make way for a bland office building that would rise the equivalent of 15 stories above 47thStreet, towering over the one and two story historic Plaza buildings there.  The response was immediate and resounding. Historic Kansas City and an affiliated group, Friends of the Plaza, organized marches, phone calls, letters and social media to push back. Over the next 12 months, Plaza supporters throughout the city – and the world – worked to preserve this unique neighborhood.  They pointed out that Highwoods’ plan included converting hundreds of prime parking spaces used by the public into private, restricted parking reserved for the law firm tenant of the building.  Supporters publicized Highwoods’ admission that the building would generate 2,200 car trips each day through already crowded Plaza streets.  They observed that the combination of the parking losses, the conversion of residential land uses into office uses and the increased traffic could damage the already delicate retail environment on the Plaza.  And, of course, they argued that there were many sites on and around the Plaza that were far better suited to a large scale office building than this site, which had long ago been designated as one for which no rezoning was recommended.

Although the building design went through several renditions, the fundamental problems surrounding the development remained.

On August 25, 2011 – just two months after the referendum petition drive that collected 18,000 signatures was certified as successful – the City Council of Kansas City voted unanimously to repeal their earlier rezoning of the Neptune site.  This vote followed the announcement of an agreement between Highwoods and Plaza supporters that there would be no organized opposition to a similarly sized building if it were built west of the Neptune site, near other large scale buildings.  The result was characterized by The Kansas City Star as a “total victory” for the opponents of this project.