Photo by Michael Kruse

Throughout 2021, HKC remained at the forefront of advocacy efforts to save the former Katz Drug Store, located at 3948 Main St. The redevelopment plan was ultimately approved by the City Council.

HKC placed the Katz Drug Store on our Most Endangered Places list in 2019 following a meeting with the building owner, Redeemer Fellowship, in which HKC requested that restrictive covenants be a part of any future sale agreement.

This iconic Kansas City building was built in 1934 as home to the first Katz Drug Store outside the central business district. It was the first major work by architect Clarence Kivett, who would go on to become the most famous and influential of Kansas City architects. It incorporated elements of both Art Deco and Art Moderne styling.

On December 29, 2020, a development proposal was filed with the city by St Louis firm Lux Living. The project included a building addition of six stories and about 192 apartments on the surface parking lot behind the existing building. The plan required the demolition of the non-historic rear addition. The historic Katz building would be adaptively reused as offices, with some retail, and as an amenity center for the residents, including the addition of a rooftop pool.

HKC met twice with the developer and project team and provided testimony at all public hearings in support of the project. HKC recognized the need for the historic building to evolve and adapt to a changing set of retail and economic circumstances. As preservationists, we knew from years of experience that adaptive reuse is frequently the best and sometimes the only outcome for saving historic places.

The Katz building was a high priority save for preservationists. We were willing to accept that the project would entail additional construction in or around the historic building, and if properly done that was a price we believed should be paid. If we gave the Katz building new purpose and a chance to enliven that site, we hoped that would positively affect the historical context around it— a worthy preservation goal.

We don’t usually endorse projects unless they are rather faithful restorations. In this case, new infill development and density is placed at a designated commercial intersection, not within or abutting historic single-family residential neighborhoods. Transparency in the Westport Road entrance is a great improvement. Stepping back the uppermost floors of the adjacent tower from the historic Katz clock tower is a step in the right direction.

Of course, we can’t always rely on renderings we are shown beforehand. Different outcomes do eventuate and require vigilance from all interested parties. Many bodies, such as the City Plan Commission, Preservation Commission, and National Park Service, some with great preservation expertise, have or will be reviewing this project. We believe that with this level of oversight good outcomes can and will be attained.

Still, we feel inclined to recommend the proposed redevelopment of the Katz building and site with HKC’s stated reservations as provided to the project team. An official endorsement by HKC is contingent upon the final project review with the submission of materials samples.

Lux Living on January 31, 2022, acquired the property at 3948 Main St. from Redeemer Fellowship after going under contract with the church in September 2020. Before construction can begin, the developer must complete environmental remediation and demolish the addition before its conversion for 20,000 square feet of resident amenities. Lux Living then could begin work on the apartment complex’s framing and 165-space parking garage later in 2022, for delivery in 2023.

This proposal is an example of how HKC and developers can work together for the best possible result.

Thanks go to City Councilwoman Shields for her exhaustive efforts to bring about a compromise to save the Katz Building!

Image from CPC Application City of KCMO