On February 25, 2021, HKC issued a press statement calling for the city to take extraordinary efforts to implement a safe standstill at Westminster Congregational Church.

By that afternoon, the city had placed a hold on the demolition permit and retained a structural engineering firm to assess the building. Despite the recommendations of the structural report, the church is coming down.

A process is in place to prevent such a tragic outcome in the future. Why did it fail? Unfortunately, the outcome would not have been different for this structure even with a process in place, as the owner elected to demolish the structure rather than repair it.

Kansas City ordinances do not currently allow pre-demolition review for most historic structures. Snap demolitions proceed with little more than an application filed with the City and a quick counter review. How can an historic district building be slated for imminent demolition without any warning, instead of securing the building and site for safety, followed by a meaningful review? Is any historic building in this city safe when destruction so readily occurs?

Historic Kansas City stands ready to work with elected officials, city staff and neighborhood leaders to pivot this terrible loss from crisis to benefit. HKC has and will communicate with staff and others regarding next steps in the process outlined by the city. The historic and scenic assets of the city must be protected and warrant better.

[Image by Dan Magrone]