Neighbors, tenants and former students of The Loretto on West 39th Street crowded into the building last evening to hear plans to turn it into a boutique hotel. For prospective developer Matt Comfort, that means “a place that really feels like Kansas City” and connects people already living and working along the West 39th Street corridor to those coming to experience Kansas City.
A presentation and question-and-answer session sponsored by the Volker Neighborhood Association drew people from surrounding neighborhoods interested in getting a look at the historic building and hearing about plans for the future.
For Shannon Hennessy, it was like stepping back in time, to when she went to school at The Loretto in 1965 when she was 10. She remembers the nuns in their habits and their strong focus on providing a good education for the students. She’s somewhat regretful that the building is no longer used for education, but says, “I’m just glad someone is going to fix it up and not tear it down.”
Read about the history of The Loretto
Volker President Susan Kysela introduced Comfort of Behringer Lodging Group, who will be working with Midtown’s Hufft Architects on the project.
“The Loretto is one of the iconic structures of the neighborhood. We want to ensure it is preserved and well-maintained,” Kysela said.
Comfort explained that his Dallas-based group, which also owns the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, the Belmont in Dallas, and other hotels across the country, has not officially taken ownership of the building, but wanted to explain the project and get input from neighbors at the front-end of planning.
Kansas City needs a signature hotel
“We came to Kansas City and we thought it had a tremendous soul and character,” Comfort told the crowd.
Behringer was also impressed with the thriving West 39th Street, the number of businesses moving to Kansas City, Google Fiber, the Sprint Center and the growth of local hospitals. He said he and his partner spent a lot of time studying other local hotels, and think they have identified a niche for what he calls an “upper up-scale type of hotel like the Sorella or Raphael.”
“There is a lot of pride in Kansas City ‘but it doesn’t have a prototypical hotel,” he said. “We said there is not a place that really feels like Kansas City. This (the Loretto) feels like a place where people really live.”
Comfort also told the audience he wants the new hotel to serve both out-of-towners and the neighborhood.
“We don’t want this to just be a place for tourists. We’d like the tourists who come here to meet the people who live here. And it will be interesting for the people who live here to meet the visitors,” he said.
Preliminary concepts for the boutique hotel
Comfort predicted his company might take ownership of The Loretto in late summer or early fall, and estimates renovations would take 18-24 months. Early concepts for the six-acre parcel include 120 hotel rooms and a restaurant that would be open to both hotel guests and the community. Behringer is also considering adding a pool and fitness center on the grounds, which may also be available to nearby residents.
They would attempt to “enhance the bones of the building” while retaining its historic character. The developers plan to keep the stained glass windows in the chapel and the the copper turret, and incorporate the Italian marble entrance into the design.
Several current tenants of the building said they were hearing for the first time about the proposed sale of the building.
Several houses around the Loretto are also part of the deal. Comfort said Behringer plans to fix them up and rent them.