From dangerous building to Upcycling Center: dreams for the Acme Building

The Acme Building at 3200 Gillham Road is now officially a dangerous building, but a couple of Midtown dreamers have big ideas for the future. Image: Google Maps.

By contributing writer Mark Dillon, Editor, The Hyde Parker 

Underused since its original owner closed a commercial rug and textile cleaning business years ago, the Acme Cleansing Co. building failed to attract any bidders at the Aug. 27 Jackson County Sheriff’s Sale. It is now being transferred to the City of Kansas City’s new Land Bank. It has one of the largest unpaid property tax bills in the city, a basement prone to flooding, graffiti-marred walls, an interior stripped of copper and environmental remediation issues.

With two skull posters flanking the City of Kansas City’s 16-month-old dangerous building notice, the boarded-up entrance to the Acme building at the corner of Linwood Ave. and Gillham Road suggests a place that knows how to keep its secrets. North Hyde Park homeowner and small business owner Lazarus Potter and Lazarus Group Design Director Alison Muller have a plan for the 5,000 square foot space.

Still, Lazarus Potter would like to turn the building into an Upcycling Center— the trendy name for a community wood, metal, art and machine shop, with classes on ways to upgrade household goods. He would also like to house a Habitat Restore-like repository for surplus art supplies.

“ I love that building. We’ve been in several times. We’d love to have the opportunity to protect it,’’ Potter says, estimating it would take about $300,000 of interior improvements to get the structure into serviceable shape. He and Alison Muller are researching funding opportunities to realize their dream, and hope to approach city and county officials with a plan in the coming months.

“If someone has a table that’s got a broken leg or a lamp that needs rewiring, many people don’t known what to do to repair them on their own,” Potter explained. “This would be a place where people could acquire such skills.”

Potter’s Lazarus Group, an Internet design, printing and consulting firm, is just two doors south. He’s built a client list that includes retailers, artists, the Kansas City Board of Elections and State Rep. Judy Morgan. Potter credits Muller, a former South Hyde Parker who now lives in the Volker area, with coming up with the upcycling idea.

Built in 1925, the Acme building was designed by Archer & Gloyd, and is considered an architectural gem by the Historic Kansas City Foundation because it “exhibits a remarkably ornate architectural treatment of a commercial/industrial building. Through the use of terra cotta, and numerous decorative elements, the building portrays a character not normally associated with its type. The architects emphasized the design of the building with no loss to the building´s purely functional requirements. The design garnered critical acclaim and remains a unique addition to the cityscape.”

Bridge Investments LLC, a Tennessee-based private equity firm that uses a Shawnee Mission, KS post office box, acquired the building in Sept. 2005 for $409,169, did some clean up and rented it as offices to several tenants, including a visiting nurse service. But the firm also accumulated more than $104,000 in unpaid property taxes, interest and penalties since 2006.

Potter says KCPD Central Patrol and neighbors have succeeded in keeping the building’s rear courtyard largely free of criminal activity and vagrants since it was declared dangerous.