Plans for historic building on Broadway?

The historic Congress Building should be added to a tax abatement redevelopment area that includes the Knickerbocker Apartments, city staff said last week.

The proposal recommended by the staff’s Redevelopment Coordinating Committee goes to the City Plan Commission on Jan. 7.

It raises questions of what, if anything, is planned for the building at 3535 Broadway and possibly the long dormant Knickerbocker area.

Developer Del Hedgepath, who applied for the change and is listed as part owner of the Congress building, declined to comment Friday.

What is called the Ellison/Knickerbocker redevelopment area was established in 2003. Its current boundaries are 34th to 36th streets. Wyandotte Street to Pennsylvania Avenue.

According to a city report:

The Congress building dates to 1925 and was designed by Robert F. Cornall, who modeled it after the nearby Kansas City Life Insurance building.

Cornall also designed the Hyde Park Hotel at 36th and Broadway as well as the nearby Uptown Theater.

The Congress building has about 105,000 square feet and a garage for about 150 vehicles.

It has a ground floor entrance and lobby as well as spaces for several retail and commercial units, which are all occupied, one of them by a Hookah bar.

The second floor and fifth floors are partly occupied by offices. The third and fourth floors are vacant, and like vacant parts of the second floor, “in poor condition,” the report states.

The building is across Broadway from the historic Ambassador apartments, which are being renovated by the Silliman Group and MAC Properties.

Peter Cassel, director of those companies, says they want to extend to Broadway their work on Armour Boulevard, where they renovated more than 20 historic buildings to market rate apartments.

He said Friday, “I’d be thrilled to have a good thing happen at the Congress building.”

Such projects and others already completed on Broadway suggest possible hope for what is left of the Knickerbocker Apartments. Now blighted and abandoned shells, the apartments from 501-531 Knickerbocker Place were once the largest and most lavish in the city. One half of the apartments were demolished in 1982.

They are on the National Register of Historic Places but also the city dangerous buildings list.

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