Plaza apartments: key part of history or “heap of trash”

nelle-peters-preservationThree vacant buildings on the west Plaza dating to 1927 are closer to being saved from the wrecking ball.

The City Plan Commission today unanimously recommended they be put into a city historic district.

If the city council approves the action filed by the Historic Kansas City Foundation, it could block demolition for three years.

The Historic Preservation Commission has also recommended that the buildings be added to the Nelle Peters Thematic Historic District, a Kansas City district established in 1989.

The buildings are at 4228, 4730 and 4734 Summit and back up to the Bloch Cancer Survivors Park. They became the center of conflict this year after a developer filed to demolish them.

Amanda Crawley, director of the Historic Kansas City Foundation, argued today that the Plaza has lost too many historic buildings.

These three can be saved with use of historic tax credits, she said, and can preserve works of Peters, a prominent woman architect.

Doug Price, of Price Brothers Development, a family company that has done extensive work on the Plaza, said he bought the buildings because “they were a social nuisance” linked to drug deals and crime.

They are in such bad shape inside, he said, they amount to “a heap of trash” and cannot be profitably renovated.

Their site is zoned for a building up to 10 stories, he said, but the company has no concrete plans beyond demolishing the small buildings.

Jim Bowers, attorney for Price Brothers, said the request for historic designation was unneeded and improper.

Nelle Peters already has 27 buildings with city historic designation, he said. “Her legacy is preserved in Kansas City.”

The 1989 thematic district designation – also in response to feared demolitions – included only six buildings, he said, and no request was made then for these three.

Price said he called the city and the historic Kansas City group before buying them and was told they were not on any historic lists.

Bowers also argued that the 1989 designation included mention that all the buildings were done in a partnership of Peters and developer Charles Phillips.

These three were not, and Bowers said they should not be added to that group.

Crowley noted that the 1989 designation centered on Peters and included other criteria.

Also, she said, “I don’t think we should get too caught up about what happened in the 80s – we’re looking at this through a fresh lens.”

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