What next for park maintenance building in Hyde Park?

Originally built in 1905 as a stable and storage barn for the parks department, this building at 39th and Gillham is once again available for a new use. Paul Mesner Puppets had planned to use the building, but recently said renovation would be too expensive.

Now that Paul Mesner Puppets has passed on renovating the Park Maintenance Building at 39th and Gillham, the parks board plans to look for a new potential owner.

The Mesner group had signed a lease with the department, but said May 30 it found that renovating the building would be too expensive.

The parks department said it will issue a new RFP next month to seek other proposals.

Paul Mesner Puppets, 1006 Linwood, had planned to build a new puppetry center in the Gillham Park building, but said a feasibility study recommended instead finding another site. The Mesner board hopes to raise $2 to $5 million to build a new center somewhere in the urban core.

The problem with the 39th and Gillham property, according to Mesner Executive Director Bill Prenevost, is uncertainty around meeting historic guidelines in restoration of the building, which could raise the cost.

Prevenost said he thinks it would be a challenge for any small or midsized nonprofit to restore the building because of the requirements around landmark status.

The Hyde Park neighborhood said it will continue working with the parks department to get the building back into productive use.

“The Hyde Park Board has not yet discussed this development with our members or Parks, so at this time we have no comment other than we look forward to working with the Parks Department to find an appropriate and positive use for the building, which we believe has great potential,” president Angie Splittgerber, said.

A nearby property owner, Mark Dillion, said residents should have ample opportunity to weigh in on potential reuses.

“The city needs to come up with an immediate stabilization and maintenance plan so the building’s hole-filled roof is fully repaired and a new fence replaces the mangled, unsecured chain link mess that is there now,” Dillion said.

The stone building was constructed in 1905 as a “stable and storage barn” for the Kansas City Park Department. Design and supervision of construction was done by the architectural firm Adriance Van Brunt and Brother.

According to a 1904 newspaper article, “the structure is to be ornamental and is designed to aid in the adornment of Gillham Road.”

At the time, the building housed the maintenance offices of what was then the Westport Park District. It was used to house horses, sprinkling carts and other vehicles.

It is one of the few remaining limestone barn complexes constructed as a park structure, and considered an important surviving building from George’s Kessler’s work in designing the Kansas City park system.