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Four Sites in the Final Mix for a 1,000-room Convention Hotel
 in Downtown Kansas City


By Kevin Collison, The Kansas City Star, Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Feb. 23, 2010 --The idea of building a convention hotel by the performing arts center has been fleshed by a Westwood architectural firm wanting to "add to the conversation."

The concept by PGAV Architects has several variations, but all focus on the so-called Hereford site at 16th and Wyandotte streets across from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the new Bartle Hall ballroom.

The firm has designed high-rise hotels around the country -- including the Marriott at 4445 Main St. -- and got a hearing recently from the city hotel task force subcommittee charged with reviewing sites for a potential 1,000-room hotel.

Moshe Safdie, the designer of the performing arts center, put in a plug to the committee for the Hereford site earlier this month, but provided only a rudimentary model.

The PGAV proposal offers more detail, illustrating how either a 35-story tower or 20-story L-shaped building could create a project that would connect the performing arts center to the Power & Light District and the Crossroads Arts District.

The common ingredient in all the PGAV proposals is a large, glass atrium that would enclose an escalator between the Wyandotte level of the split-level Hereford site and Baltimore Avenue, a 40-foot difference. It also would serve as a "winter garden or summer oasis."

"The essence of all our studies is to create a link from Baltimore up to Wyandotte in an enclosed environment to protect people going to the convention center or the hotel," said Steve Troester, a principal at PGAV. "It would be a glass volume with lots of light and a view of downtown."

Troester said his firm scouted all four sites being considered for the hotel and preferred the Hereford location.

"It seems to have a lot of gravitational pull, a cross-section between the performing arts center, convention center, Power & Light and Crossroads," he said.

The location also would complement another big idea being kicked around City Hall these days -- decking Interstate 670, an endeavor that would erase the freeway trench that has separated the central business district from the Crossroads since the early 1960s.

"We need to find a way to heal this gap," Troester said.

To hedge their bet -- decking I-670 would cost an estimated $180 million -- the PGAV hotel proposal also could be built with only a major revamping of the Baltimore overpass.

The only other hotel proposal to date offering any detail has been the Power & Light Building plan pitched by developer Ron Jury. His idea calls for renovating the historic art deco skyscraper and building a companion tower on vacant property to the west. One advantage is its immediate proximity to Municipal Auditorium and the Power & Light District.

Troester said the Baltimore frontage of his hotel concept would only be about 200 feet farther from the Power & Light District than the Jury plan, essentially the length of the I-670 overpass.

One potential obstacle would be the height. A 35-story tower would block the view of the performing arts center from the central business district, and even the 20-story version would be obstructive.

It also might violate the height restrictions in a new downtown development plan being considered by the city.

Ironically, it was a now-defunct plan for a 17-story condo tower at 18th and Broadway that sparked a demand in the Crossroads for height restrictions. Safdie himself objected to the condo plan, saying it would obstruct views of the performing arts center.

But Troester said the hotel tower could be reoriented to a north-south axis that would reduce its profile.

"It blocks the view, but we think there are still tremendous views of that performing arts facility from different angles," he said.

PGAV offered its ideas for free to the city because "we're architects and citizens and have a passion about the building type," Troester said.

Kansas City Councilman Ed Ford, who is leading the site selection subcommittee, said the PGAV ideas prove the Hereford site would be a viable option for the hotel.

"In terms of urban planning, there's a lot of appeal because of the development it could stimulate in the Crossroads and ultimately continuing to Crown Center," Ford said.

"Probably the biggest negative is the distance from the Power & Light District, not that it's all that far, but it is a couple of blocks, and there's also the grade difference."

Ford hopes his committee will have a recommendation on a site -- there are four in the final mix -- within 60 days.

To reach Kevin Collison, call 816-234-4289 or send e-mail to kcollison@kcstar.com.

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Copyright (c) 2010, The Kansas City Star, Mo.

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