|By Kevin Collison, The Kansas City
StarMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 19, 2013--The historic Gumbel Building at Eighth and Walnut streets, designed by renowned Kansas City architect John W. McKecknie, is set to be converted to a boutique hotel.
Developer Mark Patel bought the six-story building at 801 Walnut St. and plans to spend $5 million renovating it as an approximately 70-room hotel with an open lobby, meeting space and a fitness center.
The building opened in 1904 and was the first reinforced concrete commercial building in the city. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"It's a historic building and I want to keep its historic value," Patel said Tuesday. "I'm pretty excited about it. There's a lot of ornate work."
Though the structural frame is concrete, the building's graceful exterior was done in the Italianate style with terra cotta, massive "Chicago"-style windows and decorative Roman eagles at the corners, according to its historic documentation.
The building was built by Henry C. Gumbel, president of the Standard Scale & Foundry Co. Gumbel founded the H.C. Gumbel Co in 1909 and used the building for his headquarters.
McKecknie designed some of the city's finest buildings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Grand Avenue Temple and the University Club downtown and the former Brookside Hotel, now the Crestwood Condominiums on Brookside Boulevard.
The 50,000-square-foot Gumbel Building was renovated in 1984. Eight years ago, developer Mark Latshaw bought the property, then about 40 percent occupied, and planned to renovate it into a residential condominium project.
That development failed to progress, and Patel said he bought the building in November.
Preliminary demolition work is under way, and architect WGB Associates of Kansas City has been hired. Patel is still working on financing and is close to lining up a hotel flag for the property.
He plans to seek state and historic tax credits, as well as a property tax abatement.
Patel's experience as a developer includes renovating a 1970s vintage motel at 5100 E. Linwood Blvd. and reopening it as a 42-room Days Inn in 2011. His timetable calls for the Gumbel project to be completed by March 2014. Valet parking would be provided at a leased lot across Eighth Street from the building.
The renovation of the Gumbel would be the latest historic downtown building to become a boutique hotel.
Last summer, the 107-year-old Gate City National Bank Building at 1111 Grand Blvd. reopened as a 43-room luxury hotel called the Ambassador. Other renovations include the Hilton President Hotel that reopened in 2006 and the Aladdin in 2007.
Sean O'Byrne, vice president of business development at the Downtown Council, said Patel's proposed hotel is in a good location.
"We're extremely excited about this opportunity for a midrange hotel in downtown," he said. "We think it will bode well for business travelers and families in for the weekend to attend events at the Sprint Center. We're also thrilled about the redevelopment of a landmark building. The location between the City Market and entertainment district puts it in a good position."
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