Like many Kansas Citians, Butch Rigby regularly drove by 3216 Gillham Plaza and ached for something to happen with that historic building.
Unlike most people, Rigby has the wherewithal to help preserve the terra-cotta decorated facade of the structure designed by Nelle Peters, a woman whose architectural heritage is prized.
The two-building structure, dating to 1927-1928, has been vacant since 1999, when Luzier Cosmetics relocated. Since then, many historic preservationists and real estate developers have eyed the property for re-use.
“The facade was falling on the street, the roof needs to be replaced, the whole building has challenges,” Rigby said this week. “Fortunately, the interior is all concrete, so the inside damage isn’t too bad.”
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A trio of Peters’ small apartment buildings near the Country Club Plaza was razed last year after a protracted, but losing, fight by preservationists. Their loss heightened interest in retaining other samples of her work from the 1920s in Kansas City.
Rigby said he paid $600,000 for the 17,600-square-foot buildings and expects to put $2 million into reclamation. He will seek historic tax credits and some kind of tax abatement, expecting to make payments in lieu of taxes through Kansas City’s Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.
Some time next year he hopes to begin renovations leading to restaurant/retail use on the first floor and office space on the second.
“I’ve started repair work now,” Rigby said. “Right now, we can fix the roof and the skin. But we’ll need a new sprinkler system, new windows, the works.”
Rigby said the Gillham Plaza building was “a building I could get really excited about. We didn’t need to lose another Nelle Peters building. It’s proof that 100 years ago women architects in Kansas City were making a strong statement.”
The property includes surface parking lots on the north and south sides of the building capable of handling about 40 cars. Depending on need, Rigby said he might approach Costco, which is located immediately to the west, about using some spaces if needed at night.