Standing at the corner of 13th and Wyandotte streets in downtown Kansas City, you might not have a clue you're right next to a park the size of a city block.
Barney Allis Plaza is hardly visible from two of its four sides. Along 13th and Wyandotte streets, all you can see are the walls that form two sides of the plateau the plaza sits atop and an entrance to the parking garage below. The plaza is underused; it has just three Yelp reviews.
But if you make it up the steps, the park has a near-panoramic view of the Kansas City skyline, patio seating and a good-size green space.
According to a panel offering advice on how to revamp it, Barney Allis Plaza has the potential to be Kansas City's "front yard."
One idea: cut the plateau down to street level on all sides so that it follows the downward north-to-south slope of the streets. Then recreate the park to attract retailers, outdoor performances and other activities.
The advice came from a 10-member panel assembled by the Urban Land Institute Kansas City District Council at the request of the Downtown Council of Kansas City.
Panel co-chair Craig Scranton said an overhaul could bring in more activity, like food trucks. Stakeholders have talked about public art installations.
"Something that's Instagram-able," Scranton said.
The panel was asked to advise the council on how it could revamp the garage and plaza, which take up a city block bound by 12th Street to the north, Wyandotte Street to the east, 13th Street to the south and Central Street to the west. The plaza is surrounded by the Downtown Marriott, the Muehlebach, Municipal Auditorium and the Kansas City Convention Center, or Bartle Hall.
The overhaul suggested by the panel would cost about $63 million, according to its presentation. Members also offered less expensive suggestions for the plaza and garage, which Scranton said needs updating.
The city could choose short-term garage repairs and additions to the park, an alternate parking system and ground-level plaza or redevelopment of the entire block into apartments with a ground-level park.
Panelists thought the overhaul the best idea.
“There's not a lot of people that use the plaza, currently," Scranton said.
Though nearly invisible to passers-by, in an effort to attract visitors Barney Allis Plaza has hosted events, like "The Backyard," a summer bash sponsored by LiveKC complete with food trucks, art, a beer garden, sports programs and music. Along with the overhaul, Scranton's panel suggested a re-branding for Barney Allis as Kansas City's "front yard."
To fund the revitalization, the panel suggested raising event parking fees to $30 and extending the tax increment financing district that covers Barney Allis.
Other recommendations might cost less, according to the panel's presentation. Garage repairs and improvements to the plaza, like adding shade and green space and improving access, would cost $17 million.
A solution taking the plaza down to street level and rebuilding the garage with two underground and seven above-ground levels would cost $53 million. The city could also choose to redevelop the site with 300 micro-apartments, underground parking and a street-level park for $63 million, the same cost as an overhauled park.
Scranton said the redevelopment had potential benefits for students at Crossroads Academy, neighborhood residents and visitors to Bartle Hall.
"Obviously as the neighborhoods around it are building up, this is kind of their green space in the neighborhood," Scranton said.