A vacant doctors building at the northeast corner of the Country Club Plaza will become an assisted living center, provided the redeveloper can add three stories to the building’s height.
NorthPoint Development proposes adding three floors to the Plaza Parkway Building’s existing two floors of office space, which sit atop a three-level parking garage at 4620 J.C. Nichols Parkway.
But that addition, to accommodate 84 assisted living apartments — enough to make the conversion financially feasible — clashes with a building height guideline for the Plaza “bowl,” according to the Midtown/Plaza Area Plan.
The proposal presented one in a series of conflicts between Plaza neighbors, preservationists and developers concerning height and density around the Plaza. The plan is being studied by Kansas City planning staff, members of the City Plan Commission and City Council members.
The building, located west across the street from Mill Creek Park, sits next door to the Courtyard Kansas City Country Club Plaza hotel, which already stands at the approximate height proposed for the expanded medical building. But advocates of the Midtown/Plaza Area Plan say the Plaza Parkway should be kept at its existing height.
John McGurk, a Polsinelli lawyer representing NorthPoint, said adding three floors — above the two existing 15,000-square-foot office floorplates — is the only way to make the assisted living center work. And there’s “frankly not much other use” for the empty medical building, he said.
The building’s reuse also is constrained by a deed restriction concerning its parking garage. McGurk said 105 of the building’s 135 parking spaces are required to be available evenings and weekends for patrons of the Plaza retail district. That restriction was easily met after doctors’ offices closed for the day.
“But nobody wants to use it as a medical building anymore,” McGurk said. “And if it became apartments, tenants would need the garage. So the viable solution is assisted living, where most tenants don’t have cars and some of the staff goes home in the evening.”
Along with height concerns, neighbors also are sensitive to any redevelopments that add density and traffic to the area. A nearby proposal for a mixed-use hotel/apartment/retail project, bounded by Broadway, Wornall Road, 46th Street and 46th Terrace, drew extended calls at city meetings for reduction in height and density along with calls for tougher traffic studies.
City Plan Commission members this month rendered no decision on the medical building proposal after reaching a 3-3 tie. NorthPoint has been asked to resubmit the proposal to city planners with some minor revisions. But essentially the same plan — with the added height — is expected to be presented to the council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee in August.
Council members won’t be asked to amend the Midtown/Plaza Area Plan to create a height exception for the building. Rather, they will be asked to rule on a rezoning request for the site. If approved, the rezoning would allow the proposal to proceed.