When it’s completed in 2017, the former King Louie building in Overland Park could have a more level and landscaped parking lot, a front lawn for public art and an exterior that will glow at night from expanses of glass added to the south and east sides.
Designers from SFS Architecture unveiled their initial renderings Thursday for the transformation of the vacant former bowling alley and ice rink into the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center. County commissioners at the informal meeting then posed questions and concerns as the project gets set to begin its journey through the Overland Park city planning process.
The public will get its chance to weigh in on the plans Monday during a series of half-hour presentations at Meadowbrook Golf and Country Club, 9101 Nall Ave. The presentations will run from 4 to 7:30 p.m.
The building at 8788 Metcalf Ave. would keep its iconic accordion roof, the stonework, front entrance spire and sign. However architects suggested large glass windows interspersed with the stone work on two sides to allow visitors to see up and into the building at night. More windows on the east side would give the building an inviting, “jewel box” effect, said designer Derek McMurray, who presented the plan.
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“Our hope is that this is a very dramatic building as we approach it,” McMurray said.
The design team also suggested the existing sign, with its retro look, could itself become a piece of art rather than an informational sign, possibly with the use of LED lights.
The parking lot, now a sloping expanse of asphalt, would be built up on the southeast corner and landscaping would be added to make it more inviting, according to the plan.
The design is the first step forward now that the commission has approved $20.7 million in bonds to fund the controversial project. The county bought the building in 2011 but original plans for a national museum of suburbia met with public scorn and were dropped in 2013. The building’s future was in limbo until the plan to use it for parks, early voting and the museum was finalized late last year.
Commissioners identified the traffic and outdoor activities as possible future sticking points with the neighborhood. The plans include only one point of entry and exit to the parking lot, and some questioned whether that would be adequate for well-attended theater performances.
The entrance and exit opens onto Metcalf Lane, which runs parallel to Metcalf Avenue. The only other possibility for an entrance is from 89th Street. But some commissioners worried that the extra traffic would upset neighbors who live along that street.
Commissioner Steve Klika urged designers to make sure the single-entry plan is examined carefully by Overland Park officials to be sure it will not cause too much congestion in the parking lot or on Metcalf Lane.
Commission Chairman Ed Eilert said the team should be cautious about adding another entrance. “If Overland Park is satisfied with the ingress and egress let’s not go a bridge too far,” he said. “I know what the reaction of the neighborhood would be and it would not be positive.”
Eilert also said the team may have to negotiate with neighbors about what kind of outdoor activities will take place at the center.
The inside of the center includes performance and meeting space and also exhibit and storage space for the Johnson County Museum. But Commissioner John Toplikar questioned whether the 1950s All-Electric House should be put inside the building. If the house is not brought inside, he said, there would be more space for exhibits.
The county will continue to store some of its 18,000 objects at another county building after the museum moves to the new center, museum director Mindi Love said. However maintaining the house outside would be more expensive because it would then have to have a foundation and utility hookups, staffers said. Love said the open plan of the new center will allow the museum to show many more of its objects than it can today.
The county museum, at 6305 Lackman Road in Shawnee, has been plagued with water leakage issues and mold. The commission will soon consider whether to list it as surplus property, paving the way for its eventual sale.
Commissioners at the work session also looked at the idea of special certification for the energy efficiency at the new center. Industry certification of high-performance buildings under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program (known as LEED) would add around $8,000 in fees to the project. Nine of the county’s 35 buildings are LEED certified, and another 11 are considered high performance but are not certified.
Klika said he would not support the extra certification because many people would say the fees could be better spent on something else. The purchase and conversion of the King Louie has been controversial and “under a microscope,” he said. The commissioners took no action on the question.
The designers will seek public input on their plans later this month before going to the city of Overland Park for a special use permit and plan approval. If all goes according to schedule, construction would begin late this year and the building would be at least partly open in time for advance voting in the summer primaries. The tentative grand opening is set for April 2017.
To reach Roxie Hammill, send email to roxie.hammill.news @gmail.com
For more information about the public feedback and information session, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1638648983017108/