A campaign to delay demolition of three picturesque buildings near the Country Club Plaza got a boost Friday when Kansas City’s Historic Preservation Commission recommended their inclusion in the Nelle Peters historic district.
The commission voted 5-1 in favor of local historic designation following three hours of impassioned debate over the value of the apartment buildings in the 4700 block of Summit Street.
The commission’s vote is just a recommendation. It must still be considered by the City Plan Commission and the City Council. If the council grants the historic designation, it could potentially stave off demolition for up to three years.
Advocates said the buildings, which date from 1927, are an essential part of the Plaza’s unique visual fabric and deserve to be preserved as examples of the work and influence of Nelle Peters, one of Kansas City’s pre-eminent architects.
“The citizens of Kansas City really love these buildings,” said Amanda Crawley, executive director of the Historic Kansas City Foundation, which filed an application to include the buildings at 4728, 4730 and 4734 Summit in the already designated historic Nelle Peters Thematic District.
But the owner who purchased the buildings in 2014 countered that they are in horrible condition, are not historically significant and cannot be rehabilitated without exorbitant expense.
“It’s cute and quaint, but the inside is rotten,” said Douglas Price, president of Price Brothers Development, which has been involved in Kansas City area development for 100 years and has done some historic renovation projects, including the Neptune Apartments on the Plaza.
Price said restoration in this instance simply isn’t financially feasible given how these buildings were allowed to deteriorate before he purchased them. He also questioned whether two of the three buildings were even designed by Peters, since her name isn’t on their documents.
Mark Untersee, who has lived across from the buildings for 15 years, said they have been eyesores and problem properties for too long and agreed demolition is the best option.
But other neighbors and developers argued the buildings can and should be saved.
Commission chairman Erik Heitman agreed, saying: “These properties have the character of the Plaza in their bones.”