Steve Paul

June 5, 2014

Historic Armour apartments bruised in supposedly careful seal-up

‘Mothballing’ of historic apartment buildings off to a sloppy start. City’s preservation commission to consider consequences of work that went beyond agreement.

The case involving the probable demolition of four historic Midtown apartment buildings gets curiouser and curiouser.

The century old buildings at 100-118 W. Armour Blvd. have been embroiled in a dispute between a developer and City Hall. The developer — Silliman Group of Chicago and its local management group, MAC Properties — had sought to demolish and replace the buildings but ran into procedural roadblocks put in place by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

The developer has declined to consider offers by other potential renovators and is poised to sit on the properties for another two and a half years, when the preservation commission’s demolition denial expires. The company recently agreed to seal up the buildings — three duplexes and an 18-unit apartment building — and carefully remove and store some distinctive exterior building features, such as porch columns.

Well, as soon as that work began last month the issue of “demolition by neglect,” as local preservationists have been calling it, turned into demolition for real. The developer’s contractor began digging out brick entryways and clumsily backhoed its way beyond the careful seal-up called for in the developer’s agreement with the city. The work infuriated representatives of the Old Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, which has been trying to line up another developer to save the buildings.

Brad Wolf, the city’s historic preservation officer, said a meeting later this month will address the issue. Silliman’s Peter Cassel and the developer’s attorney didn’t respond Wednesday to a request comment.

The apartment buildings were designed by John McKecknie, one of the most prominent and prolific Kansas City architects of the first half of the 20th century. Midtown Kansas City is dotted with many of his colonnaded apartment buildings and other attractive structure.

Cassel’s company has renovated more than 1,000 apartment units in the Armour Boulevard historic district. He has said that when the company acquired the four buildings at 100-118 W. Armour, it underestimated the cost of renovation and was unable to line up financing.

Its experience with this group of buildings certainly casts a cloud on the good work that came before.

Steve Paul, editorial page columnist: 816-234-4762,; on Twitter: @sbpaul.

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