Kansas City architecture firm Populous designs for its future

This is a rendering of the redesigned Board of Trade building just southeast of the Country Club Plaza.
This is a rendering of the redesigned Board of Trade building just southeast of the Country Club Plaza.

Construction buzzes at 48th and Main streets, where Populous is preparing its new offices in what most recently was the Kansas City Board of Trade.

The architecture and design firm, now headquartered in the River Market, expects to move in October into its new headquarters southeast of the Country Club Plaza.

The new offices, along with an acquisition announced this week, reflect expansion beyond sports and entertainment facilities into a broader hospitality, retail and interior design practice.

To that end, Populous acquired for an undisclosed price Jump Studios, a London-based interior design and installation firm. Firm principals said Populous and Jump Studios will merge talents to provide more “user-centered” experiences.

That’s also the goal of the heavy renovation underway at the Board of Trade building, where Populous will occupy the second and third floors. The new space will house about 225 employees immediately and provide room for as many as 270 if and when needed.

A centerpiece of the change will be construction of a broad “grandstand” in the former two-story trading pit.

The interior is still a barren concrete shell, but plans call for the stairstepped grandstand to be one of the “user-centered” elements in the office. It’s designed to create a central gathering point for the entire workforce to hold meetings, watch videos or just sit to each lunch, as well as a way for workers to move between the two floors.

Populous spokeswoman Annie Hellweg said the firm has spent considerable time getting input from employees about what they want in a new space. Associate Amy Miller, who is working on the design, said some of the eventual office features will reflect their stated desires for “more collaborative, more flexible” workspaces.

Visitors to the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Library and other neighbors of the building already are seeing the new “wall of windows” exterior that has replaced the former small windows. They will also be seeing renovation of the Main street side of the building to include public green space.

The overall plan for the building, which is owned by Mariner Real Estate Management LLC, calls for restaurant or retail tenants on the first floor facing both Main and 48th streets. Other tenants continue to occupy the fourth through seventh floors of the building.