The concrete walls are coming down and glass “curtains” are going up on the exterior of the 49-year-old Board of Trade building at 4800 Main.
It’s the signal that significant modernization is happening inside as well as Populous prepares to move into its new home in October.
The Kansas City-based architecture firm, a world leader in sports stadium and arena design, will occupy about 76,000 square feet of the 165,714 square feet in the seven-story building near the Country Club Plaza.
Populous this week published drawings showing the radical new look for the building, which for many years housed the Kansas City Board of Trade. The exchange was acquired in 2012 by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which moved out of the building in 2013.
Populous plans to use the former trading floor, a two-story space, to transplant its “grandstand,” a central gathering spot at the heart of the office.
The 31-year-old company started with four architects under the HOK Group umbrella but spun off from HOK in 2008. It now employs 250 after a staff growth of 20 percent last year and expects to grow at the same rate this year.
The firm will move from 300 Wyandotte St. in the River Market area, a place that was custom built for it in 2006. Dissatisfaction with its lease negotiations and a lease due to expire this fall prompted the search for a new home.
Populous zeroed in on the Main Street property, which Mariner Real Estate Management LLC bought in 2014.
“We hadn’t seen the 4800 Main building when we did our primary search,” said Jon Knight, a senior principal at Populous. “But when things didn’t work out for us here and Mariner had just started the process of developing the project, I felt like it represented what we are. We love the Plaza location.”
Populus is the architect of record for the building renovation, and JE Dunn is the general contractor.
In addition to the architecture firm, the building will continue to house the Louis Dreyfus Corp. and smaller tenants yet to be signed. Possibilities include restaurants, a grocery, a pharmacy or a fitness studio, according to the Mariner firm.
Knight, the primary designer, said the renovation provides capacity for four restaurants. The former Bo Ling’s site is being transformed into a two-story space — “a really cool anchor space for a restaurant,” Knight said.
Populous has designed about 2,000 projects in 34 countries with a construction value of more than $30 billion, including baseball, football and soccer facilities, convention centers and university complexes. In the Kansas City area, its portfolio includes work on the Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium renovations, the Sprint Center and Sporting Park.
Building Design & Construction magazine listed Populous as the nation’s No. 1 sports architecture firm in 2013, with revenues exceeding $95 million. The architecture firm said 2014 was the third-best revenue year in the company’s history.
The firm is expanding its architecture practice in aviation and urban planning. Knight said the focus is on spaces that bring people together — the passenger side of airports, campuses and other urban spaces that “define the guest experience.”
“The Populous tagline is ‘We draw people together,’” Knight said.
And in answer to a frequent question from Kansas Citians: “The wheat mural on the north side of the building over the parking garage stays put,” Knight said. “And the one on the east side has already gone to Powell Gardens.”