This Waldo building has sat defunct for 14 years. Owner: ‘Give me a little more time’

In 2005, George W. Bush was president, “Wedding Crashers” was a top movie and Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

Babies born then are teenagers today.

It also was the year Nicholas Abnos purchased the BrandsMart building at 211 W. Gregory Blvd. in Waldo, with big plans to renovate it for retail, restaurants and residential.

He’s still at it.

“I’m concentrating on different projects now and then I’m going over there. Two or three are working on the inside now and then we will do the outside,” Abnos said this week. “I do custom work, custom work takes more time. All the plumbing is completed, almost, all the major work has been done. I’m hoping to build a parking garage. We are working very diligently. And I haven’t used one dime of public money, and I could have. It’s not my style to do that.”

Abnos was scheduled to appear at Municipal Court on April 11 on a violation for open storage. That attracted the attention of area residents who planned to organize a group to attend the hearing.

They left comments on social media sites such as Nextdoor:

“Has it been 15 years? Even if only half that time, far too long for this eyesore. I am glad to see some action, and I would hope our city council reps are on this, too.”

“Well, they have had 15 years or more to decide but their cash flow hasn’t allowed them to complete their vision. Time to move on or do something.”

But Abnos paid the fine online April 4, according to city officials, nixing the hearing.

BrandsMart was one of the original discount brand name consumer electronics stores when it opened in 1974. It had operated in the Waldo space for 30 years before losing its lease and closing in early 2004, according to The Star’s archives.

Abnos purchased the 20,000-square-foot, two-story brick building in spring 2005. The price was not disclosed.

After a renovation he planned to reopen it as the Ice House Center. The American Ice Co. opened there in 1927 and the building later housed lumber, paint and pottery companies within its 18-inch-thick walls.

“I want to elevate it, to do this this little corner right, with Plaza quality,” Abnos said when he bought the building. He planned to reopen it in 2006, pending plans and city approval.

Since then, these have been the developments.

August 2006: Abnos purchased more property to meet parking requirements.

December 2007: He said work was “progressing. It’s a bigger job than it looks to the viewer. I’m waiting for a couple of days of good weather to finish off the concrete on the terrace.”

Plans then called for a restaurant, at least six retail shops, and two floors of condos with 12 units. He hoped for a spring 2008 opening.

July 2009: Area residents were already referring to it as “the long-developing” project. Abnos said the recession slowed the project down with commercial lending drying up and retailers not wanting to expand.

“It’s quite depressing to me. Since fall I have mostly stopped construction there. My major tenants have dropped out because of the economy,” Abnos said that year.

July 2010: Someone called the 3-1-1 Action Center, saying the building was a hazard and an “eyesore for over four years.” Abnos said he never intended to leave an eyesore in the neighborhood, and he hoped to resume construction. He blamed a downturn in the economy and a credit crunch.

Later that year he said: “In my business life there is nothing more embarrassing than to be sitting on a project and not finishing it.”

September 2014: Abnos said he had a variety of challenges in renovating a semi-historic building but was “actively working to complete the project.”

“I want to keep all the original valuable elements of the building. I also had some legal wrangling over utility lines running through the project, which has resulted in years of delay, and problems financing a multimillion dollar project during the recession,” he said that year.

Abnos also has owned other Waldo properties over the years and currently owns the eight-story Firestone building at 2001 Grand Blvd., as well as some Crossroads buildings.

Reached Thursday, Abnos said he would pay his latest ticket “immediately.”

“I wish I could have done it faster. But I started with a decayed, crumbling building with homeless people and compare that to what I have now,” Abnos said. “No one can be more upset than me about this project. It’s my money. Give me a little more time and see what I’m going to put there.”

The property was assessed at $127,872 in 2018, according to Jackson County.

John Baccala, spokesman for Kansas City’s Neighborhood and Housing Services, said the city is monitoring the situation and has been for some time. He is trying to work with Abnos on a solution.

“We are trying to work with them but there has seemingly not been a lot of activity,” Baccala said. “We understand the frustration of the neighborhood. It does need to move forward.”

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Joyce Smith has covered restaurant and retail news for The Star since 1989 under the brand Cityscape. She appreciates news tips.