Nearly everyone in the crowded Kansas City Council chambers stood Tuesday when Steve Lightstone asked who had come to City Hall to oppose a hotel planned for the heart of the South Plaza neighborhood.
Dozens of neighbors had organized in opposition to a dual-brand Home2 Suites and Tru by Hilton hotel offering traditional and extended-stay rooms. They filled the seats as a few urged the City Plan Commission to reject the project.
Commissioners sided with the neighbors unanimously and voted against the proposed five-story, 151-room hotel on 50th Street between Main and Wyandotte streets. The hotel would face east, sitting back-to-back with the Kirkwood development, which offers high-end apartments, town homes, row houses and condominiums.
It’s possible Kansas City Council members could approve the project despite the commission’s opposition, and Roxsen Koch, an attorney with Polsinelli, said the developers still planned to pursue the $25 million project.
Neighbors opposed the hotel out of concern that having guests coming and going would disturb quiet streets in the South Plaza area and cause traffic congestion.
Lightstone, who lives in the Kirkwood development, said the South Dakota-based developer, KWB, LLC, has no vested interest in the South Plaza community and would leave the neighborhood to accommodate an “inappropriate” project.
“Our group is not against new development or change,” Lightstone said. “But we are supportive of appropriate development that respects the unique nature of our neighborhood.”
Lightstone said neighbors had welcomed apartments at 51st and Main streets, an office building at 48th and Main and changes in retail.
Connie Campbell, who lives in Plaza Pavilion apartments, said traffic in the South Plaza neighborhood is already a problem because of the community’s density. She worried travelers would struggle to navigate the “maze of one-way streets” and speed bumps, adding to congestion in the neighborhood.
“It’s just very difficult if you don’t know your way around,” Campbell said.
Neighbors and commissioners also took issue with what they saw as a failure on the part of developers to meet with them and go over issues they had with the hotel. The commission previously delayed a vote on the project, and commissioners were disappointed the developer had not met with neighbors in the interim, which they had expected.
Commission Chair Babette Macy told developers that indicating they would meet with neighbors and then not doing so carries consequences. She called it a “poor reflection.”
Koch argued developers had done everything the neighborhood wanted, including altering the roof line, exploring various orientations for the hotel, adding landscaping and eliminating all stucco from the exterior of the building and instead using brick and stone veneer.
“I think the only thing that the applicant hasn’t done that many of the neighbors would rather it do ... is just not build a hotel, period,” Koch said.
Koch said the expectation that the developer would meet with the neighborhood again wasn’t entirely clear. She said the developer didn’t believe it would be a fruitful conversation on top of other changes made.
“This particular developer, I think, after having spent probably more than nine hours in three different meetings with the neighbors, he felt that it was not going to add anything more,” Koch said.
Koch argued Kirkwood residents believe the hotel to be beneath their standards.
“Even at price point of $150 to $200 a night, they perceive this — and in quotes — ‘a budget hotel that would harm the luxury property values,’” Koch said.
Developers are not seeking tax incentives to fund the project.