An attempt is underway to save three quaint apartment buildings near the Country Club Plaza, designed by famed Kansas City architect Nelle Peters in the 1920s, from a possible date with the wrecking ball.
The Historic Kansas City Foundation has filed an application for historic designation for the Tudor revival-style buildings tucked behind a parking garage in the 4700 block of Summit Street in the West Plaza neighborhood. That filing June 12 immediately put a temporary hold on any potential demolition.
The foundation acted after learning that the city had issued pre-demolition permits for the properties, owned by an entity called 47 Summit LLC.
“This was brought to our attention by residents of the Plaza who live in the area, who noticed that these apartments were vacated,” said Historic Kansas City executive director Amanda Crawley.
The foundation then discovered the pre-demolition permits on file with the city and wanted a delay because they consider the buildings of historic significance.
This could be the first real test of an ordinance that the City Council approved several years ago that allows for a demolition delay while a property’s historic status is considered.
The ordinance was adopted after a controversial demolition in September 2009. A Ward Parkway mansion, the one-time home of H&R Block co-founder Richard Bloch, was torn down even as the Kansas City Landmarks Commission was set to consider whether to place the home on the Kansas City Register of Historic Places.
To avoid a repeat of that situation, the city now requires time to consider a historic designation application before demolition can proceed. The hold can last up to six months.
City historic preservation officer Brad Wolf said the Kansas City Historic Preservation Commission will probably have a special meeting in July to consider the application. The City Council will make the final decision.
Nelle Peters, who had a 55-year career and died in 1974, was one of Kansas City’s most distinctive and prolific architects in the first half of the 20th century. She designed countless apartments and hotels, including those in the already designated historic Nelle Peters Thematic District. That covers about a dozen distinctive properties named for poets, painters and authors on the western edge of the Country Club Plaza.
Crawley said she wasn’t sure why the buildings at 4728, 4730 and 4734 Summit weren’t originally included in that district, but the foundation believes they deserve that historic designation now.
It’s unclear what the owner plans if demolition occurs. Wolf said no development plans are on file with the city.
Secretary of state records show the registered agent for 47 Summit LLC is Victoria Durham. Durham declined to comment about plans for the buildings and referred calls to officials with Price Development Group, who didn’t respond to calls or emails.
Joe Montanari, president of the West Plaza Neighborhood Association, which includes the three apartment buildings, said the neighborhood has not yet had time to research the issue and has not taken a position on any historic designation for the buildings.
But 4th District City Councilwoman Jan Marcason, whose district includes the buildings, noted that they are dilapidated and cautioned that it may be quite expensive to restore them and provide the modern amenities that renters now expect.