An unassuming, understated detail in the proposal to build a taxpayer-supported, Kansas City convention hotel should be filed under the category of “unfortunate irritant” or perhaps “missed opportunity.”
The plan calls for an elevated, enclosed walkway spanning Wyandotte Street, just a short stretch between the hotel and the Grand Ballroom at the Kansas City Convention Center. “We don’t use the word ‘skywalk,’” says Mike Burke, the former mayoral candidate and development attorney who helped devise the project proposal. “Skywalk,” of course, carries the lasting connotation of fatal failure, associated with the 1981 disaster at the former Hyatt hotel at Crown Center.
The project plan — the hotel would operate under the Hyatt banner — refers to the detail as “the Connector.”
While city leaders tout this hotel project as another big boost for downtown’s revival, it’s unfortunate that they would agree to such an anti-urban design detail. An elevated walkway, requiring costly escalators to boot, takes pedestrians off the street. Period.
A more appropriate urban solution would call for some kind of tented covering over Wyandotte. That would protect convention-goers from the elements and provide them with some fresh Kansas City air on the short walk between buildings.
A covered, open-air connection could also create an outdoor festival space, perhaps one tied into the woefully underused plaza on the south end of the convention center.
If the hotel project moves ahead after a scheduled City Council vote on Thursday, here’s a suggestion. When the construction-planning rubber hits the road and “value engineering” (read: cost-cutting) begins, scrap the unnecessary enclosed walkway first.