Steve Paul

Historic Kansas City puts Kemper Arena, King Louie West Lanes on its list of most endangered properties

Three properties in the news of late have made a local list of the most endangered buildings of 2014, the annual alarm issued by the Historic Kansas City Foundation.

One of the largest and most significant buildings on the list is

Kemper Arena

, the underused city-owned sports facility in the West Bottoms that dates to the early 1970s. The arena appears bound for demolition under a plan by the American Royal Association, which wants the city to help build a smaller multi-purpose arena as a replacement. A private developer, Foutch Brothers, has proposed a redevelopment plan for Kemper, but that project is having trouble gaining traction in City Hall. Kemper was originally designed by Helmut Jahn of the Chicago firm of C.F. Murphy and won wide architectural acclaim for its ground-breaking exo-skeletal structure and open interior arena plan.

The midcentury

King Louie West Lanes

, subject of a recent feature


in The Star, has also landed prominently on Historic Kansas City’s endangered list. The bowling alley and ice rink closed in 2009 and purchased by Johnson County two years later. Plans to move the Johnson County Museum into the building or to create a National Museum of Suburbia stalled over funding. According to Historic Kansas City, the building, with a low-slung tent-like roofline and a line of triangular stone piers, might be destined for sale and redevelopment.

Historic Kansas City officials have been fighting an uphill battle to save a group of four Midtown apartment at

100-118 W. Armour Blvd

. The buildings, by architect John McKecknie, are slated for demolition by the Silliman Group, which has rehabbed hundreds of other apartments in the nearby historic district. Silliman’s principal has conceded the company overpaid for the properties in 2008 and could not land financing for renovation, leading to its plan to demolish and replace the buildings with a new apartment complex. The preservation group contends other developers have expressed interest in the apartment buildings, but Silliman has not wavered from its demolition plan, which could take effect after a city-mandated waiting period expires in about two and a half years.

Historic Kansas City’s endangered list includes seven other properties:

• The Sauer Castle,

“one of the most architecturally and historically significant houses” in Kansas City, Kan.; it dates to 1872.


Western Baptist Bible College

, 2119 Tracy Ave., which the foundation describes as “the first and only” Christian institution west of the Mississippi River founded exclusively by African Americans. One of two buildings is still in use; the other is deteriorating.


Thacher School

, 5008 Independence Ave. The Kansas City School Board is holding off demolition until September pending any last-minute preservation proposals for this century-old building.


Midwest Hotel

, 20th and Main streets. The five-story building, built in 1915, is part of the historic Working Class and Mid-Priced Hotel District, but redevelopment, following a foreclosure sale in 2013, remains uncertain.


St. John the Divine

, a Gothic Revival church in Kansas City, Kan. A community revival effort is in the works, though far from certain.


Knickerbocker Apartments.

Another group of early 20th-century midtown residences, these structures are owned by Kansas City Life Insurance Co. and have been vacant for years pending rehabilitation or demolition.


Downs Building

, 18th Street and Prospect Avenue. Once home to the Casa Loma Ballroom, the building served “as an important center for African-American political, social and musical events” and is suffering from “demolition by neglect.”

Historic Kansas City also has 15 structures on a “watch list” ranging from KCI Airport to residences once belonging to Negro Leagues baseball stars Satchel Paige, 2626 E. 28th St., and Buck O’Neil, 3049 E. 32nd St.