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Reviving Truman Blvd. Downtown

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I'm glad the city isn't going to stop with just the Power and Light District. There needs to be more natural and organic rehabilitation of downtown...a big entertainment district is a start, but we also have to consider all the existing streets and neighborhoods, so this looks promising.

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More from the Kansas City Business Journal:

Plan projects growth in KC's convention biz

Rob Roberts

Staff Writer

The landmark projects expected to change the face of downtown Kansas City the next three years will create demand for a new 1,000-room hotel and 200,000-square-foot convention center expansion in 10 to 15 years.


That's one preliminary conclusion of the Destination KC Convention Center Plan study that HNTB Architecture and BNIM Architects are conducting for the city.

The Kansas City firms designed the more than $100 million in convention center improvements already under way. Their new study looks at how those improvements, the Kansas City Live entertainment district, the $250 million Sprint Center arena and the $304 million Metropolitan Kansas City Performing Arts Center should affect one another and Downtown's future.

Todd Achelpohl, HNTB's director of design, said a recent nationwide survey of meeting planners conducted for Kansas City by Convention Sports & Leisure International revealed the future demand for hotel rooms and convention space.

Denise DeJulio, director of convention sales for the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Kansas City, said about 2,500 of the region's 12,000 committable rooms are within 10 blocks of the convention center. But some are in the Hyatt Regency and Westin Crown Center, which "some clients wish were a little closer to the convention complex," she said.

Achelpohl said architects envision the new 1,000-room convention hotel on the south side of 14th Street between Wyandotte Street and Baltimore Avenue -- just east of the Bartle Hall Conference Center.

Jeff Marvel of Horwath Horizon Hospitality Advisors said the market has a long way to go before it would be ready to support another 1,000-room convention hotel.

"What's going on Downtown is exciting," he said, "but Kansas City still has its constraints as far as convention trade."

The city has limited airport connections, he said, and the population and economic density needed to boost those connections and hotel room supply are growing slowly.

"I won't say I'm skeptical," Marvel said, "but Kansas City is half the size of St. Louis and has a third of the airline connections. The new hotel looks good on paper, but people forget we're still a 2.5 million (population) metropolitan region that's growing at 3 percent."

The area's occupancy also is growing at 3 percent, he said, and at that pace will hit only 58 percent to 59 percent for the year.

The entertainment district, arena and other projects should start boosting downtown hotel occupancy significantly in three to four years, he said. But the refurbished Hotel President will be coming online soon, Marvel said, and the boarded-up Holiday Inn building next to the Muehlebach Tower of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown probably will reopen as a hotel.

Meanwhile, sales and other economic activity taxes collected by the 1,000-room Marriott have been insufficient to repay bonds issued by the city for the Muehlebach renovation. The city covered 2000-04 shortfalls totaling $2.4 million.


In addition to a new downtown convention hall, initial findings of the Destination KC study call for a 200,000-square-foot exhibition hall adjacent to the current convention complex.

The hall could be built adjoining the new hotel and straddling Interstate 670, like the 1994 Bartle Hall expansion and planned 40,000-square-foot ballroom expansion.

Achelpohl, however, said the HNTB-BNIM study probably would lean in favor of locating the future exhibition hall over I-670 on the other side of the convention complex, west of Broadway.

Expanding west would cost more because the "trench" is wider there, Achelpohl said, but lower real estate acquisition costs would offset higher construction costs.

The architects' study also may call for improving links between the convention/entertainment district and the Crossroads District to the south by covering I-670 east of the convention complex in another way.

Achelpohl said options for achieving that connection include decking over the interstate with parkland or building a new Truman Boulevard to replace the two Truman Roads that now flank I-670.

A group with representatives from the city, the Mid-America Regional Council and the Missouri Department of Transportation is studying costs and potential financing sources for the Truman Boulevard proposal, he said.

Other preliminary recommendations of the study call for removing the top parking deck under Barney Allis Plaza to create a more useable green space and establishing 14th Street as Downtown's signature street. It will be a main drag through the Kansas City Live project.

The plan also will call for closing 14th Street between Central and Wyandotte streets, Achelpohl said. There, he said, the architects envision a 120-foot-high, block-long glass atrium. Inside would be escalators to Municipal Auditorium, the Bartle conference center and Bartle Hall.

Reach Rob Roberts at 816-421-5900 or [email protected]

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