CBC News

Posted on Jan. 24th 2022

Barney Allis Plaza $112M revamp could unfold ‘Swiss Army knife’ of uses

Kansas City Business Journal – January 20, 2022

By Thomas Friestad – Staff Writer, Kansas City Business Journal

Kansas City officials and design-build team members have unveiled the latest mix of features and an estimated cost for a long-awaited remake of Barney Allis Plaza and its deteriorating underground parking garage.

With City Council’s go-ahead this spring, workers in June could begin design work on a $112.4 million revitalization of the city-owned plaza at 12th and Central streets. A two-year construction process then could begin in the fall, in time for a winter 2024 grand opening, officials told the city’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations Committee during a presentation Wednesday morning.

About two years ago, engineers identified a “magnitude of code violations” within the 970-space garage after a large amount of loose debris fell on an unoccupied vehicle. Kansas City made temporary repairs that so far have cost about $3 million on measures like structural patches and steel supports. The lowest level has been closed indefinitely within the three-level garage, which at 67 years is almost twice as old as its expected lifespan.

While the plaza garage is stable, it remains on “life support” and must be demolished, City Architect James Freed said. Officials have no reason to anticipate a structural “significant failure,” but he said such an occurrence could risk the garage’s perimeter walls and the three floors attached to them.

“Not to raise any panic, but no one expected the tower in Florida to collapse,” said Freed, in reference to the Champlain Towers South condos. “There is significant risk if there would ever be a significant failure at Barney Allis.”

A new two-level underground garage is envisioned with a high-water mark of 600 spaces, and tunnel connections kept to nearby hotels and Municipal Auditorium.

Throughout the plaza above, CBC Real Estate Group, the city’s chosen owner representative, proposed a schematic design with:

  • 22,370 square feet of oval and event lawn space at the plaza’s northeast corner, with flexible event and informal gathering areas
  • A 16,380-square-foot event plaza to the south, with paved open space for large events and pop-ups
  • A 5,200-square-foot play space
  • A 3,400-square-foot dog park
  • A double-sided perimeter streetscape with multi-modal options and physical and visual accessibility into the plaza

The redevelopment will see Barney Allis Plaza sloped to grade so visitors and food trucks can more easily access it, HOK architect Peter Sloan said.

“One of the things we heard loud and clear during the programmatic and the design process was, we really needed some spaces that were very flexible, that could host events up to about 5,000 people to gather for musical events or street events, and then sometimes, we would want maybe a wedding party up there,” he said. “This really creates a potential revenue stream that could be managed by the city, and also actually create different opportunities so that there’s multiple users that would then be supported by the garage below.”

Sloan later added, “It’s really creating essentially a Swiss Army knife of utilization for the city at a park level and an event level.”

A one-story pavilion along Central Street also would include a structure capable of supporting future vertical development, a request of City Manager Brian Platt, who has touted the plaza’s potential to support new affordable housing.

The city’s next steps are to pursue a financing strategy and construction documents, CBC Managing Principal Bill Crandallsaid. Inflation could drive up project costs if officials decide to delay, he said.

The total cost could be lowered to about $92.7 million if the garage is built with 200 fewer parking spaces and if a pavilion, future building structure and plaza enhancements like water fountains are eliminated.

But the city is obligated to keep the site’s garage use because the plaza is collateral for bonds used to build the Bartle Hall Convention Center, Finance Director Tammy Queen said. The cost to build a 600-space new garage is estimated at $46.2 million, the largest individual line item in the project budget.

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