Jack Henry building on Plaza getting new life with $44 million renovation, new tenant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A transformation is planned for a landmark on the Plaza.

The historic Jack Henry building has been sitting empty for months, but plans are in the works to bring it back to life.

"It's a time of transition," developer Matt Pennington said. "It's an exciting time what we're doing here. We didn't take this lightly, this building, knowing the transition, which is good."

The Jack Henry building was built in 1954 and has been a longtime men's clothing retailer. It was also the home of Tomfooleries Restaurant that closed its Plaza location and was supposed to move downtown, but has not reopened since.

"The interior is a complete remake," Pennington said. "It's a 1954 construction, so everything is absolute down to the utilities, sanitary, sewer, asbestos. It is a complete gut job. Peeling back the entire onion and redoing everything inside."

Pennington said the new tenant will be a "best-in-class" entertainment location that will create an elite corner on the Plaza.

"I think it's going to bring a number of different age groups that right now the Plaza is needing an entertainment component with a scratch-type kitchen," Pennington said. "It's a void, and a lot of people aren't coming to the Plaza as much as it used to it feels. Being in a transition period, it's really fun to bring in a new tenant and change the canvas of the westside."

It won't be a movie theater or an all-ages arcade like Dave & Busters or Main Event. Pennington is tight-lipped about the new tenant.

The Port Authority approved a 1% sales tax for the business to help with the $44 million renovation. Port KC said that sales tax is within it's mission to restore rather than tear down historic buildings.

The news left people at the Plaza with mixed feelings about the change.

"I think that's pretty nice. I'm not even going to lie about that," Kevin Bowen said. "That's really fun. I think that will be really nice."

"For the most part it's not really a rural or suburban area for something like that to thrive," Jeff Smith said. "The demographic here is people in their twenties and thirties living in Midtown, and there's not a ton of families, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the area has shifted."

Pennington said the new addition will be just what the Plaza needs and will be part of a long term change for the better in the district.

"I think we’re heading to a really special time on the Plaza," Pennington said. "I think in a couple years from now we’re going to look back and say wow, what a transformation when the new Nordstrom comes down here, and all the changes that the current ownership of the remaining Plaza are doing is exciting, and I think what we’re doing only compliments the westside and allows to provide an elite corner for what the other owners are doing around us."

The building's largest tenant is expected to be announced within the next few weeks.

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