What may look like a spat between Kansas City developers in fact could bring more overarching consequences for the first-of-its-kind shopping center at the heart of the dispute.
Different interests in the Country Club Plaza are back at ideological loggerheads about height caps that have legally required new buildings to contribute to an area-wide bowl shape during the past three years, after serving as guidelines for the previous 30 years.
“It’s been very well established, and it’s kind of surprising to me, frankly, that we’re revisiting this, particularly with one property owner at this time,” said Greg Allen, outgoing board president of Historic Kansas City.
Drake Development LLC’s Cocina 47 is the latest in a line of high-rise Plaza proposals to find themselves in the crucible of public debate. The builder’s recent submission of a $65 million, nine-story tower plan, easily exceeding Plaza Bowl Overlay District restrictions for 604 W. 47th St., intensified disagreements already simmering around an earlier three-story restaurant concept that partly pierced the overlay.
“(Drake) made a bad real estate deal,” said Ken Block, managing principal of Block Real Estate Services LLC. “They bought a site that wasn’t easy to develop. And now, they want the city to give them more height than what the site was designed for.”
Would a 112-foot variance for Cocina 47 take a figurative wrecking ball to nearly 100 years of character crafted within the Plaza, or help bring desirable density to a district that has drawn scrutiny for close to two dozen visible vacancies?
As city planners prepare to take up the matter in June, multiple groups are organizing to ensure that officials heed their concerns.