Kansas City Crossroads Revitalization 15 Years Later

Fifteen years ago we celebrated the opening of the Webster House after a complete renovation that restored the historic character of this architectural gem. The project was the first of numerous completed by Shirley Bush Helzberg in the Crossroads Arts District. Since that time, vacant buildings and empty lots throughout the Crossroads have been transformed into one of Kansas City’s most vibrant neighborhoods. From that first project, we have had the opportunity to work alongside Helzberg as she has invested in the neighborhood, block by block, restoring buildings and inserting new structures.

One of the many places that her investment is evident is at the intersection of 17th and Wyandotte, where Helzberg has revitalized all four corners. This intersection was once part of Kansas City’s historic Film Row, where every major Hollywood Studio had distribution offices from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. After the film houses moved out, many of these buildings sat vacant or substantially underutilized until they were acquired by Helzberg.

The projects on these four corners merge past and future to create a bustling business district by day and a thriving cultural district at night.

Webster House (Northwest Corner)

Helix designed the adaptive reuse of the historic Webster House School, the oldest standing school building remaining in Kansas City, into a restaurant and boutique. Originally designed by local architect Manual Diaz in 1885 and constructed the same year, the Queen Anne Style educational facility was rescued by Helzberg from years of neglect and disrepair. The main level of the three-story facility features fine antique galleries and retail showrooms. The second floor features a full-service dining room, a pub and a large-capacity catering kitchen. Original classrooms are now used for banquets, receptions and meetings.

The project, which received federal and state historic tax credits, was designed in accordance with the National Parks Service (NPS) guidelines for historic preservation.The masonry-and-wood exterior was completely restored to its original condition, which included the reconstruction of the original bell tower. Many of the interior finishes, such as the grand stair, were recreated with reference to their original character. Other features, like the stained-glass windows, were reconstructed with historical accuracy.

Vitagraph Building (Southeast Corner)

Constructed in 1930 by the Warner Brothers, the Vitagraph Film Exchange Building underwent a full-scale renovation in 2012. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Art Deco structure was originally designed as a film warehouse and distribution facility and is now home to the offices of the Kansas City Symphony and the headquarters for Global Prairie, an integrated communications firm.

The Helix team designed the project in accordance with NPS guidelines for historic preservation and achieved LEED Gold Certification, one of only eight buildings at the time to achieve this level in Kansas City. Unique historic features of the structure were carefully reconstructed, including the building’s original decorative plaster, terrazzo floors, marble and limestone finishes, as well as the distinctive cast-in-place structural grid that features decorative concrete ceilings throughout. A new 40-space, two-level parking structure built adjacent to the Vitagraph Building provides covered parking as well as a green roof terrace that serves tenants.

Webster Garage (Northeast Corner)

The Webster Garage was built to support three underserved entities nearby: The Webster House, the Vitagraph Building, and members of the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra that perform in the adjacent Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Strategically located between the three user groups, the structure, which houses 185 cars, freed up once-utilized parking lots for new and more dense development. Retail space along 17th Street has an adjacent courtyard surrounded by planter beds. Work from a prominent local artist is integrated into the structure. Concrete and masonry materials were selected to provide both durability and an aesthetic that relates to the surrounding neighborhood.

1700-1710 Wyandotte (Southwest Corner)

The three buildings from 1700-1710 Wyandotte were renovated into modern office space that house new tenants to the Crossroads Arts District. 1700 Wyandotte was formerly owned by Universal Studios and operated as the Midwest storage and distribution for the Midwest. The two properties at 1706 and 1710 needed considerable work and were consolidated into one larger office building. All three buildings underwent complete renovations, including exterior restoration, new buildings systems and the addition of rooftop terraces with views of the Crossroads neighborhood and downtown Kansas City as an amenity for tenants.

As the neighborhood continues to welcome new businesses, residents and cultural assets we are proud to work alongside trailblazers like Helzberg who have helped make the Crossroads what it is today.

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