Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Issues concerning Downtown as described by the Downtown Council. River to 31st Street, I-35 to Bruce R. Watkins.
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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by trailerkid » Sun Dec 21, 2003 7:21 pm

This is something that paisstat brought up in the Block thread that I thought was interesting...
Look at Crown Center, it has been going on for 30 years and is close to what I would call a disaster--ugly architecture for the most part, relail and residential sealed off from the outside world, it is the suburbs gated from the city in the heart of the city.

From what I can gather, Crown Center is somewhat similar to Renaissance Center(the massive series of circular highrises) in Detroit. Renaissance was criticized by design people because in its effort to revitalize Detroit, it maintained an overly inward focus and self importance. Rather than extending its reach into downtown Detroit, it attempts to isolate itself. In many ways I can see the comparison to Crown Center.

Crown Center is a "city within a city" that hasn't in the past lent itself to any sort of pedestrian activity outside its reaches. But, to be fair, you must think about the context of the construction (it was generally good to make drive-through developments, no respect for "old buildings"). The center was a massive mixed-use project decades before that was widely popular. However you can still see the suburbanization that went into it: huge surface lots in the back seem virtually identical to something you would find at Corporate Woods, no storefront retail. But I think some of this is changing as area around it become less blighted and more chic (Western Auto, Crossroads/Union Station). People are moving in and Crown Center will have to get used to being one part of the neighborhood rather than the neighborhood.

Do you see CC being a cohesive part of greater downtown, or will it isolate visitors from greater downtown?
Last edited by trailerkid on Sun Dec 21, 2003 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

KCDevin

Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by KCDevin » Sun Dec 21, 2003 7:34 pm

in between ;)
just look at what it will become
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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by GRID » Sun Dec 21, 2003 7:43 pm

It was definitely isolated, but is now becoming a cohesive part of greater downtown because of the Lofts etc on Grand, Union Station, Lib Memorial, Fed Reserve, IRS, Gillham Road, Union Hill etc. Not to mention new office buildings which will continue to erase the few remaining surface lots in Crown Center. Crown Center could use some more updating though. I personally would put in some exterior retail and allow more on street parking to slow down the traffic, make the area look busier and open the area up to people unfamiliar with the area. The new entertainment district Downtown does have to be careful not to overlap it’s retail with Crown Center. KC is going to have three destination urban districts, that is going to be hard to do, but can be done and they should all feed off one another.

Sure, it's not street friendly in the least and I used to hate it, but I think it's becoming a blessing to have such a contrasting area in the core. You will have the River Market, Downtown (SoLo), Crossroads, Crown Center, Midtown, Westport and the Plaza. All of which have a unique urban flavor and attractiveness. Considering I work there, I always wonder where the street pedestrians and even auto traffic is. There are thousands and thousands of structured parking spaces in the area and millions of sq ft of office space, but from the street, the area appears dead most the time. You also have to remember that there are close to 2000 hotel rooms and hundreds of condos attached to the complex and you can get just about anything you want within the complex without going outside as there tunnels and skywalks everywhere.

Anyway, I like the development now, it’s ok to have a taste of suburbanism in the city as long as areas like the Plaza, Crossroads District, KC Live etc continue to thrive as well. Some companies want a little more space and having CC gives KC one more place to offer companies to go to the urban core.

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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by KCPowercat » Sun Dec 21, 2003 8:59 pm

I think it's a huge success.....
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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by LyRiCaL GanGsTa » Sun Dec 21, 2003 10:29 pm

I love CC, I just wish it would grow to the north. AND stop growing to the south. If CC would build residential midrises to the north, this would be of tremendous benefit to DT - tying the Crossroads District into DT. Too much to ask for? I know so many yuppies that work at CC and Hallmark, what a waste that they have to live on the Plaza or suburbs when CC could just build to the north and have them live within walking distance.

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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by ignatius » Sun Dec 21, 2003 11:47 pm

I work in CC and find everything linked together to be very nice in the winter. But this is still not a good urban design because it does not promote pedestrians to be outdoors. There is no streetfront retail or anything. A big no-no in urban design. It is essentially a surburban office park that is compressed. Washington Sq. Park is also under-utilized. It should have dozens of benches along the paths as you find in any East Coast urban park.

But Crown Center is like the 'new' side of downtown and the CBD/Loop is the old so they compliment each other. Even though the links are questionable to promote pedestrians on the streets, I'd like to see the link extended from Union Staion through the entire Crossroads up to the convention center, with access to the street below at every block.

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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by tat2kc » Mon Dec 22, 2003 10:20 am

I think that for what it is and when it was begun, CC is a winner. The plaza between the mall and the offices on the other side does invite some pedestrian movement. The outdoor concerts they used to have were great. But above all else, you have to give a huge thanks to Hallmark and the Hall family for deciding to stay in the urban core way back when no one else was making that type of investiment. Of all the old line families and companies in town, these folks really were and still are the role models of corporate involvement in their home city.
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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by KCPowercat » Mon Dec 22, 2003 10:23 am

that's kind of my thoughts....yeah it's not perfect urban design but it came online in the 60's. Hallmark made their mark on downtown Kansas City and it's 100 times better than was there to begin with plus gives downtown a good amount of shopping although hopefully with KC Live that will dramatically increase.

Plus all the amenities like housing, theatres, etc.....great development that could have been designed better.
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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by kcmajik » Mon Dec 22, 2003 10:57 am

yeah and if you're like me and only have time to go there on weekends anyway, there's free 3 hr. weekend parking or with validation :wink:

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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by paisstat » Mon Dec 22, 2003 9:48 pm

Maybe disaster was a bit harsh but my criticism still stands. Crown Center has its point, to be sure, but it could use a lot of work. It does create a nice cityscape from afar, and some of the recent architecture is not as bad. I would love to see exterior retail added, as I believe that would eliveate a large part of the problem, and help connect it to the outside world a bit more. Also I agree with the comment on the need for an update insi, and the need for the surface lots to go. The lots south of the center should be used for housing. Has anyone seen all the new housing (townhouse) constructin in Chicago? It is going in all over the city, and I think this would be great to connect the center to Union Hill.

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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by tat2kc » Mon Dec 22, 2003 10:06 pm

The surface lots south of Crown Center are sties of future buildings, both residential and office/retail. The master plan calls for the buildings to be constructed as demand comes up, much like the 2555 Grand Building.
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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by GRID » Tue Dec 23, 2003 1:11 am

tat2kc wrote:The surface lots south of Crown Center are sties of future buildings, both residential and office/retail. The master plan calls for the buildings to be constructed as demand comes up, much like the 2555 Grand Building.


Considering that 2555 Grand is already nearly leased up and the overall occupancy rate at CC is very good, I see them announcing a new building within a year, two tops.

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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by KCDevin » Tue Dec 23, 2003 1:25 pm

well from my photos you can see the buildings they have planned ;)

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Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by dangerboy » Tue Dec 23, 2003 1:32 pm

Crown Center is overall very good for what it is, and like KC said considering the era it comes from. The 1970s produced far uglier things than Crown Center, so it could have been much worse than it is.

They need to do some updating to open things up a little more and make better use of the public square and Washington Square Park. They also need to partner with an experience residential developer to finish their housing portion. Some modern high rise luxury apartments and condos could be very successful there.

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Post by FangKC » Wed Dec 24, 2003 1:23 am

There should also build some apartment towers near the Trinity Lutheran site. Where exactly will the new Federal Reserve Bank be? What streets will surround it? Will it be south of St. Mary's closer to 31st St., or on the St. Mary's site itself? Is there a site plan or map in existence yet? That hilltop would provide great views for the residents and would be a great selling point.

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Re: Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by kcdcchef » Fri Jan 13, 2006 1:46 am

ok, crown center is near and dear to my heart. worked at the crown center ice terrace full and part time for a decade, for the last 7 seasons i have managed to work at the crown center ice terrace from 1-3 weeks out of the year, planning my vacation around working at the ice terrace each march. i love the place, not sure why, just do.

which brings me to the topic at hand here, crown center. i think the original mission of the developers and the hall family in general was to build, as they have oft cited, a city within a city. and they did. almost as self sufficient as the suburbs. and they have connected it all via glass walkways.

to me though, it is finding it's way to shining star, without ever even trying. the went for in between. and they went for that, because we can hate on them all day for building boxy buildings, that are devoid of any architecture skill, or for being to far south of downtown in general, but hey, three things..................1) they built downtown when NOONE else in their right mind would, 2) they to this day are attracting groups either downtown, or staying downtown, that had no intention of it otherwise, 3) they keep on growing.

look at the last 2 tall buildings they built over there. you took a business from going to leawood in one case, and in the other, a law firm that was headed for joco probably, kept them downtown. would have preferred keeping them in onekcp, but, hey, we kept them either way. and the way crown center and it's development is building, they do not have too much room to keep going south. eventually, they will have to go north. with the post office and irs developments going on west, and childrens mercy monopolizing the east, the only direction, after they use up their last plot or two south, will be to go north, towards downtown. and like it or not, the only reason the irs or post office stuff is happening, is because of the neighborhood they are going in......................crown center. you take cc out of the mix, the post office stays where they are, the area next to it stays nothing, and the underdeveloped parcel of old union station, stays just that.

with regards to their architecture, it is cold, solemn, boxy, and boring. but, it is contrast. think of the kansas city of tomorrow, if this city keeps on growing, and in the next 20 years, we manage to get a few more high rises between 12th and 20th, think about it. the skyline would get connected. and then the boxy manhattan style architecture of crown center would indeed have a place in our city, that of contrast.
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Re: Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by mister816 » Fri Jan 13, 2006 7:47 am

to me. crown cennter is in between, it is one of the nicer areas of kansas city wihout a doubt.  I just wish that is wasn't so isolated from downtown.  If it was something in the middle to connect crown centere and downtown like a (i know this dead horse has been beaten to death) baseball stadium  or something of that nature then that would definately kick our downtown up a couple knotches... but crown center by it's self, it's as of right now, just okay.

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Re: Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by KCMax » Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:05 am

I had dinner in Crown Center last week. I find it just as chef said - boxy and boring. Very sterile. Doesn't seem like a lot is going on because there is no outside activity. However, it is in the urban core, and it does facilitate more people than it seems. It was very modern for its day, but unfortunately, not very visionary for what it needed to be in the future. I think we can still integrate it with the rest of the core and make it truly wonderful - I hope!

Interestingly, I took my parents there last week, my dad used to work there twenty years ago - hasn't really been back since. He was pretty impressed with how great it looked now. He was pretty taken back with how good Union Station looked "we used to have lunch there and watch the plaster fall."
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Re: Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by jimb » Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:11 am

Last year, when I was working in CC, I was walking back from lunch at Smokin' Joe's heading south on Grand.  After walking past several blocks of brown brick and other older buildings, the contrast as you cross the bridge over the railroad tracks and into CC proper in striking.  All of a sudden, you are in Tomorrowland!  It may be a bit too sharp edged and a bit too manicured, but it is distinct.  On weekends, when they have festivals and other events going on, there seems to be a good mix of folks from all over town down there.

As far as the location, wasn't Hallmark already in that general area, and they built CC in their backyard?

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Re: Crown Center: urban disaster, shining star, or in-between

Post by knucklehead » Fri Jan 13, 2006 12:32 pm

Crown Center is a positive. But I think Hallmark can be criticised for being too conservative with the development. I know they are not in the business of real estate development, but jeez. With all the condo development that has gone on, and the massive investments in the IRS and Federal Reserve, the reopening and development of Union Station, the sucess of the freight yards area, etc, etc, they have not put in one stinking residential unit in the past 30 years. That is pathetic and ultra ultra conservative.

Talk about brain dead managers. What do they have  a bunch of aging baby boomers runing the show? Bring in someone with energy to manage the place. 

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