AMC coming to Empire, Midland to be restored...

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FangKC
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AMC coming to Empire, Midland to be restored...

Post by FangKC »

Update on Empire Theater Situation

The news story by Kevin Collison in the August 13 edition of the KC Star has confirmed concerns about the fate of the Empire Theater. For those who feel strongly about saving the Empire, contact lists for city leaders have been prepared to make it easy for you to express your views to elected leaders. I have found that city leaders do respond to public input. Because so few people ever make the effort to write, it is commonly assumed by politicians and newspapers that than each letter received (advocating one side of an issue) equals 1,000 supporters.

The executive director of Historic KC Foundation is advising people to contact city leaders immediately urging them to support saving the Empire Theater. If you plan to contact city leaders, please do so quickly to take advantage of the momentum that Collison's article has started.

Four different lists for the City Council are available:

City Council Email Quick List

The Quick Email List is for those who just want to send all Council members a group email with a "Dear Council Member" salutation using a quick cut and paste method.

City Council Email List By District

The Council Email List By District is for those who want to quickly email their own district representative, or just a select few (i.e. the Mayor, Troy Nash, and their district council member).

City Council Full Address List

The Council Full Address List provides council members' names, titles, district, phone, fax, and email contact information for those who may want to fax, call, or write a "hard copy" letter to the Mayor, City Manager, and all Council members.

City Council Full Address List With Suggested Talking Points

For the true policy wonks, this list provides some specific background on each Council member (from the City's Web site) and helpful suggestions, or "talking points."

Now go forth and participate in representative democracy.

---------------
City Council Quick Email List

Mayor Kay Barnes
Mayor
mayor@kcmo.org

Wayne Cauthen
City Manager
manager@kcmo.org

City Council Office
Phone: 816-513-1368
Fax: 816-513-1612
council@kcmo.org 

To send a group email to all council members individually using generic: "Dear Council Member:" (some members get email through their aides)

troy_nash@kcmo.org, ramonda_doakes@kcmo.org, dana_laiben@kcmo.org, karen_rhyne@kcmo.org, terri_wolfe@kcmo.org, lisa_minardi@kcmo.org, joe_nero@kcmo.org, amy_schneider@kcmo.org, greg_lever@kcmo.org, diane_charity@kcmo.org, charles_eddy@kcmo.org, tom_wyrsch@kcmo.org

---------------
City Council Email List By District
Council Members By District

The Honorable Troy Nash
Council Member
Third District At-Large
Chairman, Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee
E-mail: troy_nash@kcmo.org

The Honorable Alvin Brooks
Council Member
Sixth District At Large
E-mail: ramonda_doakes@kcmo.org

The Honorable Jim Rowland
Council Member
Fourth District
E-mail: dana_laiben@kcmo.org

The Honorable Bonnie Sue Cooper
Council Member
Second District At-Large
E-mail: karen_rhyne@kcmo.org

The Honorable Deb Hermann
Council Member
First District At-Large
E-mail: terri_wolfe@kcmo.org

The Honorable Bill Skaggs
Council Member
First District
E-mail: lisa_minardi@kcmo.org

The Honorable Saundra McFadden-Weaver
Council Member
Third District
E-mail: joe_nero@kcmo.org

The Honorable John Fairfield
Council Member
Second District
E-mail: amy_schneider@kcmo.org

The Honorable Jim Glover
Council Member
Fourth District At Large
E-mail: greg_lever@kcmo.org

The Honorable Terry Riley
Council Member
Fifth District
E-mail: diane_charity@kcmo.org

The Honorable Charles A. Eddy
Council Member
Sixth District
E-mail: charles_eddy@kcmo.org

The Honorable Becky Nace
Council Member
Fifth District At Large
tom_wyrsch@kcmo.org

--------------
City Council Full Address List

The Honorable Kay Barnes
Mayor's Office
29th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: 816-513-3500
Fax: 816-513-3518
mayor@kcmo.org

Mr. Wayne Cauthen
City Manager's Office
29th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1408
Fax: (816) 513-1363
E-mail: manager@kcmo.org

Individual Council Members' Addresses:

The Honorable Troy Nash
Council Member
Third District At-Large
Chairman, Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1605
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: troy_nash@kcmo.org
Legislative Aide: Shana Paul

The Honorable Alvin Brooks
Council Member
Sixth District At Large
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1602
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: ramonda_doakes@kcmo.org
Aide: Ramonda Doakes

The Honorable Jim Rowland
Council Member
Fourth District
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1617
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: dana_laiben@kcmo.org
Aide: Dana Laiben

The Honorable Bonnie Sue Cooper
Council Member
Second District At-Large
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1601
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: karen_rhyne@kcmo.org
Aide: Karen Rhyne

The Honorable Deb Hermann
Council Member
First District At-Large
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1624
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: terri_wolfe@kcmo.org
Aide: Terri Wolfe

The Honorable Bill Skaggs
Council Member
First District
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1619
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: lisa_minardi@kcmo.org
Aide: Lisa Minardi

The Honorable Saundra McFadden-Weaver
Council Member
Third District
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1608
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: joe_nero@kcmo.org
Aide: Joe Nero

The Honorable John Fairfield
Council Member
Second District
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1622
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: amy_schneider@kcmo.org
Aide: Amy Schneider

The Honorable Jim Glover
Council Member
Fourth District At Large
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1616
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: greg_lever@kcmo.org
Aide: Greg Lever

The Honorable Terry Riley
Council Member
Fifth District
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1629
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: diane_charity@kcmo.org
Aide: Diane Charity

The Honorable Charles A. Eddy
Council Member
Sixth District
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1615
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: charles_eddy@kcmo.org
Chief Staff Assistant: Harry Ingels

The Honorable Becky Nace
Council Member
Fifth District At Large
24th floor, City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 513-1633
Fax: (816) 513-1612
E-mail: tom_wyrsch@kcmo.org
Aide:Tom Wyrsch

------------------------
City Council Suggested Talking Points

Mayor Kay Barnes

Barnes has participated in significant urban revitalization and economic development efforts--including effective and appropriate development that revitalizes blighted areas and supports growth and preservation in areas which are currently thriving.

Talking points: Appeal to her role as protector of the City's historic assets. Ask for her leadsership on this issue. Point out to her that the Empire is a significant piece of KC history, and that it is an architectural and historic asset to the downtown area that deserves redevelopment. If she wants to get people to live downtown, she has to realize that these assets are necessary in the future to keep and entertain residents and visitors.

Councilwoman Deb Hermann

Deb Hermann has served as chairwoman for the Property Maintenance Advisory Committee, and in 1999 was appointed by Mayor Barnes as a Kansas City Plan Commission board member.

Talking points: She has served on many civic groups and organizations. Appeal to her on the basis that the Empire Theater property has not been maintained well under its current owners; that it appears to have been neglected on purpose with the intention to demolish it. Her children are Erika, Betsy, and John. One might also point out that the theater is part of her children's heritage; and they will never know the glamour of such a beautiful and historic movie palace.

Councilman Bill Skaggs

There is no biographical information listed about him on the City Council Web site.

Talking points: Appeal to his reponsibility to protect City historic assets for the next generation. Indicate that this is something citizens care about, and he should too.

Councilwoman Bonnie Sue Cooper

Bonnie Sue Cooper is a member of the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee. She represents the Northland. Cooper has received numerous honors and awards for government service and personal commitment.

Talking points: Appeal to her role as a guardian of public interests. Indicate your deeply-felt commitment to saving this community asset. Point out that it is good economic and business practice to preserve historic structures, and they pay off in the future. Tell her that Kansas City is cited in architectural circles for its unique architecture, and that it's important to save it.

Councilman John Fairfield

John Fairfield was elected to the City Council in April 2003. He serves as Vice Chair of the Planning Zoning and Economic Development. Councilman Fairfield was raised in the Kansas City area and has been very involved in the local community. Fairfield served two separate terms on the Public Improvements Advisory Committee. Among his contributions to the community, Fairfield founded and served as President, Vice President and as a board member of Forward Kansas City. This organization is comprised of nonpartisan individuals from Northland neighborhoods, businesses and labor organizations. Councilman Fairfield has a five-year-old daughter, Madison.

Talking points: He is a new member from the Northland. Appeal to his need to distinguish himself as a leader. Point out the political popularity of saving a historic structure. Indicate that his role on the Planning and Zoning Committee give him the opportunity to protect Kansas City's heritage and public assets. Tell him that it's important for his young daughter to grow up in a city with a history, and that she should be able to marvel at the beauty of this bygone movie palace.

Councilman Troy Nash

Troy Nash is Chairman of the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee. Because of this, he is the most powerful elected member of the City Council, and the second most powerful elected person at City Hall after Mayor Barnes. He is a member of the Neighborhood Development and Housing Committee.

Councilman Nash served as a City Council aide for one year--and as a mayoral aide to Mayor Cleaver for nearly two years--before running for his council seat. Nash is a proponent of strengthening neighborhoods.

Talking points: Nash probably as aspirations to be Mayor. Appeal to him that this is an issue that can gain him wide public support. Since he's the chair of the planning and zoning committee, he has the power to affect decisions about what is done with downtown properties. He can influence the refusal to grant a demolition permit. Appeal to his leadership in protecting a historic KC asset, and his vision about what the Empire Theater can mean in KC's future. Explain the positive economic sense in saving historic structures for future use.

Councilwoman Saundra McFadden-Weaver

Reverend Saundra McFadden-Weaver is the pastor of Community Fellowship Church of Jesus Christ, a 500-member congregation. She is the mother of C. Rickey Winfield.

Because of her personal involvement in community affairs and neighborhood concerns, she is referred to as "Community Shepherd." Rev. McFadden-Weaver's life has been synonymous with service. Clearing refuse and debris, volunteering for charitable organizations and meeting the needs of the elderly and indigent all are among the examples of her service to the community.

She has functioned in leadership roles and positions and has championed, embraced and supported many just causes, even those that were not the most popular at the time.

She has a passion to serve others, and a desire to redefine how constituent needs are identified and then met by local government.

Board Member, Jazz District Redevelopment Corporation Member, Local 691, AFT/AFL-CIO

Talking points: Appeal to her role at "community shepard" and her penchant for public service. Since she has served on the Jazz District Redev. Corp, she evidently has an interest in preservation and redevelopment of community assets. Explain how important it is to citizens to preserve KC's remaining historic assets. Explain how important it is for her child, Rickey Winfield, to know the wonder of architecture and local history, and be able to see and experience it too.

Councilman Jim Glover

Jim Glover's community involvement in Kansas City spans three decades. He graduated in 1973 from Westminster College with a bachelor's degree of arts in Urban and Regional Development. While in college, Glover was an intern with the Denver Regional Transportation District and Denver Model Cities Corporation. While studying at UMKC, Glover had the distinction of serving as the Urban Affairs Editor for Urban Lawyer. His professional experience includes working as an Urban Economist with the Mid America Regional Council. Glover's public services include serving as the president of Hyde Park Neighborhood Association. His greatest achievement in changing the landscape of the community was the clearing and successful redevelopment of two blighted properties in the midtown area.

Talking points: Glover has an interest in urban and economic development. He also spent time in Denver, which has successfully transformed its downtown. He's led the Hyde Park Neigh. Assoc., so he must have some interest in historic neighborhoods and structures. Explain the economic sense in preserving historic structures--that they are assets to be redeveloped. Explain that the Empire is not blighted, but that it appears to have been deliberately not maintained; and the City must take action to save it. Point out how Kansas City is known for its unique architecture, and the Empire is one example. Tell him that downtown housing growth must also include entertainment venues--and this one has great potential.

Councilman Jim Rowland

Prior to his election to the City Council, Rowland served as the 4th District representative on the Public Improvements Advisory Committee. Rowland has a lot of influence with Troy Nash, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Committee.

Talking points: Since Rowland has served on the Public Improvements Advisory Committee. This may indicate some appreciation for taking care of community assets. Explain how saving the Empire contributes to the preservation of downtown architecture and history. Ask him to use his influence with Troy Nash to support redevelopment of the Empire as a community entertainment venue.

Councilwoman Becky Nace

Councilwoman Nace serves as Vice-Chair of the Neighborhood Development Committee. She serves on the following boards and committees: Neighborhood Connection; Economic Development Council. In addition, Councilwoman Nace appointed Kevin Thomas to the Public Improvement Advisory Committee (PIAC), and Robin Wells to the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund (NTDF). Prior to her election to the City Council, she was appointed to the Tax Increment Financing Commission.

Talking points: Nace has served on the Neighborhood Development Committee, so she has an interest in developing and preserving neighborhoods and their assets. She has also served on the Tax Increment Financing Commission (TIF) which makes money available for redevelopment projects. She has appointed individuals to the Public Improvement Advisory Committee, and the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund. Appeal to her to support saving the Empire and indicate your support for making TIF money available for it's renovation and redevelopment, but not its demolition. Explain how important it is to save and improve public assets--even if they are privately-owned--and encourage property owners to find new uses for them. Point out how it helps tourism to save historic structures.

Councilman Terry Riley

Councilman Terry Riley was recently appointed to the National League of Cities' Community and Economic Development Committee. As a State House representative, he was interested in economic development. The Riley Plan includes addressing the dangers of vacant houses and saving valuable housing stock. The Councilman hopes to increase the demolishment of condemned houses and move families into those houses that can be rehabilitated; Revitalizing Prospect Avenue Corridor - Continuing the work he began as a state representative, by working with the Community Development Corporation (CDC) to develop the intersections of 63rd, 55th, and 47th Streets (along Prospect Avenue and the Bruce Watkins Roadway) with shopping centers. He will also continue his effort to increase the Community economic development. The councilman is involved in a number of civic organizations, some of which include: Boys and Girls Club board member. Awards include: Top 30 Under 30 Young Up and Coming Community Leaders in America, and was named among The Kansas City Globe's 100 Most Influential African-Americans.

Talking points: He obviously has an interest in community and economic development. Rehabbing neighborhoods and properties appeals to him. He also is interested in youth. Compliment Mr. Riley on his efforts to improve his community and neighborhoods. Appeal to the economic benefits of saving historic structures, and leaving a legacy for young people to enjoy architectural and cultural assest from another age. Indicate how important the Empire is to developing entertainment venues downtown.

Councilman Alvin Brooks

Alvin Brooks was appointed as Mayor Pro Tem by Mayor Kay Barnes. He also served as an assistant city manager from 1984 to 1991. He is the "elder statesman" on the council. Brooks is a proponent of civic participation and a champion of youth involvement. He was named by President Bush as one of America's 1,000 Points of Light. He has received many honors both locally and nationally. Among them are: Kansas City Globe's 100 Most Influential Black Kansas Citians; Kansas Citian of the Year-Kansas City Press Club; Centurion Leadership Award; and Spirit Award.

Brooks is has six children, 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Talking points: Brooks has a long history of community involvement, and he has a lot of influence in the community. Appeal to his sense of history and the importance of saving historic structures economically; and to preserve them for other generations. Tell him Kansas City needs him to come forward on this issue. Point out the importance of preserving a legacy for his grand- and great-grandchildren to enjoy.

Councilman Charles A. Eddy

Councilman Chuck Eddy has been appointed to a variety of boards and commissions including: Chairman of Board, Mid-America Regional Council; Economic Development Corp.; Bartle Hall Oversight Committee, Convention & Visitors Bureau; and FOCUS Review Board. A veteran of public service and civic involvement, Eddy has served as on the Public Improvements Advisory Committee.

Appeal to Eddy that the Empire is a historic community asset; and that it makes economic sense to save the City's heritage. Tell him that with some imagination, the Empire can be a "revenue-producing" venue again. Explain how the Empire can compliment the arts district in a significant way, and how it helps with tourism and conventions to have historic venues available. There is a need to improve downtown and that the Empire will contribute to that. He is on the FOCUS review board, so he is involved with community and downtown planning issues.

City Manager Wayne Cauthen

Wayne Cauthen was appointed City Manager of Kansas City in April 2003. Prior to this appointment, Cauthen was Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Denver, and Deputy Chief of Staff.

Welcome Mr Cauthen to Kansas City. He has experience working in Denver, which revitalized its downtown. Appeal to him to distinguish himself by supporting preservation of this historic asset. Explain how it makes economic sense to save and renovate historic structures that lend a sense of identity and history to a community. Point out how the architecture adds flavor to the downtown area, and how important this facility might be to a downtown entertainment district.

More biographical information about the mayor and council members can be found at:

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KC Star Article on the Fate of the Empire Theater

Post by FangKC »

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted on Wed, Aug. 13, 2003

Empire Theatre's razing a possibility
Downtown landmark's fate in dispute

By KEVIN COLLISON
The Kansas City Star, August 13
Kevin Collison

The owner of the vacant Empire Theatre has obtained a pre-demolition permit, the first step in what could become a struggle over the downtown
landmark's fate.

The Empire, which opened in 1921 as a vaudeville palace, figures
prominently in the hearts of preservationists and in the minds of city economic development officials.

"We've all been wanting to see if the theater could be used as part of an entertainment district," said Andi Udris, president and chief executive of the Economic Development Corp.

Developer Larry Bridges, who controls the Empire, recently acquired a "pre-demolition inspection" permit from the city for the distinctive domed structure at 14th and Main streets.

Bridges emphasized Tuesday that the permit would not necessarily lead to razing the theater. However, Bridges did seek city funding last winter to demolish the Empire to make the site available for future development.

Bridges said the pre-demolition inspection permit was obtained to allow further study of the building's potential for re-use. He explained that some kind of interior demolition would likely be necessary for any redevelopment.

"We've had at least a dozen people looking at it the past six or eight
months," Bridges said. "We don't know what we're dealing with, and we need to know more.

"If we have plans to demolish it, we'll get a demolition permit."

A city official however, said that a pre-demolition inspection permit is generally obtained when an owner plans to completely raze a building.

"It's required to give us the opportunity to verify that if demolition takes place, the proper precautions have been made to protect the public right of way," said Wilson Winn, a division manager with the city's codes department.

Winn said a pre-demolition permit would not be necessary for interior
renovation work. The permit was issued July 28 to Deco Cos., a Kansas City demolition and excavation firm.

Last January, Bridges was among the applicants seeking funding from a
$15.2 million bond issue approved by voters for downtown improvement
projects. Bridges sought $150,000 to help demolish the Empire.

At the time, Bridges said that renovating the building -- empty since 1985 -- had proved unfeasible. He wanted to make the site an interim park available for future development. His application was turned down.

While Mayor Kay Barnes, Udris and others have said they would prefer
that the building be saved, perhaps as part of an entertainment district in the so-called South Loop area, it has no legal protection. The theater is not listed as either a local landmark or on the National Register of Historic Places.

"I would regret it being torn down," said Jane Flynn, a board member of the Historic Kansas City Foundation. "It would leave only the Midland from the old-time movie theaters."

In 1986, the city's Landmarks Commission approved giving it protected status, but the measure failed to win approval from the Kansas City Council.

The theater was part of the "Junior Orpheum" vaudeville circuit and opened as the Main Street Theater. The Landmarks Commission described it as the only known work of noted Chicago architects Rapp & Rapp in Kansas City.

The theater closed in 1938, reopened briefly in 1941 and then shut down until 1949, when it was renamed the R.K.O. Missouri and used as a movie theater. It became the Empire in 1960.

Preservationists believe the theater could play an important role in the redevelopment of downtown. The idea is shared by city development officials.

The mayor's redevelopment plan for the South Loop area unveiled in 2001 used illustrations of a renovated Empire serving as the anchor of a planned downtown entertainment district.

Barnes was unavailable for comment Tuesday. But in an interview last
spring she said she would "love" to have the Empire facade saved if
possible.

Udris said the Economic Development Corp. has asked to survey the
building to determine whether it could be reused, but Bridges has said he would want to accompany any inspection. So far, no tour has been scheduled.

Bridges "says he's gone through it and can't make the numbers work,"
Udris said. "Other developers might be able to do that, and we want to
do our homework."

Susan Jezak Ford, a preservation consultant and architectural historian, said the Empire should be reused to benefit downtown.

"That theater is a landmark in Kansas City and has the potential to be something great," she said. "Tearing it down would be a tragedy, especially if it's just to get rid of it."

In a related development, DST Realty is planning to soon demolish the old Armacost Motors building at 1401 Baltimore Ave. The empty former car dealership and garage shares the same block as the Empire.

Udris said the city has no problem with that building's destruction,
saying that salt erosion to its structural columns has made it
impossible to save.

The Star's Lynn Horsley contributed to this report.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
To reach Kevin Collison, development reporter, call (816) 234-4289 or
send e-mail to kcollison@kcstar.com
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Another Point to Raise With City Leaders

Post by FangKC »

Last January, Bridges was among the applicants seeking funding from a $15.2 million bond issue approved by voters for downtown improvement projects. Bridges sought $150,000 to help demolish the Empire.

At the time, Bridges said that renovating the building -- empty since 1985 -- had proved unfeasible. He wanted to make the site an interim park available for future development. His application was turned down.

While Mayor Kay Barnes, Udris and others have said they would prefer
that the building be saved, perhaps as part of an entertainment district in the so-called South Loop area, it has no legal protection.
Another point to raise with city leaders is that none of the bond issue money passed by voters should be given to Bridges for purposes of demolishing the Empire Theater. Funds should only be made available for saving the theater. If he wants it torn down, he can pay for it entirely on his own.
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Empire Theater: Contact Lists for City Leaders

Post by JBinKC »

Way to be Fang!! I actually sent my email to Kay Barnes a couple weeks back...there's no way this should be allowed.

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Empire Theater: Contact Lists for City Leaders

Post by QueSi2Opie »

How about this? Save the Empire Theater and let it sit vacant with no development around the area, OR tear down the gutted theater and start nearby development that could boost downtown? Sure, we want both and believe both can happen...but what we "want" and "believe" isn't always going to happen at a reasonable price or sacrifice. Are you all willing to pay for the Empire Theater to be renovated? Jus' a thought...

I do agree though that bond money shouldn't be used to demolish the building that so many local historians and architects care for.
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Empire Theater: Contact Lists for City Leaders

Post by KCPowercat »

IF the empire theatre can't be saved and it holds up development, knock that mother down.
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Empire Theater: Contact Lists for City Leaders

Post by The Summit »

KC wrote:IF the empire theatre can't be saved and it holds up development, knock that mother down.
Progress comes at a price sometimes, but it's better than what's there now.

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Empire Theater: Contact Lists for City Leaders

Post by JBinKC »

The owners, who have allowed this building to decay, say it is holding up progress, but we all know there is NOTHING GOING ON THERE RIGHT NOW. S Loop progress isn't waiting on the Empire and President, its waiting on an arena or corporate headquarters. By destroying this building what is it that will suddenly create demand for this "progress"? Have you seen the area around the Empire? Maybe they should start with the crappy parking garages, or the dirty magazine store instead.

Does anyone know what the owner is planning for this location? I'd at least like to know what we can expect in place of a local landmark...will we get another significant structure in its place??? I doubt it. This building is being torn down because it is the easy solution...I can't wait until that corner becomes a parking garage or a surface lot.

Sorry, but I just hear a lot of broad generalities labeled as progress, when in reality all we know is that we may or may not get an arena at that location, and we may or may not get a new corporate headquarters there. Everything else is dependent on one of those two possibilities.

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Preservation Works; New Development Hasn't

Post by FangKC »

Tearing the Empire down will do nothing to encourage development. There are already blocks of vacant lots south of 13th Street. One of the biggest past mistakes was turning that area into a virtual wasteland. Land speculators did that; not preservationists. Having those lots cleared has done nothing to encourage redevelopment.

The only real downtown development that has met with any degree of success of late has been the rehabilitation of existing older buildings. In fact, renovating is the only thing going on in downtown right now. Had all these old buildings (that are now being converted into lofts) been torn down, there would be little--if any--real development going on at all now, and Kansas City would be in worst shape than it is. Had those buildings been lost for clearance purposes, I would wager that there would not have been new apartment buildings constructed to replace them. I don't see any new apartment towers going up anywhere downtown. Bringing housing back to downtown would certainly not have reached the level that it is now, and will soon.

Saving the Empire does not mean just preventing it from being demolished, and allowed to remain vacant. It means finding a new use for the property that is successful, and brings vitality back to the area. If you read my past posts on the topic of the Empire, they have always included ideas for reuse. A refurbished Empire will certainly contribute to revitalizing the area, and if similar theater restorations are any guide, it will spark redevelopment--not hinder it. Tearing it down won't do that. Another parking garage--or a little park next to the freeway--will do little to create vitality.

Books have been written by urban planners outlining the mistakes of "urban renewal" clearance projects back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The "tear it down and hope for the best" mentality has proved to be a failure.

Don't assume that saving the Empire will lead it sitting vacant for years. Many of the buildings that have been saved by Historic KC Foundation were purchased by that group, renovated, and new uses found. Examples? The Coates House; Bunker Building on W.9th & Baltimore; Orient Hotel and Lyceum Theatre Building (on W. 9th between Baltimore and Wyandotte); the Jack O'Lantern Ballroom/Westport Ballet Building; and several historic houses. All these "saved" buildings have tenants and are income-producing properties. They create more economic vitality to downtown that all those surface parking lots. The renovation of the Coates House lead to the redevelopment of the entire Quality Hill area.

Federal, state, and local preservation money already exists for this purpose. Taking advantage of it can mean reducing the cost of renovation by 40-60 percent. Kansas City is foolish not to take advantage of it at every opportunity; St. Louis certainly is. That city is making good use of those programs. Between 1998 and 2001, St. Louis used the Missouri Historic Preservation Tax Credit to convert existing structures into half a dozen new downtown hotels; created 500 new downtown jobs; and added 1900 hotel rooms. As a result, it's hotel occupancy rates increased because it could attract more conventions. It was recently ranked fourth among the top 25 markets in the US for hotel occupancy--running ahead of cities like Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, Nashville, San Francisco, and Seatte.

Missouri spends about $346 million annually on rehabilitation of historic structures through these programs. This results in the creation of 8,060 in-state jobs, and generates $611 million in income, tax revenues, and in-state wealth. Basically for every dollar spent, the state generates $1.77. Source: Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation in Missouri. One cannot really make the case that historic preservation doesn't pay.

Historic preservation efforts--and heritage tourism--in Missouri overall contributes more than $1 billion annually to the gross state product, and generates 28,000 jobs, according to a study completed by the Center for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University.

Advocating tearing the Empire down--with no real plan for what will replace it--is just lack of imagination and outdated thinking.

The restoration of Cadillac Place and Oriental theaters in Chicago, and the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd St. in New York City sparked complete revitalization and redevelopment of those neighborhoods.

Larry Bridges has not put forth any plan for redevelopment of that site that makes sense. At least I've put forth some ideas for reuse of the Empire. My plan certainly makes more sense than an urban hobo park next to a noisy, polluted freeway. :-D

It is developers like Bridges and Stan Durwood that have held up development of that area for years--holding land for speculation purposes. They allowed the building to deteriorate, didn't do routine maintenance, etc. They are as bad as any slumlord. They are responsible; the Empire has just been an unfortunate bystander.

The good guys in downtown redevelopment are people like Matthew J. Abbott, the new owner of the Law Building, and Ron Jury and the President Hotel. They are at least trying to do something to improve the area--with little help.

"He (Abbott) turned to Kansas City banks -- particularly the ones with downtown property holdings that presumably had an interest in resuscitating the corner. But no local financial institution would back him."

"Abbott got a federal loan for $150,000, a ten-year partial tax abatement and a $25,000 grant to repair the facade. Then he asked PIAC for money to fix the sidewalk."

Larry Bridges, Robert Lipson (former owner of the Law Bldg.), and Stan Durwood just let their properties become blighted. At least Jury and Abbott are trying to fix their properties up.

Fatcat KC bankers talk a good game about downtown redevelopment, but have they provided any loans to developers who truly are attempting to make change? Both Jury and Abbott had to go outside the city for financial backing. You would think it would be in the interest of KC bankers to help any effort to renovate existing structures downtown. One is left to wonder what their motivations truly are in this equation. Another example is the Library Lofts renovation in the old Board of Trade Building on 10th and Wyandotte. Hillcrest Bank provided funding for that effort--not Commerce or United Missouri banks.

Blame the lack of development on the cabal of big downtown developers, self-serving KC bankers, and bad city leadership. Don't blame it on the Empire Theater. The potential redevelopment of the Empire, the President, and the Law Building can be--and are--bright spots on the local landscape. It is these "against all odds"--come from behind--development plans that will truly lead the redevelopment of downtown.

The real successes have all come from loft conversions of old buildings; the efforts of the Historic KC Foundation; the federal government and HUD; DST's investment; little incremental development projects; and artists in the Crossroads District. Sadly, it has not been from well-heeled civic leaders and the people at City Hall.

Other historically-oriented successes have been renovation of Union Station, the Phillips Hotel, Historic Suites, old Safeway Bldg./Freighthouse Lofts; River Market loft conversions, and the proposed renovation of the old Post Office on Pershing.

When you look at what has worked in downtown Kansas City, it has been renovation and reuse of older existing buildings. Projects that are "on the move" are Western Auto Lofts, Firestone Bldg., Law Bldg., Fidelity/old Federal Bldg. on Walnut), Scarritt Bldg., former Federal Courthouse, 21 West 10th Lofts, Library Lofts, the new downtown public library, President Hotel, Professional Bldg., Post Office; and the old Kansas City Club Lofts. It appears the safe bet is with preservationists, and not developers of new properties.
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MEDIA CONTACTS

Post by KCPowercat »

The executive director of Historic KC Foundation is advising the following: that people write "letters to the editor" and submit them to the KC Star; that individuals contact members of the editorial board of the Kansas City Star, and urge them to write an opinion editorial stating their support for saving the Empire Theater--not demolishing it; that individuals contact as many media outlets as possible indicating support for saving the Empire.

Please keep in mind that writing a "letter to the editor" is different than contacting editorial board members to request they write an editorial supporting the issue. How? A "LTTE" may be printed in the newspaper as you submitted it. An email or letter to individual editorial board members isn't published necessarily, but sent only to urge the board to write an editorial on the topic.

I have found that members of the press and editorial boards do respond to public input, especially if they receive a lot of letters and email. Because so few people ever make the effort to write, it is commonly assumed by politicians and newspapers that than each letter received (advocating one side of an issue) equals 1,000 supporters.

Three different lists for the news media are available:

KC Star Quik Group Email List

This list provides "cut-and-paste" group email addresses to members of the editorial board of the KC Star. Use a generic "Dear Editor" salutation.

KC Star Full Address List

This list provides the full mailing address (to write hard copy letters); telephone number for "Letters to the Editor" (to speak with editor of the LTTE); public voicemail (to leave verbal comments); fax number; plus the main "Letters to the Editor" email address.

Other Media Contacts

Full contact information for other news outlets (KC Business Journal, The Pitch, and EKC).

---------------
Quick Group Email list for editorial board at KC Star

winn@kcstar.com, abouhalkah@kcstar.com, ccoulter@kcstar.com, ldiuguid@kcstar.com, mcclanahan@kcstar.com, mpepper@kcstar.com, lascott@kcstar.com, tammeus@kcstar.com

----------------
Full Address Contact Information for the KC Star

Editorial Board
Kansas City Star
1729 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64108

Letters to the Editor submittal:
letters@kcstar.com
(816) 234-4474 (Letters to the Editor)
(816) 234-4940 Fax
(816) 234-4497 For voice mail to leave 30 second comments on recent events (must leave name, address, and daytime phone number).

Letter to Editor submittals must be less than 150 words and include full name, address, and daytime phone number for verification.
---------------------

Contact Information for Other Newspapers

The Kansas City Business Journal
1101 Walnut, Suite 800
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: 816-421-5900
Fax: 816-472-4010
Email: kansascity@bizjournals.com
Website submittal:


Russell Gray
Managing Editor
Kansas City Business Journal
rgray@bizjournals.com.
(please include full name, address, and daytime phone number for verification).
---------------------------

C.J. Janovy, Editor
The Pitch
1701 Main
Kansas City, MO 64108
816-218-6915 (newsroom) to suggest a story idea
Editorial fax: 816-756-0502
editorial@pitch.com

(please include full name, address, and daytime phone number for verification).
---------------------------

Editor
EKC Monthly
Discovery Publications
104 E. 5th St, Ste. 201
KC MO 64106
(816) 474-1516
(816) 474-1427 Fax

Email: publisher_editEKC@kcactive.com
(please include full name, address, and daytime phone number for verification).
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Empire Theater: Contact Lists for City Leaders

Post by KC_JAYHAWK »

Just tear the sucker down. What once would have made the place unique and special is gone. It's now just a rotting building standing in the way of development.
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Save Facade

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If the inside it completely different from how it was when it was built...They can tear down the inside of the building and the 2 plain red brick walls. But, they have to keep the facade there and build something new around it. They could make it into a department store or maybe a book store...it can connect to the proposed "entertainment district." I'ce seen many projects like this in Washington DC. They preserve the facades of an entire block of buildings, then build new behind them.
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Downtown Dept Stores

Post by FangKC »

Unfortunately, downtown department stores are a thing of the past. I seriously doubt they will ever return. I wish this wasn't true, but I'm realistic. Maybe smaller boutique-type retail might work downtown, but not the department store. Presently, downtown department stores only exist in urban settings like New York and Chicago. The population density is much higher, and public transportation is widely-used. Downtown department stores exist in those cities only because customers live close by, and parking is not as necessary.

Department stores in general are having a hard time surviving--even in suburban malls (Montgomery Ward and Woolworths are gone forever; JC Penney and Macy's are barely hanging on; K-Mart is in bankruptcy). Discount stores (Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Target) are driving them out of existence.

A bookstore would be nice. However, it would require a much smaller space, lower ceilings, and more parking. Book and music stores are having a tough go right now because of Amazon.com, Ebay, CDNow.com, and other online sources for books and music. These types of competitors don't require warehousing of their product. Downloadable music sources may also threaten retail music stores.
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Peeling Away the Layers

Post by FangKC »

In a perfect world, it would be great to restore the Empire as a movie theater. In reality, most successful theater restorations have converted the space to nightclubs, ballrooms, or live theater or music performance venues. Few old movie theaters are ever returned to screening movies. They are just too large.

Reuse as a movie theater means that the theater has to be heated and cooled all day long. Theater owners prefer much smaller theater spaces in the suburbs. However, if the Empire were a ballroom or multipurpose space, it would only need to be heated and cooled when used. And those types of events have much larger crowds than the screening of individual films.

I doubt that the interior of the Empire was gutted in any significant way. Generally, when theaters were subdivided, the interior decor wasn't removed. The common practice was to divide the space using shell walls built within the existing space. It would have been too costly to gut it.

The subdivided theaters are much smaller than the outer shell of the building. The ceilings would have been much lower as well--probably not much more than 25-feet high (since the original theater ceiling was much higher). It would be, in essence, a little building built within a much larger building.

Since the original seating configuration was 3,000 people, the four smaller subdivided theaters probably held about 500 people or less--more likely 300 people or less. The upper balconies were rarely incorporated or used in the subdivided theaters.

The Midland was also subdivided at one time into a three-theater multiplex. We know that it's interior was not gutted. The Empire was probably subdivided in the same way. Both were subdivided in the early 1960s. When the Midland was renovated, it was restored to its original condition after removing the subdivided walls.

The guy from the Theater League--that wrote that letter to the KC Star suggesting it was gutted to the shell--is probably basing his argument on a wrong assumption. I doubt he's even been inside the building; few people have for 20 years. He's operating on a premise that the theater owners at the time would have paid the extra money to gut the entire structure to its shell. That wouldn't have been necessary. In most cases, that wasn't done.

Theater owners usually went with the cheapest option, which was building a smaller shell within the original building. They would have left the original ornamentation intact because it would have been too expensive to gut it completely. The subdivided theaters were made much smaller, since it would be easier to fill the seats.

In almost all old theaters that were subdivided and later restored, that was found to be the case. Even in older Victorian-era houses that were renovated in the 60s and 70s, the practice was to leave the high ceilings and ornamentation. They just lowered the ceilings and paneled over the old woodwork. It was cheaper to do that.

Nowadays, when old houses are restored, the lowered ceilings and paneling are removed. The original detailing is revealed and retained.

Homes built before the 1930s had much higher ceilings than later ranch-style houses. In the 60s and 70s, the ceilings were lowered to reduce heating and cooling costs. Recently, modern, efficient heat pumps have brought these costs down. Recirculating vents and ceiling fans help distribute the air better. You will notice that newer homes have returned to the use of higher ceilings--especially the cathedral variety. Many owners of older homes are ripping out those previously-lowered ceilings.

Back in the 50s and 60s, most old homes used window-style air conditioners. They were very expensive to operate, and could not cool an entire house. Several were necessary and had to be operated constantly.

If you notice, most renovated older houses around town no longer use window air-conditioners, but the central air-style heat pumps that are located outside the house and hooked up through the existing furnace ductwork.

Anyway, almost all renovation done during the 60s-80s was done this way. Odds are the Empire's original interior decorative elements are still there--just hidden under the existing shell. One cannot really tell what's there until it is removed.

With today's modern and efficient technology, it would not be as expensive to heat and cool the Empire's original theater space as it would have been back in the 60s-80s. Plus, with the high output-type pumps, it wouldn't be necessary to heat or cool the building all the time, just when it was being used. It could be heated and cooled quickly.

If the Empire was redeveloped properly, with the west side of the block packaged with another building--like a hotel or office building, the infastructure for heating and cooling could be shared. With a hotel adjacent, the Empire would be an asset since the hotel might not have to construct or operate its own large ballroom.

I won't believe that the Empire was completely gutted until I see it with my own eyes, or some independent preservationist group says it is. If it turns out to be true, then I'd support just saving the facade. One has to consider the motives of the guy from Theater League who wrote that letter. Turning the Empire into another performance space could be considered a threat to the ones he's operates. He is probably assuming the Empire would be configured like the Folly, Lyric, and Midland (with permanent seating in a large space), and that is would compete for the same events.

However, since we already have those venues, the Empire could serve another purpose. It could be an adaptable ballroom or performance space where seating could be removed or brought in depending on the circumstance. There are old theaters in New York City that have had the permanent seating removed and the floor leveled. Those types of spaces don't require seating to exhibit rock bands, since the fans stand during the performances and dance. When seating is required, chairs and table are set up. With this configuration, the Empire could host dinner theater, which the Folly, Midland, and Lyric cannot. The Empire doesn't have to be a threat to those theaters, but can complement them and serve a function they cannot.

The Midland and Folly can't function or adapt to changing tastes like this plan, so it is more expensive to operate those venues. They also compete for the same type of events. That is why it's necessary for them to have corporate sponsors. If the Empire was converted into this type of space, the owner could sell naming rights, i.e. The Hallmark Theater; H & R Block or Sprint Ballroom.

The Empire could be used for high school proms and graduation ceremonies; awards presentations; ballroom dancing; a teen-oriented disco; host rock, jazz, blues, country, hip-hop, or rap bands; extended runs of traveling Broadway plays and musicals; dinner theater; banquets; wrestling matches, speaking engagements; and antique and art fairs. It could also serve as a "virtual nightclub" for franchises like B.B. King's Blues Room Club and Grill, House of Blues, Denim and Diamonds, etc. Those club owners might not want to invest in a permanent structure downtown. However, they may be willing to rent the space for events regularly--say once a week. Adapting the Empire with the capability to record and broadcast live events on television would make it possible to host visiting talk shows and political debates.

With modern electronic signage, those franchises could advertise their events, and show their logos only during those times they host an event. During off-times, the signage could be programmed to advertise all upcoming events by all outside parties. This would spread the cost of operating a venue among many--instead of just one.

One has to only look at modern fast food courts to see what I'm saying. They essentially operate store fronts and the seating, trashcans, utilities, custodian duties, etc. are shared by all.

For example, a typical week for the Empire could be: Monday: ballroom dancing; Tuesday: convention center banquet; Wednesday: rock performance; Thursday: Denim and Diamonds; Friday: House of Blues; Saturday: art and antique fair (8 am-5 pm), discoteque (8 pm-3 am); Sunday: dinner theater (both matinee and evening performances). In this scenario, the Empire is almost always in use, and by a wide variety of groups.
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Waiting for the Findings

Post by FangKC »

At this point, the condition of the interior is not known. Its owner, Executive Hills Inc. (headed by Larry Bridges), has been reluctant to allow anyone inside.

"(Andi) Udris said the Economic Development Corp. has asked to survey the building to determine whether it could be reused, but Bridges has said he would want to accompany any inspection. So far, no tour has been scheduled."

"'Bridges says he's gone through it and can't make the numbers work,' Udris said. 'Other developers might be able to do that, and we want to do our homework.'"--Source: KC Star, August 13, 2003

Whether the Empire can be renovated depends on what plans the developer has for the site. If Exec. Hills wants to put up a parking garage, it is not in their interest for people to believe that it's salvageable. However, another developer may see potential as a multipurpose entertainment venue, and would regard the any interior details as an asset to exploit. And with preservation tax credits, grants, etc., that developer might be able to make restoration work.

Executive Hills is desperate to find locations for parking garages to service One Kansas City Place and lure Waddell and Reed downtown. Their sights are on the Jones Store location, but they don't own the site yet. Collier Turley, the owners of City Center Square, does. They need parking as well. Since Executive Hills already owns the Empire, it may be a backup site if the Jones Store site falls through. There are few sites to building parking garages near One Kansas City Place. Especially since most of the vacant lots south of 13th St. are slated for the proposed downtown arena and its parking needs. Executive Hills won't benefit from arena parking for years. The spaces are needed now. Executive Hills was probably hoping that Ron Jury wouldn't find financing for the President Hotel, so that land would be available to purchase. This would explain why Jury couldn't get local financing.

As for the Theater League guy, he depends on the generosity of private business to help support his theaters. Their donations subsidize paid admissions. AMC helps support the Midland Theater for example. Many of the downtown developers and businessmen are on the boards of local arts groups.

People who are dependent on these sources of funds (from developers) cannot always be trusted as bias-free authorities because they have a conflict of interest. Developers don't think twice about using whatever influence they have to get other parties to speak on their behalf.

I have worked in public relations for most of my adult life. It is a common practice to hire or persuade outside parties to help make your case for something. One of the best scare tactics is to bring in some "expert" to say it's beyond repair, and "dangerous." The other is to have an outside source indicate that it would be "too expensive" to renovate. This scares off the public, and doesn't necessarily have to be true. The other tactic is what they've already done--let the building deteriorate until it becomes an eyesore.

For this reason, the city needs to get inside and look at the interior of the Empire. They can't go on the developer's word--and need an independent authority. There are theaters that were much worse shape that have been saved.

In New York, Disney renovated the New Amsterdam Theater and it started the rebirth of the entire street. Forest City Ratner used three old theaters in one of their developments on W. 42nd Street. They actually moved the 4-million-pound Empire Theater (name is a coincidence) 170 ft. down the block to save it from demolition. It was reused as part of the new AMC Empire 25-cineplex facility. The Harris Theater became Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. A Hilton Hotel was built on the Empire's former site, and over a third theater, the Liberty, which was also restored. Across the street, Tishman Real Estate created its E-Walk which incorporates a B.B. King's Blues Room Club and Grill. They restored the old Selwyn Theater and it's now called American Airlines Theater.

Many of these restored theaters had been condemned by the City of New York, and were in worse shape than the Empire appears to be.
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Links to Theater Preservation Projects in NYC

Post by FangKC »

For those who want to read more about theater preservation projects on 42nd St. in NYC, you can visit these links:


This link shows how the NYC Empire was moved.















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KC Business Journal Article on the Empire Theater

Post by FangKC »

The Kansas City Business Journal has an article on the Empire Theater in this week's (Sept. 1) edition:


Historic concerns play into Empire Theatre's future

Jim Davis
Staff Writer

Trudy Faulkner never saw a movie or vaudeville show at the Empire Theatre in downtown Kansas City. The theater closed in 1985.

Yet Faulkner wants to go inside the Empire -- to see whether the building at 1400 Main St. can be saved.

"The key is getting in to see what the condition is," said Faulkner, chairwoman of the American Institute of Architects' Kansas City chapter's preservation committee. "I'm hoping the owner would be willing to let a group in to do a study, a feasibility study at no cost to him."

Larry Bridges, who leads the group that owns the Empire, stirred preservationists' ire recently when he sought a pre-demolition permit for the theater. Bridges could not be reached for comment.

Preservationists could carry clout in their seeming David-and-Goliath matchup with one of Kansas City's mightiest developers. They flexed their muscle last year in helping to block Highwoods Properties Inc.'s plan to wreck the Park Lane Apartments on the Country Club Plaza to make way for a new headquarters for Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin LLP.

Preservationists' fight for the Empire has support from Mayor Kay Barnes.

"It is a striking facade," Barnes said, "and could be a welcome addition to our upcoming retail-entertainment-restaurant district."

Charles Miller, a lawyer at Lewis Rice & Fingersh LC who represents Bridges in other development matters, said Bridges told him he's continuing to evaluate alternatives for the Empire.

Bridges has entertained several reuse ideas for the building since buying it in 1986, Miller said. A source familiar with the property said HOK Sport + Venue + Event considered moving its headquarters there from the Garment District.

The building's demolition could make way for a new arena and supporting entertainment complex or a headquarters campus for H&R Block Inc.

Jonathan Kemper, CEO of Commerce Bank's Kansas City region, said buildings like the Empire reinforce Downtown's sense of place and distinguish it from the suburbs.

"Once you lose the historic buildings, all you have is the land that has to be redeveloped at a greater cost because you have infrastructure that has to be moved or displaced," Kemper said.

Yet, he said, historic preservation needs to work financially. Kemper said Commerce's tax-abated modernization of the Commerce Trust Building at 922 Walnut St. "was good business for us."

Bridges bought the Empire from a company controlled by Stan Durwood, the late movie theater magnate. Durwood's ill-fated Power & Light District envisioned turning the Empire into a Planet Hollywood theme restaurant.

Kansas City rejected Bridges' request for a pre-wrecking permit for the Empire on July 31. Before proceeding, the city inspector said, the building must be encircled by a wooden fence, and surrounding sidewalks need to be closed.

Derrick Lloyd, permit compliance supervisor in the Department of Codes Administration, said Bridges can request another inspection after meeting the city's conditions. Assuming they are met, Lloyd said, Bridges could get a demolition permit.

Elizabeth Rosin, a principal at Historic Preservation Services Inc. in Kansas City, said structural problems could make the Empire economically unfeasible to save.

Other badly deteriorated buildings, such as the 19th-century New York Life Building at 20 W. Ninth St., have been renovated. Rosin said the Empire's legacy as the last legitimate downtown movie theater is worth maintaining.

Diana Ewy Sharp, executive director of the Historic Kansas City Foundation, said the foundation asked Bridges two years ago for permission to inspect the Empire. That approval never came.

Sharp, who has never met Bridges, said she still hopes to talk with him.

"I'm open and optimistic," she said, "until I'm told 'No.'"

Reach Jim Davis at 816-421-5900 or jdavis@bizjournals.com.
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Research on the Empire has Turned Up Interesting Fact

Post by FangKC »

I have been doing some additional research on the Empire Theater, and I thought I'd share since I uncovered something rather significant.

The architectural firm that designed the Empire Theater were Rapp & Rapp. They designed many (400 or more; few remain--about 40 nationwide) movie and vaudeville theaters throughout North America, and are famous for their work. The Empire is the only Rapp & Rapp-designed theater in Kansas City.

The only other remaining Rapp theaters nearby are the Orpheum in Omaha (1) (Performing arts center for Omaha Symphony Orchestra); and St. Louis (1) (Powell Hall, home to St. Louis Symphony). There are none at all in Kansas. Chicago has the most remaining (7). There are none in any city south or southwest of Kansas City, except for Memphis and Chattanooga.

In the West, only Denver, Portland, and Seattle have retained single Rapp theaters. The Paramount in Denver is a performing arts center, and home to the House of Blues. The Paramount/Schnitzer Hall Theater in Portland houses the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, and is home to the Oregon Symphony. The Paramount Theater in Seattle is a concert hall.

Even though the Rapp Brothers built theaters in most big cities for the big theater chains like Loews, RKO-Orpheum, Fox, Warner Bros., none exist in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Norfolk, Rochester, Syracuse, Hartford, New Haven, Washington DC, Atlanta, Savannah, Raleigh, Charlotte, Richmond, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa/St. Petersberg, Orlando, Jacksonville, Minneapolis/St.Paul, Columbus, Akron, Dayton, Ft. Wayne, Des Moines, Cincinnati, Spokane, Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Tucson, Indianapolis, Louisville, or Nashville.

New York City has only two remaining and they are both in Brooklyn (one is now a basketball court for Long Island Univ.). Detroit has one, but it was gutted and turned into a parking garage.

The Empire will be 82 years old on October of this year. Few old theaters make it past 50 years. Only one Kansas City theater is older, the Folly, which is 103 years old this year. The Folly was never a movie theater, which makes the Empire the oldest theater that screened movies remaining in Kansas City. The Midland is six years younger than the Empire.

The Midland is the only remaining theater in Kansas City designed by Thomas Lamb, probably the most celebrated theater designer of his time. Lamb, and Rapp & Rapp of Chicago, were responsible for nearly half of the hundred largest theaters built in America (the Midland and Empire being two of them).

The Uptown is the only remaining theater in Kansas City designed by John Eberson, who was most famous for designing "atmospheric" theaters with clouds and skies on the ceilings.

The Plaza Theater (on the Plaza, closed) and the Granada in KC, Kansas, are the only atmospheric theaters left here designed by the Boller Bros.

Kansas City is lucky to still have theaters that were designed by Rapp & Rapp, John Eberson, the Bollers, and Thomas Lamb--four of the most eminent specialists in the architectural design of theaters and bedazzling movie palaces. If one were to compare them with other architects, they were the Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, I.M. Pei, and Phillip Johnson of theater architecture. These four firms influenced every other American theater architect.

Please take note of this; this is what is most significant. It appears that Kansas City is the ONLY city in the world that still has theaters designed by all four of these noted theater architectural firms (Lamb, Rapp, Eberson, Boller Bros). Cleveland, New York City, and Chicago each have remaining examples from only three of these architects (Lamb, Rapp, Eberson).

In 500 years, if these theaters still exist, they will be noted for their design just as much as Michelangelo's work in Rome. Theater owners lavished tremendous amounts of money on these buildings. Broadway, vaudeville, burlesque, and movie theaters were the most elaborately detailed buildings of the 20th Century. Other than the skyscraper, there are significant and unique American creations.

As you well know, new movie theaters don't come close to creating the grandeur or style of these earlier efforts. Neither do newer performing arts centers and concert halls. Many cities have chosen to renovate these ornate old theaters to house their symphonies instead of building a new performance hall because they could never duplicate, or exceed, their grandeur.

Few buildings today devote such attention to detail and fantasy. If any of these theaters survive another 500 years, they will be treasured and studied as much as the architecture of Europe is now.

Since Kansas City appears to be the only city in the world to have examples of these four "masters," it makes us unique. For this reason, it becomes more imperative to save the Empire Theater. There is more at stake than just clearing land for redevelopment. These theaters must be saved for antiquity since there is no other city where one can go and see theaters designed by these four noted theatrical architects all in one location.

Retaining the Empire will set KC apart from Chicago, New York, and Cleveland. It is just a stroke of fate that Kansas City finds itself in this position. I've never come across anything in Kansas City promotional literature that acknowledges this fact. It is certainly something that Kansas City could tout among its "claims to fame."

This detail wasn't included in the application made to the City Council in 1986 for listing the Empire on the National Register of Historic Places. At that time, the Council denied the Empire protective status. Had the Council known this fact then, it might have recognized how significant the Empire is to the City's identity and worldwide acclaim in architecture.

Theaters by these designers are disappearing quickly. Only now are cities and historians realizing what a mistake has been made not saving more of them.

As you know, Europe's greatest architectural contribution has been its cathedrals. America's legacy is its grand movie palaces and skyscrapers.
Last edited by FangKC on Fri Jan 02, 2015 12:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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tat2kc
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Empire Theater: Contact Lists for City Leaders

Post by tat2kc »

I love the Empire from the outside. Its amazing, and would be very cool if it were renovated. But I can see both sides of the argument. If, somehow, preservationists are successful in blocking demolition, despite the owner's wishes, are they willing to step up to the plate and help with financing the extra money needed for restoration instead of demolition?

I have some issues with preservatonists who are sucessful in blocking demoliton, but have no plan to help the developer recoup some of the money needed to restore the older buildings. It was the issue with the new charter school moving into the old synagogue on the east side. (can't remember the name, sorry). They wanted the main sanctuary restored and preserved, but had no suggestions on how the school was to pay for this. If you are going to force a private developer to do things your way, then you have an obligation to come up with some constructive methods to help pay for it.
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Post by FangKC »

I agree with the sentiment that preservationists must be willing compromise. The mentality that a historic building "cannot be altered in any way" sometimes prevents the developer from applying some of the alternatives available to them.

Federal and state preservation funds are available for use in these projects though, and any developer is smart to make use of them because it can reduce the capital the developer must put up by 40-60 percent. There is also some flexibility in the renovation process--especially under situations where the entire structure cannot be saved. Often times, preservation guidelines allow for modifications in the reuse of such a facility.
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