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Main Street Buildings at Center of Landmark Controversy for Sale

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2 minute read

By Kevin Collison

A group of buildings at 31st and Main that were declared historic over the owner’s objection last year are back in play, and preservation advocates are hopeful about their prospects to be saved from destruction.

“This is the opportunity provided by listing them as a local landmark,” said Lisa Briscoe of Historic Kansas City.

“There are may experienced developers in Kansas City and beyond who’ve met many different challenges, and this gives them the opportunity to take a look at what the challenges are and see if they can be overcome.”

The historic Jeserich building at the northeast corner of 31st and Main, along with several adjoining buildings, are on the market with a listing price of $3.5 million. They had been purchased by developer Doug Price at an auction sale about six years ago.

In addition to the Jeserich, which was built in 1888, the buildings are the Ward Building (1905), 3035-37 Main; a building at 3039 Main (1990), and a property around the corner at 6-10 E. 31st St.

The Jeserich Building circa 1940 (Photo from Historic KC website)

Early last year, Price said the buildings were too deteriorated to be kept and he intended to demolish them with no immediate plan to develop the location. That set off a scramble by preservationists to save them.

In an unusual step, former City Council member Katheryn Shields and Council member Eric Bunch introduced legislation to have them declared local landmarks. The designation would prevent them from being demolished for three years.

Price responded by announcing a proposal to build a 30-story apartment tower on the corner. The properties are located at a planned stop for the streetcar extension scheduled to begin service in early 2025.

The Council however, declared the property a local landmark last October. Until then, the only other building designated a landmark over the owner’s objection was Union Station.

Now, Price, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has hired Clemons Real Estate to list the properties for sale. The brochure touts the properties prominent location on the upcoming streetcar extension.

“Savvy developers will unleash the potential for this parcel to become the next high profile landmark on the streetcar line,” it states. “The city has indicated a desire for the site to be improved, but in a way that incorporates the historic elements where feasible.”

Audrey Navarro, managing partner at Clemons, said the redevelopment of the Jeserich and adjoining buildings will be challenging. She noted the buildings’ floor levels don’t mesh, several elevators would likely be required and an atrium takes up substantial space.

Developer Doug Price described flaws with the historic Jeserich Building during a tour with preservationists last year.

“I think you can incorporate historic elements into the project, but I don’t know how much of the structures and floor plans can be saved,” she said. “Every floor is at a different elevation. The buildings look like they’re combined, but they’re not.”

The Clemons brochure notes not only the properties location on the streetcar line, but their location near Union Hill and Martini Corners. Across the street, Northpoint Development is planning to build a 385-unit apartment project on the former Trinity Lutheran Hospital site.

Briscoe said Historic KC would be willing to work with any developer interested in redeveloping the property.

While the layout of the Jeserich and other building interiors are a challenge, she noted her organization worked with LuxLiving to come up with a suitable plan for redeveloping the Katz Drugstore building a few blocks south on Main.

The Katz redevelopment saved the distinctive art deco clock tower and facade of the building, and the developer is constructing a 192-unit apartment building behind it.

“Katz was a similar historic building on Main that many thought was beyond saving but we came up with a reasonable compromise,” Briscoe said.

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