Updated - 12/22/2010
Regarding the new development plan – will it be in compliance with the “Plaza Plan,” its goals and objectives, as well as the “spirit” of that plan’s guidelines?
I’m pleased to say that our headquarters building conforms to the Plaza’s height, scale and set-back recommendations as outlined in the Plaza Plan recommendations. The building’s redesigned architectural face complements the unique and historic Spanish style of existing Plaza structures, while following a more east/west orientation like the current Neptune Apartments. In addition, it will be approximately 170 feet from West 47th Street, about the same as neighboring Townsend Place, considerably more of a setback than neighboring Valencia Place. We have reduced the scale of the building by one full floor – now seven stories of office space instead of eight – and is actually shorter than the Townsend Place condominiums directly to the west.
Why wasn’t this done the first time?
Please keep in mind that planning for any major development, particularly those such as the national headquarters, is always a lengthy process. Frequent changes in design are inherently a part of that process. During the process we received public comment, both positive and negative. We responded to those comments by working with Highwoods and the architects to incorporate changes that enhanced the project and added to the Plaza.
Will the Balcony Building be saved? What about the streetscape?
The pedestrian experience has been maintained, indeed enhanced. The historic Balcony Building, its towers and retail facades will be left fully intact for the enjoyment of Plaza shoppers. A modest storefront entrance, however, will be created to allow business access to our offices from 47th Street. The access elevator will be contained entirely within the attached parking garage.
The new design also maintains the tree-lined streetscape along 47th Street and enhances the tree-lined pedestrian walk along Broadway, eliminating the current parking lot facades. Among some of the new features of the new design will be an aesthetically pleasing and functional garden on a substantial portion of the upper level of the current parking lot and fronting the new building.
Despite the reduction in height by one floor, some have charged that the building is still too large for the location?
The building sits on the footprint of the existing Neptune Apartments. The new design conforms to the bowl concept of the Plaza Plan, both in guidelines and the spirit of its recommendations. The Balcony Building is uncompromised, the current streetscape enhanced and all colors, textures and architectural details are compatible and consistent with the Plaza district. Please note: we are not just copying the look some of the older buildings. Our architects are interpreting the Plaza’s great qualities in a contemporary, pleasing way. The building design – set back 170 feet from the street – takes its cues from dense European mixed-use districts. Utilizing that style, our building will have smaller multiple facades and bend to conform to the streets they address.
How will this new building impact parking and traffic?
An independent parking study has been conducted and the research found that the project will not result in the degradation of the level of traffic service at the main intersections around the building. The city has reviewed that study as well and concurs with its findings. One suggested traffic refinement, in fact, will make a considerable improvement on Broadway Avenue. The street will in effect go from being a two-lane street to a three-lane with the middle lane designated for left turns. That will improve the overall traffic flow onto West 47th Street.
Currently, there are 10 parking garages and over 6,100 parking spaces on/near the Plaza, providing plenty of parking spaces for patrons of the Plaza throughout the day. After normal business hours and weekends, except for 150 spaces, the public will have access to all of Polsinelli’s assigned parking spaces in the Neptune garage.
Is the public paying for Polsinelli’s parking?
The Neptune garage and Central garage (behind Classic Cup) are not Transportation Development District (TDD) garages. Out of the 10 garages in the Plaza district, only one (the Granada garage) is a TDD garage, which is supported by the ½ cent sales tax. Per city code, Highwoods is within the code by giving Polsinelli Shughart their allotted spaces. Highwoods is allowing the firm to lease up to 180 spaces on an as need basis in the basement of the Central garage.
What materials are being used to blend the building into the plaza?
The building is using precast to capture and enhance the existing colors and textures found on the Plaza. Where it makes sense, brick and tile accents will be incorporated. Some of the railing details from the Balcony Building will be included as well.
What role did 360 Architecture play in the redesign?
During the recent design changes to the project, 360 Architecture served as a primary design consultant to Rule Joy Trammel + Rubio of Atlanta. Together both firms worked on a new design that enhances the project and moves the Plaza experience north. Moving the building back to the north side of the site and incorporating a new art court was a key part of the design. We believe the architecture team did a great job and oriented the building so that it fits better with the plaza bowl concept.
Will this project create any new jobs?
Highwoods Properties will invest more than $58 million in this new development with zero tax incentives from the city or any other taxing jurisdictions. During the building phase – about 2 ½ years – approximately 500 new construction jobs are expected to be created. Once completed, our firm will move approximately 325 employees from the existing office on the west side of the Plaza and add approximately 175 attorneys and staff from the firm's downtown office.
Why does Polsinelli Shughart need a “new” building? Isn’t your current site on the Plaza adequate for the firm’s needs?
Polsinelli Shughart conducted a city-wide search to find a new headquarters to combine its downtown and Plaza offices into one building after a merger two years ago. The Kansas City offices of Polsinelli Shughart employ approximately 500 people including lawyers and staff. The Polsinelli law firm was one of the first law firms to locate on the Plaza in 1972 and the decision to embrace the Plaza for its new headquarters reaffirms its commitment to the Plaza, and to Kansas City, Missouri, as well as maintains the firm’s history.
When we began searching for new place to consolidate our headquarters, we wanted to accomplish four things: We wanted to remain on the Plaza, where the firm has been for nearly 40 years, to have a place that complemented the Plaza and helped it remain vibrant for years to come, to be in an energy efficient building (a sustainable LEED building), and to not have to rely on public development incentives. After listening to the input from a lot of sources over the last few months, we are pleased with the latest rendering which we think accomplishes these objectives and supports and enhances the Plaza.
(Published October 1, 2010)
Is it true that Highwoods has withdrawn its plan to build on the Plaza?
No. Highwoods has not withdrawn its plan to build on the Plaza. Highwoods is still committed to a building a LEED – certified building that will enhance the vibrancy of The Plaza.
Are there plans to revise the last publicly released rendering?
Yes. Highwoods is currently in the process of modifying the previous plan in an effort to more closely complement the architecture of the Plaza and preserve the Tower and the Balcony building. Highwoods continues to work with their architects and our architects to develop a building that considers public response and our desire to lease a building that fits the style and architecture of the Plaza while meeting the requirements of the City.
What is your reaction to the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) comments about the Highwoods building?
The current plans being developed will better comply with the Plaza Plan and better complement the architecture of the Plaza, which where two key points in the AIA memo. Our Kansas City based architects, 360 Architecture, are now working with Highwoods and their architects to assist in this process. We hope the City and the AIA have a favorable response when they consider the final proposal.
(Published August 26, 2010)
Highwoods Properties presented the second rendering to the City Council August 26. How is the updated rendering different than the first?
You will notice an immediate difference in the second rendering. We encouraged Highwoods to retain the look and feel of the 47th Street Balcony Building and to integrate the existing structure into the new office building behind the shops. As Highwoods Properties Attorney Spencer Thomson told the Council, “We listened and we are listening.” We are pleased with the changes Highwoods has made. The second rendering saves the Balcony Building and Tower, maintains trees along the streetscape and better matches the Plaza architecture. The exterior skin of the high-rise portion of the building will have a warmer tone to blend with the Plaza. In addition, the second design makes improvements to the existing parking structure to make it more attractive and maintains our plans for a LEED – certified building. The new building has a 70-foot setback which is the same as Valencia Place, the ten (10) story office building one block to the West. The setback may be difficult to discern in the two-dimensional drawing.
What is the City Council’s reaction to the second rendering?
The reaction to our second rendering was positive. The City Council asked a number of questions after the Highwoods Properties presentation, including: Was a traffic study submitted? Will there be meetings with community groups? The answer to those questions were of course, yes. Several of the City Council members and the Mayor complimented the firm on “being very good to work with” and also thanked us for “staying in Kansas City, Missouri.” Other changes to the design will be made as the process proceeds but Highwoods has committed to retain the tower and virtually all of the Balcony Building on 47th Street.
Opponents are speculating you had the second drawing all along and the only reason you submitted the first drawing was to cause such a furor that the second drawing would receive public acceptance more easily.
We’re in the business of law and serving our clients is how we spend most of our time and energy. Our focus in the first release was about a new LEED – certified building on the Plaza, which was going to be constructed without any development tax incentives, such as TIF. Highwoods is the developer of the building, but they also retain control over the buildings on 47th Street, which are not part of the building we will occupy. Designing a building and the streetscape was always a process. When we heard the reaction, Highwoods architects worked evenings and the weekend to incorporate suggested changes. There’s no conspiracy here, no “bait and switch.” This is a work in progress and we want a building that is not only going to please our clients, lawyers and staff, but also be a real benefit for the Plaza and all of the Kansas City.
(First published August 23, 2010)
What is the law firm’s reaction to what the people of Kansas City are saying?
We have heard the concerns the people of Kansas City are raising about integrating the streetscape on 47th Street. In fact, we were discussing these issues before the articles appeared in the paper. The Plaza is a gem. We want to continue to preserve the Plaza while enhancing its long term success. We have been supporting the Plaza as office tenants since 1972 and want to be part of making it vibrant for the next generation of Kansas City residents. In our excitement to announce our commitment to Kansas City and the Plaza, a preliminary rendering was released before all of the design features were finalized. These points are high on our list of discussion issues during the next few weeks.
Jack Kilroy, Jr., our vice chairman, and I grew up in the Kansas City area. We’ve raised our families here. In 2009, Shughart Thomson and Kilroy, P.C., which was founded in 1940 in Kansas City, and Polsinelli Shalton Flanigan Suelthaus PC, which was founded on the Plaza in 1972, merged to become Polsinelli Shughart PC. We serve on community and civic boards, and we contribute time and money to causes that are important to our city. Our growth and our merger makes it all the more important that our two Kansas City offices combine to better serve clients and to more effectively collaborate. While we are now a national firm now with over 500 lawyers and over 1,000 employees, our heart remains in Kansas City. We want to see our city progress and prosper. When so many companies have left the city recently and so many projects are stalled or are not meeting their initial expectations, this project will be a strong sign of the vibrancy of Kansas City by showing that companies like Highwoods are willing to invest in our city with private funds and not just public dollars.
Why didn’t you build at the West Edge site or downtown?
Several people have asked this question over the past few days. We looked very seriously at other options including the West Edge and downtown. The West Edge was part of our initial focus because we would have liked to have been part of saving that project. The architects, engineers and contractors we consulted all told us the West Edge location would take far more money to complete than originally projected. And at the end of the day, West Edge, with its irregular floors and walls and a large hole in the middle of the building, is not functional for a professional services firm. The space is better suited for a design firm or a computer data firm that uses lots of open space on each floor. I hope a tenant is found as we would like to see that project completed and used properly.
We also considered several downtown options. The existing buildings did not have sufficient space or function efficient for our use. The developers of new buildings all included some form of public development tax incentives in their plans. While we support the use of TIF and other development tools, in this environment, those funds are not unlimited and are not certain to be approved. When Highwoods proposed a green, LEED-certified, building without any developmental tax incentives, we thought selecting that building was fiscally responsible for Kansas City and environmentally responsible as well.
Since the new building will replace an apartment and some retail stores, how are the apartment tenants and the retail owners to be treated?
Highwoods had plans to build an office building on this site before they approached us. We were informed that Highwoods had already notified the tenants that their leases would not be renewed after they expire. We have been told that none of those tenants will be asked to move before their current leases expire.
The only retail shop affected has a lease that expires before any construction would begin. As you may know, retail shops at that corner of 47th and Broadway have come and gone over recent years.
What is the upside in all this?
Just like everyone else in Kansas City, we love the Plaza. I have worked on the Plaza since high school and practiced law on the Plaza for 25 years. The Plaza is not only just a great place to take out of town guests. But it also needs to drive business to help make Kansas City vibrant. We want the Plaza to be an area for economic growth. We don't want to continue to see shops close and restaurants sit vacant on the Plaza. Having 500 employees on the Plaza every day, with room for more in the building, should be a big boost to the Plaza.
Of course, keeping 500 jobs in Kansas City helps the entire city. Firm wide, nearly half our lawyers and nearly half our total employees are outside of Kansas City. This trend is continuing. Because we started our firm in Kansas City, we wanted to make sure its headquarters stayed in Kansas City. Highwoods proposed a building that would make a significant investment in Kansas City without developmental tax incentives, and we concluded this building could be the firm's headquarters for years to come.
Highwoods tells us that there will be changes to the initial preliminary renderings. Information about those changes will be released by Highwoods soon. The city’s Planning Commission will have a zoning hearing October 5 to discuss the zoning request for the project. The City Staff and officials have already been informed of this process and they undoubtedly will have comments. Public comments will also be considered.
Finally, in listening to the many comments, both positive and negative, one thing is clear - we all love Kansas City and the Plaza. While there are different views on what is best to make the Plaza continue as a gem for the city, I hope we can all reserve that decision until the final plans are available and we have time to reflect on what is needed to ensure that the Plaza is part of Kansas City for another hundred years.
For more info contact:
Public Relations Manager Heather McMichael, 816-395-0618, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Inderman, Parris Communications, 816-931-8900, email@example.com
About Polsinelli Shughart PC
With more than 500 attorneys, Polsinelli Shughart PC (www.polsinelli.com) is a national law firm that is a recognized leader in the areas of business litigation, financial services, real estate, business law, construction, life sciences, environmental and natural resources, health care, insurance coverage/bad faith, and labor and employment. Serving corporate, institutional and individual clients regionally, nationally and worldwide, Polsinelli Shughart is known for successfully applying forward-thinking strategies for both straightforward and complex legal matters. The firm has 16 offices located in Kansas City, St. Louis, Phoenix, Chicago, Denver, Washington, D.C., New York, Wilmington, Overland Park, St. Joseph, Springfield, Jefferson City, Topeka and Edwardsville.