Some projects pose more challenges than others. And turning a 100-year-old hotel, one overrun with pigeons, into a new apartment complex? That’s a big one.
City Club Apartments saw potential in the dilapidated Midwest Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. The hotel, built in 1915, was at risk of being demolished after decades of neglect. The interior was crumbling, and the massive population of pigeons that called the building home didn’t help.
What the Midwest Hotel still featured, though, was a stunning terracotta facade and good bones. BKV Group, then, devised a plan to retain the shell of the hotel. That part of the new City Club Apartments Crossroads Kansas City, which opened last year, now serves as the amenities hub of the development.
Mike Krych, senior partner with Minneapolis-based BKV Group, said that transforming the Midwest Hotel into a modern apartment building was not an easy task. BKV Group was not even allowed inside the building because of the structure’s condition. This meant that BKV Group had to design the space without having access to its interior.
“The building was in such environmentally bad shape,” Krych said. “It was in a bad state. Healthwise, it was not safe for us to be in that building during the entire time we were designing the project. The interior, then, remained a bit of a mystery for us.”
This meant that BKV Group’s designers were unable to measure the Midwest Hotel’s interior spaces. Instead, they had to rely on whatever architectural drawings they could find, drawings that were in limited supply.
“This was very challenging,” Krych said. “We were able to get some surveyed measurements from the outside. We were able to discern and get some basic measurements. But that being said, we really relied on our knowledge of existing buildings and historic buildings. Historic buildings are a big part of our portfolio, so we used that knowledge from buildings we have worked on in the past.”
By relying on their past experiences, designers were able to make assumptions about what would work and what wouldn’t.
BKV Group met these challenges. City Club Apartments Crossroads opened late last year in Kansas City’s Crossroads neighborhood. The mixed-use community combines a new seven-story building with the Midwest Hotel structure. It brought 283 new apartment units to this Kansas City neighborhood.
Amenities include a rooftop Sky Park with a pool and hot tub. There’s also a second-floor Sky Club with a theater, kitchen and lounge seating. The project’s courtyard area includes an outdoor movie theater, dog park, fire pits and a zen garden.
Other amenities include a business center, bike racks, storage lockers and fitness center.
Krych said that BKV’s designers wanted to preserve as much of the former Midwest Hotel as possible. This meant leaving portions of the building’s exterior sidewalls exposed so that those in the community’s courtyard could see how the old structure was built. BKV called for leaving most of the Midwest Hotel’s side facade exposed, too, so that it is visible from the mixed-use development’s streetside view.
Then, of course, there was the terracotta front facade. That, Krych said, had to stay.
“We made sure we kept that,” Krych said. “That was the crown jewel of that whole building and block. Being able to keep that is the nice aspect of designing the rest of the project around the former hotel.”
Krych said that preserving buildings such as the Midwest Hotel is important, especially during the construction building boom that many cities are seeing today.
“It is valuable to keep these older projects from our past,” Krych said. “It’s a way to tell the story of who came before us. People built these beautiful, nicely crafted buildings that we can’t replicate today because of their cost. To preserve them is a way to retain our collective memory of yesteryear. It’s a sustainable approach, rather than tearing them down.”