Empire Theater Removal Debated
KANSAS CITY, MO — Kansas City Power & Light proposes to remove most of the building that once housed the Empire Theatre to build a new headquarters, according to this report from the Kansas City Star.
DST, the development firm proposes to build a 200,000-square-foot building on the block. The current plan calls for demolishing most of the Empire Theatre but saving part of the decorative facade.
The Empire, originally known as the Mainstreet, has been vacant for almost 20 years but recently other plans for the theater were proposed. The block containing the derelict theater is within the planned entertainment district (Kansas City Live) being developed by the Cordish Co. of Baltimore. That plan includes up to 425,000 square feet of entertainment-related retail, including the re-use of the Empire to house a live music venue.
The DST plan calls for saving some of the facade of the 83-year-old theater, but does not call for the old theater to be reused for entertainment purposes or a live music theatre as in the Cordish plan.
The building, unfortunately, is not listed as a local landmark or on the National Register of Historic Places so therefore, does not have protection legally from being demolished.
The developer, Larry Bridges, has in the past expressed desire to raze the Empire. He sought city backing & funds two years ago, and obtained a pre-demolition inspection permit from the city last August.
The fate of the Empire Theater has also had a keen following over the years. In 1986, actor and comedian George Burns wrote a letter on behalf of the effort to have it declared a historic landmark.
This would be a tragic loss. It’s unbelievable that the Empire has not been declared a historical landmark by now. I drive by it now and then and am amazed that some in this city can’t see it’s potential. I hope that something can be done. Thanks for keeping us up to date on this Claydoh77.
The Empire Theater will not be demolished. AMC has announced plans to spend $18 million to restore the building and convert it into a 6-screen digital theater with around 1,100 seats, and an in-house restaurant and bar. Missouri’s governor has already approved funding through Missouri’s historic tax credit program to help pay for the restoration. The restored theater will be part of the larger Power & Light entertainment district currently under construction next to the new downtown arena, the Sprint Center, and expanded convention center.
The city has purchased the Empire Theater building, and it will be turned over to Midland-Empire Partners LLC for redevelopment. AMC and Power & Light District developer, the Cordish Co. of Baltimore, are joint participants in Midland-Empire Partners. The nearby historic Midland Theater, which was already owned and operated by AMC as a live performance theater, will also be revamped as a live performance theater with restaurant and bar and residential condos in the adjacent Midland Building tower.
Both historic theaters will serve as anchors to the new Power & Light District. Kansas City also retains the nearby Folly and Lyric theaters, and the Music Hall, as live downtown performance spaces. In addition, a new live performance space, the H&R Block Theater, will be constructed in that company’s new headquarters building in the Power & Light District. An outdoor amphitheater will be also constructed on an open-air plaza adjacent to the H&R Block tower.