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.