19 June, 2018 | Art, Community, New Construction

Artwork Integrates Community into KCPD Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

How do you translate traditional quilt-work into a building facade? Collaborating with renowned fabric artist Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin was one of the most rewarding aspects of our work at the KCPD Leon Mercer Jordan Campus, home of the East Patrol and Regional Crime Lab.

As part of KC’s long-standing One Percent for Art Program, and the larger goal of creating a police station where the neighboring community felt welcome, the Helix team collaborated with Sonie to design and install an architectural interpretation of her African American quilt-work. From here, Community Dignity and iNeema were created.

Community Dignity represents the connection between the police and the neighboring community, measuring 30-feet by 16.5-feet. While iNeema, meaning Grace in Swahili, offers a message of inner peace, measuring at 42-feet by 11-feet.

Once the final designs were selected, our design team began translating Sonié’s concepts in architectural terms, in this case glazed brick. Our team then developed construction documents, which were later used by masons to build each quilt pattern. These brick and mortar quilts are prominently displayed at the entrances of both the police station and crime lab, connecting the police to the community they serve each day.

Completed project photography by Aaron Dougherty.

Corrigan Building Renovation Receives LEED Silver Designation from USGBC

The renovation of the historic Corrigan Building recently achieved the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. Helix worked closely with co-developers Copaken Brooks and 3D Development to develop a design that preserves the historic character of the building while achieving their goals for a sustainability. The renovation of the Corrigan Building was the first phase of the larger Corrigan Station development.

The Corrigan Building was built in 1921 and is located prominently along the new Kansas City streetcar line at 19th & Walnut. The 10-story, 123,000-sq,-ft. building  houses nine stories of office space with one story of ground level retail. The client’s vision of rehabilitating this nearly 100-year-old building into modern, flexible workspace has resulted in a 100% leased building at completion, attracting tenants such as WeWork, Hollis & Miller and Holmes Murphy.

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is an ecology-oriented building certification program, concentrating its efforts on improving performance across five key areas of environmental and human health: energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials selection, sustainable site development and water savings.

In addition to maintaining and reusing 97.8% of the existing structure and envelope the renovation also reduced CO2 emissions by 41%, reduced water usage by 24.3% and reduced overall building energy usage by 35%, all over a baseline model. Additional sustainability features include: integration of an efficient VRF (variable refrigerant flow) HVAC system, low-flow plumbing fixtures, daylighting and efficient all LED lighting and a solar panel array canopy on the roof.

“Corrigan Station’s LEED certification demonstrates tremendous green building leadership,” said Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC president and CEO. “The urgency of USGBC’s mission has challenged the industry to move faster and reach further than ever before, and Corrigan Station serves as a prime example with just how much we can accomplish.”

Construction is currently underway on Corrigan Station Phase II, also designed by Helix. Phase II includes an adjacent three-story structure at the corner of 19th and Main Street that provides additional retail space and covered parking on the first floor and office space on the second and third floors.

Helix had an incredible team of partners on the project — Straub Construction, Rosin Preservation, Lankford Fendler, PMA Engineering, SK Design Group and Vireo — that were instrumental to successfully delivering on the success of this large project. Congratulations to our clients on the revitalization of this historic gem and successful LEED Silver certification.

Photography by Bob Greenspan.

Kansas City University Breaks Ground on New Center for Medical Education Innovation

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCU), one of the top 10 educators of physicians in the U.S., broke ground this morning on a new state-of-the-art Center for Medical Education Innovation (CMEI). Designed through a partnership between Helix Architecture + Design and CO Architects, the 56,000-square-foot facility will provide the latest in virtual reality, haptic technology and simulated clinical experiences for educating the next generation of physicians and health sciences professionals.

The $33 million facility will be built on four levels and will feature multifunctional “future-proof” space that will allow for changes and emerging technologies in the coming years. It will also serve as a resource for students and health care professionals throughout the region, offering opportunities for continuing medical education, inter-professional education and active research in academic collaboration.

The building will feature standardized patient rooms (where trained actors play the role of patients), high-fidelity simulation rooms (where medical robots display a variety of disease processes), a skills simulation deck that utilizes the latest in virtual reality and haptic technologies, and a simulation command center. It will also include nearly 13,000 square feet of classroom space and an advanced physical diagnosis and Osteopathic Manipulation Medicine.

“The CMEI will be much more than a building. It will redefine our campus, our neighborhood and the Kansas City medical community, just as the Center’s latest technology will redefine medical education,” commented Marc B. Hahn, DO, president and CEO of KCU. “Our students will have the opportunity to practice over and over in virtual scenarios until they are confident and prepared when it comes time to treat actual patients, thus reducing medical errors and improving health outcomes for the communities we serve.”

The University has collaborated with the city of Kansas City, Missouri, to build the CMEI center adjacent to the Paseo Gateway project, which will reconfigure the intersection of The Paseo and Independence Avenue to improve safety and traffic flow, as well as reestablish a grand entrance to the Northeast neighborhood.

The construction of the Center for Medical Education Innovation is possible in part because of a $1 million challenge grant from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation, a $1 million grant from William T. Kemper Foundation, and lead gifts from Sunderland Foundation, J. E. Dunn Construction Company, Victor E. Speas Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee, and Jack and Glenna Wylie Foundation. JE Dunn will serve as the general contractor for construction.

We are thrilled to continue our work with Kansas City University and our design partners at CO Architects to create a facility that puts the university on the forefront of health education.

Virtual tours are available online of the forum, simulation deck, standardized patient lounge and OMM loft.

16 May, 2018 | Design, New Construction

New Healthcare Concept Reimagines Patient Care in Kansas City

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC)  recently launched a new, innovative offering, Spira Care, which combines health insurance with a primary care experience. The first of its kind in the Kansas City market, Spira Care Centers, were designed to create an atmosphere of hospitality, while providing easy access to comprehensive primary care services for members, such as routine preventative care, behavioral health services, lab draws, X-rays and more, with no additional cost for procedures received at the Care Centers.

Spira Care started as an exploratory research and innovation project in early 2016. When asked about the genesis of the project, Jason Spacek, Blue KC Chief Innovation Officer shared with Forbes:

“We started with a very simple premise, ‘what if we could start all over as a health insurer?’ We looked at the complexities of the industry and the multiple parties involved and began to explore whether a “fresh start” could be a viable option. As we thought about this notion of ‘starting fresh,’ we initially focused our attention on the Millennial segment, as they were coming of age as the future consumers of healthcare. We thought that their needs and wants should be our focus if we were truly going to entertain the idea of beginning anew.”Blue KC used ethnography, focus groups and qualitative research to create a plan for Spira Care. Through the process, they identified six, key “design sprints,” like arrival, check-in and seeing the doctor. Using the data collected, Helix collaborated with Blue KC, integrated marketing agency, Barkley,  and healthcare architecture firm, Pulse Design Group to reimagine the patient experience. The project team also worked closely with customers, incorporating their feedback and using it to create the foundation of the Care Centers’ design.

In less than 24 months, those ideas have been translated into working Care Centers. The entry features bold welcoming graphics, a large bar-height reception, soft-seating lounge and coffee bar. Member experience and comfort were central to the design of the exam rooms, which include built-in bench seating and a small consultation area to discuss care with your provider. To truly welcome guests, the design team used materials and furniture not typically found in healthcare facilities.

Care Guide rooms, which are used for post-appointment conversations with a knowledgeable member of the Care Team, allow patients to coordinate further care, understand costs or review plan benefits. Other key spaces include provider and administrative workspace, conference and break rooms, and clinical support areas.

The first Spira Care Center opened in January 2018 with three more to follow by the end of the year. Photography by Michael Robinson.

8 May, 2018 | Hospitality, Renovation

The Sundry Shares Sustainable Vision with Local Entrepreneurs

The Sundry  recently opened the doors to its new, 3,300-square-foot home in the annex building at Westport Commons, one of Kansas City’s latest co-working spaces. The Sundry owner, Ryan Wing selected the location for its proximity to like-minded entrepreneurs and partnerships that can help them expand their business.

As Wing shared with Startland News:

“Our goal is to scale up the availability of sustainable and local food, so that means we need to work with a lot of partners to make it happen. The more people you get in the space together, the more ideas enter the door.”

Having designed The Sundry’s original location in the Crossroads, Helix Architecture + Design was asked to lead the design of their new location. A local gathering space, The Sundry sells groceries, food and drinks to those working in the building as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. At The Sundry, guests have access to a full coffee and cocktail bar perfect for meetings or unwinding with friends. They can also take advantage of made-from-scratch, prepared meals at the on-site market.

The focal point in the new space is a open kitchen and bar, reflecting the company’s vision of transparency and commitment to local, sustainable food. Custom shelves suspended over the cooking area provide additional storage and allow guests to see ingredients on display. A large bar, traditional tables and lounge area offer seating for 100. To gain additional seating, Helix designed a lofted area above the private dining room.

In addition to serving restaurant goers, The Sundry has expanded their offerings with the new space. With direct access to a wide-range of entrepreneurs, they have already seen an increase in catering business and are planning future partnerships with other organizations housed within Westport Commons.

History of the Boley Building

Ten years ago, Andrews McMeel Universal (AMU), an international media and entertainment company, completed the renovation of the historically significant Boley building in the heart of Kansas City’s downtown for its new corporate headquarters. Needing additional space for their 200 plus employees, AMU incorporated the abandoned post-modern food court in the adjacent town center office building. The two opposing architectural environments became the challenge and inspiration for the workplace design, modern with a twist.

The six-story building was designed by acclaimed Kansas City architect Louis Curtiss and is one of the first buildings in the world to utilize a glass curtain wall system. At the time of completion in 1909, the curtain wall was an extraordinary structural design, and was not well-received aesthetically. Originally occupied by the clothing store Charles N. Boley, the building’s facade anticipated the future and popularity of curtain walls by 40 years.

In renovating the building, Helix developed a solution reflective of the whimsical and creative nature of AMU’s employees and the significant contributions the company has made to our culture through icons as Doonesbury, Ziggy and Cathy. Designed to stimulate synergy and inspire creativity, the contemporary, light-filled volume with its multi-story grand stair, expansive skylights and ground floor café, resonates with the energy of a company looking to the future while respecting its past.

The open office environment provides a variety of seating options, including lounges for small-group work. Touchdown meeting spaces off of elevator lobbies allows for quick and spontaneous conversation. Monitors provide opportunities to announce guests, upcoming events, and the latest weather and news. A large kitchen on the first floor is a favorite gathering place for employees, and it can also be used for larger community events.

Conference rooms provide technology infrastructure for meetings and group work. These rooms take advantage of the natural daylight that pours in through the skylight in the former food court.

Open workstations allow for easy collaboration. Custom shelving was designed to house AMU’s artwork and products. Marker and magnetic boards were accented with color to encourage self-expression and showcase employee creativity.

A central stair was introduced to promote synergy and well-being among company employees. The stair is wrapped in stretched fabric to allow daylight in, and it and utilizes LED lighting to represent the energy within.

Materials, color and furniture were chosen to tie together classic, elegant design with fun and play. We used bold colors to represent the playfulness of AMU’s work, as well as each business group encompassed within the company. The custom graphic wall-covering in coffee bars features bright colors and symbols of typography to represent the print side of the business. We also used wool fabrics – classic, long-wearing material in the same bold colors – on classic Knoll furniture pieces and wood (walnut) to represent the warmth and strength of organization.

AMU was recently featured in the Kansas City Business Journal for increasing net income by 40% in 2017. We’re delighted to see that ten years later, their headquarters is still serving AMU and their workforce well.

26 April, 2018 | Design, Workplace

Fast-Growing, Digital Agency’s New Headquarters Designed to Evolve

DEG, a full-service, digital agency, is one of the fastest growing digital marketing firms in the country. They had already outgrown their Corporate Woods headquarters, and with plans to double in size over the next five years, they needed a space that could serve them well into the future. DEG hired Helix to design a new home that could adapt alongside their industry and accommodate the continued growth of their company.

As an organization, DEG is constantly evolving, and they were looking for a workspace that would perform in the same way.

“What is different about DEG is we are fully committed to the idea that we will anticipate change, not just react to it,” CEO and co-founder Neal Sharma said in a recent interview with the Kansas City Business Journal. “The idea is that evolution is our middle name, and we are building the company’s culture to be one that anticipates and embraces change and expects it.”

Over the years, DEG has maintained an employee retention rate north of 90 percent, so every design decision was made with their team in mind. Their new, 30,000-sq.-ft. space, located on the fifth and sixth floors of 6601 College Boulevard in Overland Park, has a mix of private office and open workstations. Organized by team, each section offers internal conference rooms, called scrum rooms, as well as quiet solo rooms where employees can take a phone call or do focused work. The wide range of seating options, including task chairs, benches, stools, soft seating, rocking chairs or treadmill workstations, allows employees to work when and where they will be most comfortable and effective throughout the day. The lobby features a Brew Bar, stocked with coffee and beers, along with an open cafe that can be used for dining, socializing or a place to plug in and work.

In alignment with their position as a full-service digital agency, technology was used purposefully throughout the space to showcase their work. The main lobby display can be customized to each client coming into their office, and a social media command center that spans six screens displays all of the metrics they are tracking. The theater also has nine, bezel-less screens that can be used independently or as one large screen for client presentations. To make technology accessible and easy to use, every TV is paired with a custom built box that houses every cord, cable or adapter that someone might need for a presentation. The high-tech environment is balanced by low-tech solutions that add warmth and approachability to the environment. Felt wraps around the exterior L-shaped walls of the scrum rooms and can be utilized for pin up presentations, employee artwork or as an opportunity to present large format brand ideas to clients.

In anticipation of future growth, Helix developed a floor plan that would allow DEG to maintain a consistent design as they expanded beyond the fifth and sixth floors. The workstations, internal conference rooms and other key components are laid out in the same manner on each floor, providing continuity of wayfinding. In order to make each floor feel special and encourage movement between floors, there is a unique amenity space on each, such as the brew bar and lounge on the sixth floor and a staff cafe on the fifth floor.  

True to their name and mission, Helix and DEG are already working together to build-out the fourth floor. With a strong, flexible concept in place, their new building will grow with them for years to come.  

You can learn more about how DEG helps clients meet their business objectives through the creative application of technology at www.degdigital.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

19 April, 2018 | Design, Hospitality

Caffetteria: Creating a New Hospitality Experience From Concept to Opening

The daughter of local restaurateurs, Jo Marie Scaglia, spent Sundays gathered around the table. Raised in a large, Italian family, she developed an appreciation for the connection between great food and community. While her time spent in San Francisco gave rise to her first venture, The Mixx, it was family tradition that inspired Caffetteria.

“I’ve had this concept in my head for years – probably ever since my childhood, when my mom would feed family, friends and neighbors every Sunday at a communal table where everyone could taste the love she wove into her delicious, multi-course meals. That’s Caffetteria to me,” Scaglia shared with Feast Magazine.

Jo Marie enlisted Helix Architecture + Design to create a space that embodies her love of Italian tradition, European cafes and a passion for serving real ingredients in thoughtful and inventive dishes.

Colorful and casual, the interior of the restaurant draws inspiration from Italy in the 50’s and 60’s. The mod design concept permeates every detail, from brightly colored doors and mid-century modern wallpaper to the pink banquette and brass finishes. The 4,600-square-foot space seats 100 and offers casual dining, as well as grab-and-go options – perfect for family dinners.   

Designed to evoke the feeling of home, a large, open kitchen is at the heart of Caffetteria, drawing guests into the space and the food preparation process. Functional needs were addressed with beautiful detail. Wrap-shelving, custom fabricated from brass and glass,  provides additional storage. Ceramic tile playfully spells out the restaurant name on the pizza oven.

At the entry, diners are greeted by a large counter with space to order, ready-to-go meals and an enticing pastry display. A variety of seating options are offered to accommodate patrons that are staying for a meal, popping in for a coffee or picking up a meal to go. The back of the restaurant provides access to patio seating and houses a private dining area, which seats 12 and features custom pivoting panel doors.

Located in the former home of Bruce Smith Drugs in The Shops of Prairie Village, the restaurant opened on March 14th to rave reviews – Feast Magazine called it “unbelievably stylish.”

Creating a new hospitality concept from start to finish takes a team of creative partners.  Fire Engine Design Studio designed the logo, while DMH managed the restaurant’s paid media, social and grand opening strategy and design. JCB Projects provided restaurant consulting on the endeavor. Together, we were able to bring Jo Marie’s vision to life and create a unified look for this fresh concept both in and out of the restaurant.

Professional photography by William Hess.


From Burlesque to Bulldozers: The History of Kansas City’s Folly Theater

The Folly Theater, Kansas City’s oldest standing theater, recently kicked off fundraising and plans to renovate their lobby and Shareholders lounge. In order to completely upgrade the theater’s hospitality experience, the Helix design team is re-opening the original connection between the second floor lounge and the lobby below, as well as reconfiguring the lobby to improve patrons’ flow throughout the space.

Original Standard Theater and program circa 1901.

Although Helix has renovated several of Kansas City’s historical theaters, the Folly’s history is unique among its peers. Opened in September 1900 as the Standard Theater, the venue first opened featuring Vaudeville. This entertainment genre was incredibly popular at the turn of the century and can be likened to an early version of a variety show, often featuring several acts including musicians, trained animals, comedians, acrobats, one-act plays and burlesque. The $250,000 building was designed by Kansas City architect Louis S. Curtiss (who is also known for his work on the Boley Building, home of Helix client Andrews McMeel Universal). A year after Standard Theater opened, the nearby Coates Opera House caught fire, and all opera and comedic opera performances were relocated to the theater, under its new name – Century Theater.

From top left, going clockwise: Architect Louis S. Curtiss, original architectural drawings, various vaudeville performance examples.

By 1922, vaudeville popularity had declined and the theater was closed, only to be re-opened the following year by the Shubert Brothers. The Schubert family is responsible for the establishment of the Broadway district in New York City and by 1924 they owned eighty-six theaters in the United States. Re-named (again) Shuberts Missouri, the new owners hired architect Herbert Krapp to renovate the balconies, reinforcing the wood structure with concrete, and began featuring theater productions throughout the mid 1920’s. Acts included The Marx Brothers, Shakespeare and O’Neill plays. The Shuberts subleased the space in 1928 to a burlesque troupe and in 1932 the theater was again closed.

From top, going clockwise: The Folly Theater circa 1941, a movie poster for the 1962 film Gypsy, the real Gypsy Rose Lee performs on stage.

The Folly Theater was born in 1941, and featured burlesque through two decades. Iconic burlesque dancer and entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee, whose memoirs were the basis for the stage musical and film Gypsy, is said to have taken the stage for the first time at the Folly. In 1958, ownership introduced movies to burlesque stage shows.

Finally in 1973 the theater closed and was slated for demolition. At this time, a local group of historic preservationist activists formed a non-profit, Performing Arts Foundation (PAC), led by Joan Dillon and William Deramus III. The group successfully saved the theater, with the City Council passing a demolition delay ordinance in March 1973. The theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places the following year and purchased by PAC.

Images of the Folly Theater during renovations during the 1980’s and various members of PAC.

For nearly ten years, the theater underwent extensive renovations, including considerable cleaning efforts, plaster repair, window restoration, roof repair, new M/E/P, updated HVAC systems and the addition of a new wing. The theater re-opened in 1981 with a staff of eight, featuring the comedy “Room Service.” Since the grand rehabilitation of this historic gem, the Folly has gained a reputation in town for their niche market. The acoustics inside the theater have been compared to Carnegie Hall, attracting musical acts from blues bands to chamber ensembles.

New renderings of the downstairs lobby and upstairs Shareholders lounge, provided by Helix.

As the Folly embarks on this latest renovation, the Helix design concept aligns with the character and history of the original structure. The project is the centerpiece of a $1.55 million campaign, which has already made major strides with a $775,000 donation from the Kemper Foundation.

The design revitalizes the lobby and shareholders lounge through finishes, furniture and lighting, while dramatically improving the functionality. A new curved bar area and ticket counter will be the highlight of the first-floor space. The curves of the bar, inspired by design details in the original lobby and theatre, will extend upward in the curvature of the columns. New floor tile, reminiscent of the early 1900’s, will continue into the original lobby, tying both spaces together seamlessly. The updated layout of the ticket counter, bar and lobby restrooms will allow patrons to flow through the space more comfortably. A new stair will invite guests to visit the second-floor lounge both before and after the show. Similarly, the addition of an elevator will allow this space to be easily shared by everyone. Lastly, the addition of a small kitchen on the second floor will allow for events to be catered more easily.

We’re thrilled to be working with such a fantastic client on such a beautiful piece of Kansas City’s rich and colorful history. Head over to Folly Theater’s website to view their list of upcoming events.

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