Browsing In Progress

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.


20 March, 2018 | Design, In Progress, Renovation, Workplace

New McCownGordon Construction headquarters will transform prominent corner in downtown Kansas City

McCownGordon Construction turned the first ceremonial shovel of dirt on the firm’s new downtown headquarters at 850 Main Street in downtown Kansas City this afternoon. Mayor Sly James, City Manager Troy Schulte and Kansas City Economic Development Council President, Bob Langenkamp joined McCownGordon leadership in expressing their enthusiasm for the project and its impact on downtown Kansas City.

The firm purchased the former Catholic Charities building at 850 Main in 2017 and has been working with Helix Architecture + Design, to design the new office space. Said Cherafat, “We are very intentional in how we grow and how we serve our clients and care for our associates and partners.  Our mission is to enhance the journey we are all on together so, as we outgrew our existing building, we looked for space that gave us much more room to grow, as well as a design that would embody our culture and our commitment to our Core Values of Integrity, Performance and Relationships. 850 Main and the design which Helix created for us does both.”

According to Gordon, the location, in the heart of downtown, was a primary factor in the firm’s decision to purchase 850 Main. “Since the beginning, McCownGordon has been committed to Kansas City. When it came time to find a larger home, there was no question that we would remain downtown.”  The firm moved to its current location of 422 Admiral Blvd in 2005, renovating the building, built in 1919, which housed Kansas City’s first Ford automobile dealership.

Erika Moody, principal for Helix, points to the design created for 850 Main as a truly transformational renovation. “When it is complete, this project will reinvigorate the corner of 9th and Main and be a prominent architectural addition along the streetcar line. The transparency of the design concept showcases an open, modern workplace while engaging those inside the building with the activities surrounding the structure.” The renovated building will include state-of-the-art amenities, including a comprehensive technology package, fitness center with yoga studio, expanded conference and collaboration spaces and a rooftop patio. “Our team worked closely with McCownGordon’s team to design a space that truly reflected their culture and their commitment to growth and opportunity,” added Moody.

(l to r) McCownGordon Construction’s chairman of the board, Brett Gordon and chief executive officer Ramin Cherafat speak to the crowd at the corner of 9th and Main in downtown Kansas City, MO to celebrate the company’s groundbreaking at 850 Main.

City manager, Troy Schulte, Jackson County Executive Frank White, McCownGordon chairman of the board Brett Gordon, Kansas City Mayor Sly James, McCownGordon chief executive officer Ramin Cherafat and Councilman Scott Taylor celebrated a groundbreaking for McCownGordon’s new corporate headquarters at 850 Main in downtown Kansas City, MO.

McCownGordon’s Chris Hampton operated a jackhammer to break ground on the firm’s renovation of 850 Main in downtown Kansas City, MO. When complete in early 2019, the building will house the growing construction management firm. Looking on (l to r) is City Manager Troy Schulte, KCEDC president Bob Langenkamp, McCownGordon chief executive Ramin Cherafat, Jackson County Executive Frank White and McCownGordon chairman of the board, Brett Gordon. Photos by Bob Greenspan. 


Nancy Whitworth, vice president of strategic services for McCownGordon points to the many downtown amenities such as streetcar adjacency, a covered parking garage and proximity to the Power & Light District as an exciting component of the new office location.  “We strive to deliver the best building experience in all that we do,” said Whitworth. “That includes providing our associates with the best experience as members of our team. The location of 850 Main and its relationship to the excitement and growth of downtown Kansas City is an employee benefit that we are proud to deliver.”

The project is expected to take ten months to complete with the firm moving to the new location in early 2019.


What is Your Creative Spark?

On Friday night, Helix hosted the design debut of Kansas City Young Audiences‘ new location in Midtown Kansas City. The evening featured good food, great friends and performances from the true inspiration behind the project – the talented KCYA students. These young artists filled our office with music and covered our whiteboards with murals, demonstrating first hand the impact that KCYA has had in shaping their creative spirit.

KCYA

As an organization that has an unwavering commitment to arts education, KCYA believes that every child deserves the creative spark that the arts ignite – we couldn’t agree more. For fun, we asked guests (kids and adults, alike) to share their own creative spark that inspired their passion for the arts. The responses ranged from people, to places and experiences.

“My grandma – the very best storyteller ever!”

“I played the brown cow in the first grade play and fell in love with performing”

“My father who showed me how to build, construct and schedule with Legos, then wood tree houses, then houses”

“Dancing in my underwear to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture as a toddler”

“My elementary school art teacher, who is still one of my greatest inspirations.”

“I saw the Wizard of Oz at Starlight when I was 6 and knew that I wanted to be on stage”

We are unbelievably proud that the building we are designing will help KCYA expand their programming and their reach so that they can nurture the creative spark in even more children throughout Kansas City.

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KCYA  purchased and will be renovating the building at 3732 Main Street in the heart of Midtown Kansas City to be the organization’s first permanent home in its 55 years in operation. The building’s location offers increased visibility, a central location for youths across the metro and the opportunity to build upon the continued revitalization happening along Main Street.

“Our new location will enable us to further our mission of providing transformational arts experiences to children from across the city, particularly children in the urban community” said Qiana Thomason, KCYA Board President.

Design

The design for the 18,000 sq. ft. space was on display for guests at Friday’s event. It features a flexible interior environment that will serve the educational, workplace, event and performance functions of the organization. The new space will include dance studios, a multi-purpose classroom for art and theatre classes, a mixed-use performance and event space as well as offices for the staff.

“Purchasing a new home for KCYA is very exciting, but more importantly this new home will allow us to engage more children in the arts, providing them with opportunities to discover new ways of seeing things and expressing themselves. We are looking forward to the day when our home is filled with children singing, dancing, acting, drawing and creating,” said Martin English, KCYA Executive Director.

kcya

Construction is anticipated to begin in July and KCYA will move into the new space by the end of 2016. The first acting, dance and music classes will begin in early 2017.  McCown Gordon Construction is providing construction management services.

The Kansas City Star and KCUR recently published great articles on the project and we look forward to sharing updates on this transformative project as it moves forward.

More information on KCYA and their mission to engage all youth in the arts, promote creativity, and inspire success in education can be found on their website.


Boulevard Brewing Announces New Visitor Center

Helix could not be more thrilled to share the news that we are working with Boulevard Brewing Co. on the design of their new Visitor Center. “We’re honored by the chance to work with one of Kansas City’s most cherished companies,” said Jay Tomlinson, principal with Helix.

Boulevard Brewery Visitor Center Rendering

When Boulevard opened its doors in 1989 it began welcoming those interested in touring its brewery and tasting its beers. For years the company offered just one tour a week, often attracting 15 or 20 people. As the company grew in size and stature, so did demand for its tours, recently ranked by national publications as among the best in the country. In 2015, Boulevard hosted almost 60,000 visitors on some 2,300 tours, turning away thousands more due to lack of space. “People tell me it’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem,” said Jeff Krum, Boulevard’s vice president of corporate affairs. “Now we think we’ve found a solution.”

As the company announced in a press release this morning, they recently acquired a four-story building at 2534 Madison, immediately adjacent to the brewery campus. The two lower levels of the red brick structure, built for the Skelly Oil Company in 1929, are being converted into a spacious visitor center. The first floor will consist of an “Experience” area with exhibits about beer and Boulevard, an expanded retail shop and a much larger tasting room. The 10,000 square foot second floor will be devoted to a Beer Hall featuring the brewery’s beers and offering a limited selection of food.

Boulevard Brewery Visitor Center Entry Rendering

“It’s humbling to see lines of people waiting for a chance to tour the brewery, and we’re proud of what we’ve done with limited space,” said Amber Ayres, Boulevard’s Director of Tours and Recreation. “But we’re really excited by this opportunity to re-imagine and radically enhance the experience. We hope it will become a destination for locals and visitors alike.”

The Helix team has been working closely with Boulevard to bring their vision to life. “The Boulevard team has an amazing vision for the experience they want to create,” said Alissa Wehmueller, director of interiors for Helix. “There’s a true sense of excitement and pride throughout our office that we have the opportunity to help create such a special spot for KC.”

Boulevard anticipates a grand opening by the end of June. More details will be posted on the company’s website as they become available.

Special thanks to our Helix team members that have been working to make this project a reality – Erin Stork for her talent in creating places that people love to gather, Cale Sadowski for his diligence in seeing every detail through completion and Annie Nutsch for our beautiful renderings.

We can’t wait to share that first “cheers” from the new space overlooking the brewery and our favorite city!


1515 Walnut: Sustainable Urban Living

For the past 30 years, Helix co-founder Jay Tomlinson has made a tremendous impact on the revival of Downtown Kansas City. As an architect, Jay has salvaged, restored, renovated, and reconstructed over 50 buildings in the Downtown and Crossroads neighborhoods. Many of these structures exist as cultural icons within the cityscape. Community staples like the Mainstreet Theatre, the Midland Theatre, the College Basketball Experience, and Webster House, just to name a few, have helped to rejuvenate the urban core and attract visitors as well as locals to the area.

At 1515, Jay’s first personal development seeks to infuse the area with one crucial component, the people necessary to support and sustain the existing dynamic scene that is Downtown Kansas City. The redevelopment of the historic building will include two retail office unites on the first level, six urban lofts on the second level, a third story penthouse addition for him and his wife Leslie. The project will be net zero with all electrical needs being met by a solar array installed on the rooftop.

With all that he has put into Kansas City professionally, it’s only natural that he and his wife would continue support the growth of the urban core in their personal endeavors. Living in the heart of the city supports the cultural, economic and community development that continues to revitalize the area.

For more information on the project, please follow the links below:

KC Business Journal: Pia Abatement
KC Star: Housing Redevelopment Projects

Open PhotoJay and Leslie Tomlinson “Urban Pioneers” in front of 1515 Walnut. Jay and Leslie Tomlinson “Urban Pioneers” in front of 1515 Walnut.
Open PhotoRendering of the renovated residence. Rendering of the renovated residence.

5 November, 2012 | In Progress, Random peek into Helix

Helix Under Construction

 

We have been sprucing up at Helix:

Carter Glass has installed Skyline Vitracolor Magnetic glass in our conference rooms and replaced the red glass on our lovely Red Tables.

Other improvements include the sound control gypsum board ceiling systems and the Decoustics acoustical ceiling clouds installed in our two conference rooms by E&K Construction.

These are spaces that we use everyday for meetings, presentations, discussions and lunches – the updates are designed to allow us to use them to their full potential.

Finished photos coming soon!


KCPD East Patrol Campus

The Kansas City Police Department East Patrol division is committed to having a positive influence on the community starting from the design of their new campus. The East Patrol Campus—comprised of a police station, a multi-purpose building, a crime lab, and a property and evidence repository—will be located on 27th and Prospect, right in the middle of where they currently receive the most calls for service.

Project officials have specifically sought out Section 3 businesses to work with and the project will provide employment and training opportunities for low income residents during the estimated 24 months of construction. The whole design and decision making process has been made accessible and transparent to the community through public meetings, the East Patrol website, and the bimonthly newsletter. These resources are a wonderful way to see how, where, and why your tax dollars are being spent. They also serve to showcase the design process at Helix and demonstrate how every design decision, from location to design partnership to material usage, is made consciously.



Helix Annual Summer Staff Meeting

Recently, the Helix staff took a break from the office for the afternoon and traveled to the east side of Kansas City.  While typically the primary purpose for an annual meeting is to update staff on the status of the company, this outing was so much more.

After a delicious southern style lunch at Papa Lew’s, the staff viewed 3 project sites.  The first was the Kansas City University of Medicine and Bio-sciences Campus which is working with Helix to develop a new master plan for the future direction of the school.  The second, Highland Place Apartments offer a refresh to housing options in a neighborhood that has seen neglect in the past.  Finally, Helix viewed the future site of the East Police Patrol Campus.  The project will consist of a state-of-the-art Crime Lab, and will be situated 27th & Prospect, the heart of a neighborhood with one of the highest crime rates in the nation.

After this introduction to the area, the Helix staff settled in at the historic Mutual Musicians Foundation where Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and Police Commissioner Alvin Brooks spoke about the history of the East Side and the 27th & Prospect neighborhood.

Reeves Weideman and Commissioner Brooks

Following a brief update on the status of Helix itself, staffers were able to enjoy the Piano styling of Kansas City Jazz Legend Luqman Hamza, who, at 80 years old, also shared a few of his experiences and thoughts about the East Side.

Luqman Hamza, Jazz Legend

From there, the staff ventured to 18th and vine to experience the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum, and finish the day with a drink at the at the 9th Inning Sports Bar.  Overall, the annual summer meeting offered the staff a glimpse into an often overlooked cultural center.

Jason Parson and Congressman Cleaver

Thank you to Jason Parson of Parson & Associates (Grandson of the great Jay McShann) for organizing such an amazing and enlightening afternoon.  Helix is thrilled to be a part of a community with such a rich history and promising future.

Helix Staff

Videographer: Ernes Echols

Photographer: Lynn Hinkle


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