Two Helix projects receive recognition for Historic Preservation

This week we celebrated the recognition of two deserving projects for their work in historic preservation. The Historic Kansas City Annual Preservation Awards and Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation’s 2018 Statewide Honor Awards both took place this week. Our clients Copaken Brooks, 3D Development and Gold Crown Properties were among those honored for their reinvestment in significant Kansas City landmark buildings. On Wednesday at the Historic Kansas City Preservation Awards, East 9 at Pickwick Plaza received excellence awards in Best Adaptive Re-Use and Neighborhood Stabilization, while the Corrigan Building renovation received a merit award in Best Adaptive Reuse. This morning, the East 9 at Pickwick Plaza received a Preserve Missouri Award from Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation.

Preserving these monumental buildings retains an important piece of Kansas City’s history while positioning them for use by future generations. It was a honor to work alongside the leaders at each of these organizations to breathe new life into these historic structures. Helix was also fortunate to have worked with the talented team at Rosin Preservation for both of these clients. A persistent advocate for preservation, these projects benefited greatly from Rosin’s expertise and guidance.

Corrigan Building

The Corrigan Building was built in 1921 and is the tallest office tower in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District. The Gateway Station Post Office historically anchored the first floor while the famous dressmaker, Donnelly Garment Company, occupied the upper floors. Since the time of its construction, the ten-story Corrigan Building has stood out in its setting, surrounded by low and mid-rise commercial and industrial buildings. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, the building suffered from low occupancy and a slow decline when larger trends shifted development towards the suburbs after World War II.

Spurred by construction of the Kansas City streetcar line, a joint venture between Copaken Brooks and 3D Development renovated the building into new offices with street level restaurant and retail space. Thoughtful design transformed the historic industrial spaces while retaining and reusing the building’s character-defining features to enhance the new uses. The building’s open floorplates morphed easily into communal and flexible office space for multi-floor and single-floor tenants, including the international co-working leader, WeWork. The rehab replaced non-historic windows with new windows that matched the multi-light industrial design of the original windows, which provide generous daylighting for interior spaces. New rooftop tenant amenity spaces took advantage of the historic elevator penthouse to capture views of downtown and the surrounding area.  

Photography: WeWork


The developers identified an appropriate use that revitalized a significant building in the Crossroads district, ensuring its continued use and creating synergy with the emerging streetcar transportation corridor. Fully leased at completion, the project successfully retained the exterior appearance and creatively used the historically open floorplates to create a catalyst for additional development in the Crossroads Arts District.

In addition to renovating the existing 123,000-sq,-ft. structure, Helix is designing 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 with Class A office space on the second and third floors. An event space will be added on the rooftop to serve building tenants.

East 9 at Pickwick Plaza

The historic Pickwick Plaza, built in 1930, is a landmark of downtown Kansas City and an early example of a mixed-use urban center. The massive 360,000 square-foot complex occupies three-quarters of a city block on the eastern edge of Kansas City’s business district.  The array of uses housed by the complex made it a destination in downtown Kansas City. These uses included offices, a hotel, a parking garage, a regional bus terminal, ground-level retail storefronts, a restaurant, and a radio studio. The hotel was famously a frequent retreat of President Harry S. Truman during the 1950’s. Shortly after the bus terminal and office block closed, the hotel was re-configured into low-income housing in 1972. It was later closed and abandoned as well. The historic structure sat vacant and dilapidated for many years before Gold Crown Properties began their decade-long effort to rehabilitate the historic complex in 2008.

Using a detailed model created from historic documents, the adaptive re-use converted the building into 260 apartment units with minimal changes to the historic character-defining features. Special care was given to retain the Art Deco styling on the exterior, to install historically appropriate windows, and to restore the iconic clocktower that rises above the bus terminal. An intrusive mezzanine was removed, allowing the project to recapture the historic two-story height of the lobby and to refurbish the high quality original finishes (terrazzo floors, marble columns, and plaster details on walls and ceilings). Reactivating retail space on three sides of the building at street level has brought pedestrian activity to the street, while reestablishing the historic complex as a mixed-use destination.

The developers overcame significant obstacles, including the Great Recession of 2008, on their nearly ten-year journey to bring this grand building back to life. In 2010, Gold Crown Properties bought the hotel, which had been Section 8 housing through the 1990s, and bus terminal, of which had been vacant for 60 years. It took another five years to acquire the property’s separately-owned north tower and garage before construction could begin. In addition to addressing the deteriorated condition of the complex, the developers faced challenges financing the extended project. Combining local incentives with federal and state historic tax credits helped bring the $66 million rehab project to its successful completion. The rehabilitated mixed-use building is fully occupied and providing a catalyst for revitalization in the eastern portion of downtown Kansas City.


Both of these projects stem from early leaders in Kansas City’s rich development history. Thanks to the investment of our clients, people will continue to experience their beauty, craftsmanship and iconic presence in our community for years to come. 

Photography by Bob Greenspan, unless otherwise noted.

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