The 500 Grand project is generally located at the South corner of 5th & Grand in Kansas City’s River Market area, situated in the Old Town neighborhood. The four properties in the project include 500 Grand, 506 Grand, 512 Grand, and 113 E 5th St., and serve as an anchor to the corner of 5th and Grand in one of Kansas City’s most treasured commercial districts.
In dire need of redevelopment, given the derelict nature of their existence, the four buildings were purchased by Sunflower Development Group in early 2011, in partnership with iCON Architecture, LLC and iCON Fabrication, LLC. With Sunflower managing the development, iCON would become tenants at 506 and 512 Grand and, for the first time, their operations would be under one roof. iCON Architecture and iCON Fabrication provides architectural design and custom manufacturing of millwork to both the commercial and residential industry.
The structures have old tin ceilings that had been rusted out by substantial roof leaks, walls had been demolished by forklifts, interior finishing hasn’t been improved since the 1970’s, and Historic storefronts have been long removed and infilled with brick across all sections of the four properties as can be seen in the Historic photos. As with most redevelopment projects undertaken by Sunflower Development Group, it is our intention to renovate the interior and exterior in order to make the space inhabitable and leasable, meeting Kansas City building code and Historical standards.
Redevelopment plans for 506 and 512 Grand include restoring the historic character of the building by restoring the façade based on historic photographs. The interior will be updated and refreshed for a new use that complements the buildings historic use. At 500 Grand, non-historic infill on the first floor and non-historic windows on the second floor will be removed. Using historic photographs of the building, new windows and storefronts will be designed and installed. The historic configuration will be retained as well as the historic pressed tin ceilings. The structure at 113 E 5th St. was in need of major structural repair due to water damage. A new roof was installed along with new HVAC system. The space will remain a single retail/office storefront, but will have new storefront windows installed.
Highlighted in the National Register nomination for the Old Town Historic District, prepared by Rosin Preservation, LLC in April 2011, it is obvious the four parcels have considerable historical background and significance.
The two buildings that front East 5th Street (500 Grand Avenue and 113 East 5th Street) were constructed in 1927-1928 to provide commercial space for neighborhood businesses. A previous building stood on the site as early as 1896. Both buildings housed a variety of retail businesses: jewelers, barbers, tailors, restaurants, and saloons. These vendors were similar to those operating in other buildings in the immediate neighborhood.
The second floor of 500 Grand (121 1⁄2 East 5th Street) was also the headquarters of the North Side Democratic Club. Notorious Kansas City gangster Johnny Lazia founded the North Side Democratic Club in 1928. The public goal of the club was to recruit neighborhood voters to support a specific Democratic electoral slate, engineered by political boss Tom Pendergast.
He brokered deals with Al Capone to make Kansas City a boot-legging hub, and his connection to the Union Station Massacre of 1933 is suspected but not confirmed. Lazia’s genial temper, his pleasant, ready smile, and his willingness to help the local citizenry earned him the nickname “Brother John.” The funeral after his murder in 1934 was reportedly the largest ever held in Kansas City, with thousands of individuals paying their respects.
Charles Carollo, Lazia’s bodyguard and lieutenant, assumed control of the North Side Democratic Club after Lazia’s death. Carollo was sent to prison along with Tom Pendergast in 1939. In 1940 interim club president Marion Nigro formally disbanded the North Side Democratic Club in order to separate it from the criminal activities of some of its senior members. A new club, formed under a new charter, was headquartered at Admiral Boulevard and Grand Avenue. The Club was not listed in city directories in 1940. However, city directories continue to list the North Side Democratic Club at its original 5th and Grand location from 1942 through the mid-1960s.
By the mid-1970s, a few small independent businesses remained on the first floor of 500 Grand. Gooch Brake and Equipment Company accumulated the adjacent spaces as they became available, until 1980, when the company owned and occupied the entire complex of buildings.
Earlier buildings at 506 – 510 Grand housed liveries and private stables. They were replaced in 1927 by a modern automotive garage. Henry Garland operated the Garland Garage at this location from 1927 through 1942. By 1945, it was the Sloan Transfer Company.
A two-story commercial and manufacturing building was constructed at 516 Grand prior to 1896. Throughout its history the building housed a variety of businesses, including a wholesale coffee distributer, an insect powder manufacturer, and a poultry distributer. The second floor was removed in 1941.