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KC explosion damages problem-plagued development

KC explosion damages problem-plagued development

May 5th, 2013 in News

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Developers hope to wrap up work on a problem-plagued downtown Kansas City project on time, even after the deadly natural gas explosion at a popular restaurant caused millions of dollars in damage.

The Plaza Vista Office Tower was well on its way to completion when the Feb. 19 blast at JJ's restaurant killed a server and injured more than a dozen people. The 10-story Plaza Vista building's roof had to be replaced after embers from a raging fire rained down on it, and many windows and glass panels also will have to be swapped out, The Kansas City Star ( reported.

The explosion was the latest in a series of problems that have dogged the development. Ground was broken in late 2005 in the Plaza Vista spot on a building designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie to serve as the home to the Bernstein-Rein advertising agency. During blasting to excavate the West Edge project's underground garage in 2006, a JJ's waiter was injured by flying rock. By 2008, construction had stalled.

Advertising mogul Bob Bernstein sought the unique architecture, but few other possible tenants did. The failed project cost Bernstein at least $20 million and lenders almost $100 million.

Most of the partially finished Safdie-designed building was demolished and replaced it with a more traditional structure.

Inspections and work with insurers continues, but Dave Harrison, vice president of VanTrust Real Estate, said he still hopes to meet a Nov. 1 deadline for the Polsinelli law firm to be inside.

"From a building and structural standpoint, it could have been a lot worse when you think of the impact and how close it was," Harrison said. "At first blush, when we saw the fire in the distance, we wondered, "Oh my God, what happened to the building?"'

W. Russell Welsh, chairman and chief executive of Polsinelli, also was optimistic, noting that crews were "working fast and furious on the interior while they're working on the outside."