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Lambi offered KKFI a space at 3901 Main, what is commonly known as the bank building. Patterson says Lambi made an effort to create a functional space that KKFI could afford. "Brent really met all their needs," Patterson says, adding that before he had a signed lease in hand, Lambi began working on the KKFI radio-tower sign that now hangs from the bank building's second story.
Lambi also rents office space to the Main Street Corridor Development Corporation. MainCor uses one of Lambi's buildings as a base for its team of street sweepers and "awareness officers." In a letter that accompanied Lambi's application to the city for what are called new-market tax credits, MainCor Executive Director Diane Burnette called Lambi "a man of determination and vision."
Lambi's reach extended beyond midtown. Last summer, he made a $10,000 donation enabling the Kansas City Police Department to buy training equipment for the SWAT unit.
But at some point, people in midtown began to question Lambi's state of mind.
The old Starbucks remains vacant.
Lambi did manage to place a tenant in the storefront adjacent to the former Starbucks location. Blanc Burgers + Bottles quickly built a following, but then Blanc's owners jumped at an opportunity to move to the Country Club Plaza, where they reopened in February of this year.
Lambi also didn't have much luck with a building at 3935 Main, which he bought on January 15, 2009. A few days after completing the sale, he went to court to get rid of one of the occupants, a bar and restaurant called Embassy. Embassy's replacement, Jubal's Manner Coffee House, quickly disappeared.
Patterson is disappointed that Lambi hasn't done more with his buildings. He says for a time, calls to a phone number that Lambi posted at his vacant properties went to voice mail, which was too full to accept new messages. (A recent call to the number listed on the sign at the former Starbucks was answered by a service and forwarded to a property-management company that Lambi owns. The voice mail accepted a message, which was not returned.)
Lambi had seemed poised to do great things in midtown. "When Brent's on, he's awesome," says one person who has had dealings with him.
But another midtown source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says Lambi's volatility scares people away.
Add the lawsuit accusing Lambi of spreading the virus that causes AIDS, and Lambi's notoriety has only increased in his absence.
Says Patterson: "He's created as much gossip as anyone I've seen in midtown in years."
Lambi shows a playful side.
He named one of his companies Easy Bake Oven. One day last summer, he incorporated two businesses: Shocking Electric and S Happens Plumbing.
When he set his sights on the former Osco Drug store, Lambi formed a business called Krazy Katz Investments.
The name pays homage to Isaac and Michael Katz, the sons of Polish immigrants, who parlayed a cigar store at Eighth Street and Grand into a successful chain. Their confectionary business became known as the Katz Drug Co. during World War I. The brothers hired a pharmacist upon the edict that only drugstores could stay open past 6 p.m.
The Katz Drug store at 3948 Main opened in 1934. The black-cat sign posted above the entrance welcomed shoppers to a superstore, where a lower level contained grocery items and the pet department featured monkeys, parrots and an aviary filled with parakeets.
The Katzes had asked their nephew, Clarence Kivett, to work on a design for the midtown store. Kivett was a fairly recent graduate of the University of Kansas when he got the commission, and he went on to leave an indelible mark on Kansas City. His firm, Kivett and Myers, designed the Truman Sports Complex, Kansas City International Airport, Mission Hills Country Club, and Temple B'nai Jehudah (which resembled a modernist take on a conquistadors helmet).