Old Film Row: an urban-design plan that crumbled 

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In 2005, Kansas City was going through a phase of serious self-improvement. No longer satisfied with tumbleweeds being the only things hanging around downtown after 5 p.m., city officials went on a spending spree to make people — and their dollars — linger under the skyscrapers.

In May '05, the construction euphoria reached its zenith. Then-Mayor Kay Barnes and City Council members wore hard hats, held shovels and posed for photos on the Sprint Center's future site. That same month, city elders' minds were on another plan: an urban-design concept to memorialize Film Row.

Architecture firm Gould Evans Goodman Associates prepared the report. "The architectural character and the unique history of the Old Film Row buildings are the key features to the overall urban design concept," the report declares. "The purpose of the Old Film Row Urban Design Concept Plan is to protect and enhance established assets and build upon the current successes of the area. This is envisioned to be accomplished by strong recognition of 'Kansas City's Hollywood Connection' of the former film distribution center."

The ambitious plan called for a plaque on each building outlining the studio's history, fencing called "screening" around parking lots, and an informational masonry kiosk at 18th Street and Wyandotte.

"Common elements recommended for interpretive plaques include the original studio or business name, property address, and interpretive information," the plan reads, in part. "It should be mounted on the building in a manner and location that is accessible to the general public, and should include a studio logo for film industry-related buildings."

In a resolution, the City Council declares: "The Old Film Row Urban Design Concept Plan is hereby recognized as a guide for the future development and redevelopment for that area."

But the plan was probably too expensive. The commemorative plaques alone were estimated to cost $2,500–$4,000, the kiosks $10,000–$20,000 apiece, and street signs $1,000–$1,800 each.

The only celebration of Old Film Row remaining in the district are crumbling star plaques honoring Joan Crawford, Walt Disney and Robert Altman. They were installed by developer Butch Rigby in front of the Commonwealth Theatres Building, at 215 West 18th Street, when he owned the building.

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