Best Repositioning of 2019: Dated 1980s Office Building Becomes Modern Senior Living

Originally opened in 1923, today Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri is recognized as a landmark shopping and office district in the City of Fountains — its architecture and design inspired by Moorish and Spanish influences.

Walking distance from the plaza stands a five-story building. For years, it was a relic of 1980s office architecture and design — a mass of red brick and ribbon windows with dark tinting. With its exterior and interior completely reinvented to complement its proximity to Country Club Plaza, the building now has a new life as Anthology of the Plaza, an 83-unit assisted living and memory care community.

Anthology of the Plaza’s location allows residents to take advantage of Country Club Plaza’s shopping and entertainment options, and other nearby attractions such as the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Mill Creek Park and the JC Nichols Memorial Fountain encourage residents to remain active.

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Anthology of the Plaza’s ambitious adaptive reuse, particularly the complete makeover of its exterior, earned top honors in the 2019 Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards’ Best Renovation/Repositioning category.

The concept

The redevelopment process started with the location, Rosemann & Associates President and CEO Donald Rosemann told Senior Housing News. Rosemann worked with developer and former Anthology owner, NorthPoint Development, on several projects across the country. The groups scouted several sites in the Kansas City metro before deciding to redevelop the building. Population demographics were a contributing factor, as well.

Photo credit: Green Sofa Productions
Adjacent to the assisted living dining room and bar, the lounge can be used for overflow and a pre-function space. Activities such as shuffleboard provides residents more options, advocating interaction and activity.

“This site in the Kansas City metro is underserved to service the assisted living and memory care resident. [Anthology’s] strategic location is what made this project so important and viable,” Rosemann said.

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The structure was outdated but still a functioning office building as plans for redevelopment. In addition to the monolithic brick and ribbon windows, the building entrance was concealed with limited landscaping to entice tenants and visitors to interact with the property. Additionally, the building’s driveway was unmarked and could be missed by visitors.

The building’s lobby also had a trapped-in-amber feel, teeming with black stone flooring, an outdated atrium in the foyer and virtually no seating for visitors.

Rosemann & Associates decided to overhaul the exterior. The red brick was painted and detailed into a more visually appealing lighter color, the ribbon windows were removed in favor of residential-style windows, and recesses were cut into the building to provide a greater aperture and complement the architecture of Country Club Plaza.

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The existing landscaping surrounding the driveway was removed, allowing for expanding the driveway for more accessible entry and exit for residents and guests. Rosemann added a covered entrance, creating a distinct front entrance.

The design team, Dallas-based Faulkner Design Group, was tasked with reinventing the offices into living quarters, repurposing the lobby into common areas and creating outdoor amenities that connected resident to the building’s surroundings while providing a measure of safety for Anthology of the Plaza’s memory care residents, Faulkner Director of Design Stacy Peters told SHN.

For the lobby, a double height wall was installed behind the reception desk, providing separation between the building’s entrance and a ground-level bistro, concealing the elevators and providing privacy for residents using the second-floor lobby. The bistro serves as a social hub for residents and guests.

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Anthology of the Plaza’s outdoor dining area is designed to resemble sidewalk dining.

Adjacent to the lobby is a living room for assisted living residents with a variety of seating arrangements intended to encourage interaction during meals and activities, as well as during residents’ daily routines. The assisted living dining area offers private and public dining, as well as an outdoor dining area. A lounge handles overflow and includes a shuffleboard setup and games, to further encourage interaction between residents.

For the memory care wing, the dining room features photos of Kansas City streetscapes and architecture, which provides memory stimulation for residents. An open kitchen design allows staff an unobstructed view of residents for a higher level of care during meal service. The activity room offers residents a range of seating options, with a high durable vinyl wood floor, textural wall art to encourage sensory stimulation, and a balcony offering unobstructed views of Country Club Plaza.

The construction

The development team had one significant advantage heading into repurposing Anthology of the Plaza — it had the original blueprints of the building. This allowed crews to know exactly where load-bearing columns and beams were located, which made knowing what to do on each level easier, Rosemann told SHN.

The blueprints also allowed the design team to become familiar with the building, which was still occupied by office tenants during initial walkthrough, which limited the scope of work that could be done to verify construction considerations such as placements of structural columns and the quality of the building’s shell.

“From an interior standpoint, it wasn’t too difficult because we had the benefit of a total gut job,” Peters said.

Anthology of the Plaza’s memory care activities room allows for flexibility in seating arrangements. The wall art is textured, allowing for sensory stimulation, and an adjacent balcony provides sweeping but safe views of Country Club Plaza.

Anthology of the Plaza’s shape provided some challenges, as well. The building contains two wings connected to a central spine. Additionally, NorthPoint mandated that residents should be able to view Country Club Plaza regardless of where they were in the building.

The design team also needed to work around an existing parking garage and route deliveries to the building so as not to block the front entrance and interrupt residents’ daily routines. Faulkner Design was able to repurpose an existing service drive for this, and shape the units around those priorities.

Another challenge was building out the outdoor areas, which required working with the site’s existing topography to provide residents with views, and seeking approvals from Kansas City officials for modifications to go outside, while ensuring ample security on the upper levels, Rosemann told SHN.

The completion

NorthPoint Development sold Anthology of the Plaza as part of a 12-property portfolio sale to Chicago-based CA Senior Living in May 2019 — one month before the building received its first residents. CA Senior Living has since rebranded as Anthology Senior Living.

The Chicago-based firm inherited what is essentially a brand new building that is a welcome addition to Country Club Plaza, said D2 Architecture Principal David Dillard, one of the SHN Awards judges.

“This part of Kansas City hasn’t changed much. It’s a nationally recognized location. It’s a welcome addition to see senior housing play a role in its reinvention,” he said.

Dillard was very impressed by the use of the building’s tapered wings and noted the design team made inventive use of the angles on each level. “Tapered rooms are more interesting,” he remarked.

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Anthology of the Plaza takes advantage of the building’s unique tapered wing design to maximize living unit footprints while meeting modern safety and design accommodations.

The tapered design is tailor-made for living quarters, said Merlino Design Partnership Principal Bruce Hurowitz, another SHN Awards judge. He was also impressed by how the development team transformed the building’s exterior.

“There is a large public space in the center [of the building], and it’s easy for wayfinding. This looks like a [building] that is easy for residents to use,” he said.

Rosemann noted that Anthology of the Plaza has received several accolades for its design since opening, and believes it will be a project that will be held in high regard and talked about for years to come.

“This took a lot of effort on the part of ownership and the [development] team. The results will be timeless,” he said.

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