Looking Good in the Neighborhood

Sports architecture firm Populous brings renovation and innovation to Main Street.

Story by Kalsey McCall

Kansas City-based architecture firm Populous has relocated to its new home at the Board of Trade building, bringing the company’s creativity to historic 4800 Main Street.

After spending 10 years in the River Market neighborhood and undergoing a name change and a cultural shift within the company, Populous is focusing on expanding its global reputation for creating the most innovative and expertly designed sports and event venues throughout the world.

Through more than three decades, Populous has masterminded more than 2,000 ballparks, convention centers, training facilities and arenas including renovations at the Mets’ Citi Field and our very own Kauffman Stadium. And though that may seem coincidental considering the matchup of the 2015 World Series, it’s not surprising at all considering Populous’ resume. In fact, if you look at almost any of our nation’s ballparks constructed or renovated after 1980, you can almost bet that Populous has had a hand in it.

The firm is currently leasing 65,000 square feet in the Board of Trade building, which was purchased by Mariner Real Estate Management LLC of Leawood. The building lost its main tenant, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which ended more than a century of grain trading in Kansas City in 2014.

The seven-story building boasts more than 165,000 square feet of space, and, with its extensive renovation, is bringing a new level of sophistication and innovation to the historic south Plaza neighborhood.

When it became evident that extending Populous’ lease at its River Market location was not a possibility, Senior Principal Jonathan Knight was tapped to participate in a committee that would begin searching for commercial real estate space.

“We were very disappointed in the options that were presented to us at first,” Knight says. “But when the Board of Trade building came into the equation, we became immediately excited about the possibility of renovating that space and making our home there. I immediately felt a connection to that space and all it has to offer.”

Knight soon took charge of the project. Leaving nothing untouched in the historic building, he created a sleek design, complete with glass curtain walls and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Central to Knight’s design is the concept of the “grandstand”—a central social space and the anchor of Populous’ design at its River Market location.

Using the storied history of the Board of Trade building to his full advantage, Knight was able to recreate the concept that is so essential to the heart and soul of Populous.

“I am excited that what was once a trading floor for grain is still being used for trading—the trading of ideas and innovation,” Knight says.

Populous not only brings economic health to the south Main Street area with its more than 240 and counting architects and designers who frequent local eateries and coffee shops, but the company is also altering the look and feel of the historic Kansas City neighborhood.

With the redevelopment of the Board of Trade building’s first floor to include retail and restaurant space (tenants to be determined) and Knight’s grandstand concept being carried from inside the heart of Populous’ office space to the building’s front steps, the renovated property nicely anchors a growing, thriving neighborhood.

“We are happy to be a part of the change that the neighborhood is going through in the past few years,” Knight says. “What we have created is a civic-minded space that will undoubtedly add to the atmosphere of this great neighborhood and change the cityscape of Main Street for the better.”

And now that Populous has become known on an international level with multiple offices throughout the United States and abroad, Kansas City offers a central space from which to head operations.

“From a small group of partners that has evolved into a worldwide design force, this company has grown up in Kansas City, and that’s where we will remain,” Knight says.