Power & Light District Executive Director Nick Benjamin reflects on the area’s growth.
Story by Lauren Rutherford | Photo by Steve Puppe
Eight years ago, the Kansas City Power & Light District turned on its lights. Little did KC know the district would prove to have a spark capable of thrusting downtown into a national spotlight.
The last few years have been especially big for P&L: In February 2015, Cleaver & Cork brought its gourmet meats and hand-crafted drinks to Walnut Street, receiving rave reviews. A few months later, craft beer-centric casual eatery Yard House opened a downtown location, joining an increasingly vibrant culinary scene that also includes Providence New American Kitchen, Bristol Seafood Grill and 801 Chophouse.
Since early 2014, interest continues to amp up. Power & Light District Executive Director Nick Benjamin says the district is at 94 percent occupancy, and the additions of Onelife Fitness and luxurious One Light Apartments make Power & Light both a destination to live and play. All of these openings brought 410,000 square feet of new occupied area to P&L, which is also along the KC Streetcar route.
“It has been two years of transformation for downtown and for the district,” Benjamin says. “We’re really excited to see what happens over the next two or three years.”
First up in 2016 was the tasty addition of two highly anticipated brew and food spots, Sporting KC’s No Other Pub and Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company’s first restaurant.
Benjamin says Power & Light has a longstanding relationship with Sporting KC. The powerhouses first combined forces in 2010 to host World Cup watch parties on the Kansas City Live! Block, some of the largest in the country. They attracted national attention for Power & Light and Sporting as well as the city as a whole, he adds.
Sporting KC considered a more consistent presence in the district for a while—when it sells out a game at the stadium, the club can’t sell more tickets. Sporting hopes to use No Other Pub, which opened February 22, as a means to connect and interact with fans in direct and different ways outside the stadium and the score clock.
Located on the second level of the Kansas City Live! Block, No Other Pub is more than a haven where the beer flows freely for KC’s most devoted Sporting fans. The restaurant and bar serves small plates and elevated bar food in addition to being home to a taco stand. And, in a very KC twist on the sports bar concept, local beer forms the core of the drink menu. Entertainment at No Other Pub includes four bowling lanes accompanied by classic bar games, such as darts and billiards, as well as golf simulators, shuffleboard and table tennis.
But the Power & Light crew isn’t just focused on KC’s best; Benjamin says the emphasis while filling the district has been curating a diverse mix of local, regional and national concepts and brands, so the addition of Wisconsin-based Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company makes perfect sense. Kansas City has been one of Leinenkugel’s strongest markets for a long time, Benjamin notes.
“We were looking for interesting and unique concepts to bring to the district, and we had this great, iconic American brand looking for ways to expand its presence in Kansas City, so it was a great fit,” he says.
In early December, Leinenkugel announced plans to establish its first restaurant concept. The eatery opened in March and features and outdoor bar as well as a patio connecting to the Live! Block. An expansive beer list boasts Leinenkugel products you can’t find anywhere else in town along with local beers.
With only a few open spaces left in Power & Light, Benjamin looks to round out the lineup of offerings this year, but the new additions, both known and unknown, will build on the traditions created by the district, those that make it a place for residents and visitors alike to dine, drink and be entertained by the city’s and country’s best.
“Power & Light is an engine for the city,” he says. “I think that’s how the district was conceived initially, and that’s the role that we play. When we look around the city and see the growth, with our success comes the success of the rest of the city. It’s an important part of our mission.”