Heritage House demolition fills in a piece of park puzzle
By Ruth Igoe
The Kansas City Star
December 13, 1998
A power party of sorts was going on Sunday morning in downtown Kansas City.
About 300 people jammed the federal courthouse steps at 400 E. ninth St.
Far above 12th Street, on City Hall’s observation deck and roof, local dignitaries–including Mayor Emanuel Cleaver, council members, city staff members and state and federal officials–gathered in a private, catered celebration.
And the party favors were…well, dynamite–95 pounds of it.
At the stroke of 10:45 a.m.–after Cleaver’s countdown from the safety of City’s Hall’s roof–the vacant Heritage House on 11th Street imploded into a cloud of dust and falling rubble as onlookers cheered.
The former public housing apartment building was one of the last obstacles in the creation of a 5.5-acre downtown park between city hall and the federal courthouse, between Ninth and 11th streets and Oak and Locust streets.
To bring it down, dynamite was packed into 296 holes on three different floors, said Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition Inc. With hundreds of implosions on its résumé, the Baltimore-based company aided local Industrial Wrecking Co. Inc. in its inaugural implosion.
For the crowds, the early-morning occasion was pure spectacle: As the minutes ticked toward the blast, bundled onlookers whooped, chanted and whistled in anticipation.
For the luminaries who watched Heritage House disappear, the scene was cause for celebration. City officials have worked for six years to transform the area of parking lots and dilapidated buildings into the future home of a lush city park named for Mayor Ilus W. Davis.
Heritage House presented a particularly difficult problem: City and federal officials had to come up with money for demolition and a plan to relocate the 68 elderly and low-income residents.
But they pulled it off, as Cleaver noted during a brief ceremony on City Hall’s north steps before the blast. He commended the work of everyone from federal judges to private businesses for supporting the creation of a civic mall downtown.
“What started as a dream,” Cleaver said, “is being fashioned into a reality.”