Boomtown Rats

David Fenley, head of the Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin law firm, reportedly believes that leveling the Plaza’s charming old Park Lane Apartments to clear the way for his own fancy office building is no insult to Mayor Kay Barnes and her new posse of downtown development gurus.

Fenley could move his 450 local workers into the old Federal Reserve Bank downtown; bank officials recently announced they were ditching the venerable 1913 building. Fenley could help developer Jon Copaken, whom the mayor just named to her new Greater Downtown Development Authority but who is still looking for tenants to fill his yet-to-be-built Plaza Library building. Or Fenley could swap with Midland Loan, which is moving its 450 employees out of downtown — an example of corporate flight that Barnes has cited in her efforts to increase incentives for downtown developers.

Meanwhile, after two years of struggling for life downtown, Spark Bar owner Mike Gouddou announced his last last call January 13.

Last spring, officials with Tower Properties, the real-estate arm of Jonathan Kemper‘s Commerce Bank, threw ice on Gouddou’s attempts to get a 3 a.m. liquor license. Despite Gouddou’s pleading, Tower never backed down from its bizarre argument that late-night bars aren’t in the best interest of Kansas City’s dead downtown (“It Only Takes a Spark,” January 3).

No one from city hall responded to Gouddou’s plight — despite a stack of letters on the mayor’s desk, e-mailed complaints to the city council and even a paragraph in Skip Sleyster‘s paid column in the Sunday Star. When one angry citizen contacted councilman Paul Danaher and argued for Spark Bar’s right to exist, the verbose downtown rep replied, “I agree entirely.”

Eventually the empty words of city officials got to Gouddou, who sold his lease. “There’s no reason for me to stay here,” says Gouddou, who invested more than $50,000 just to open the bar. “It’s a beautiful country, and there are so many great cities. There’s no need for me to put up with such a hopeless situation.”

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