written by:
photos by:
January 18, 2009
Originally published in American Modern
Kansas City is a sprawling 318 square miles. With the help of creative developers and architects, the three square miles that make up downtown are finally growing up.
kansas city, apartment building, 5 delaware
From across Delaware Street, the 5 Delaware lofts blend into their downtown surroundings. Just a block away, the stalls of the River Market, which gives the neighborhood its name, are visible in the background.
Photo by 
1 / 8
5 Delaware’s concrete frame stands out as its defining design gesture—even from across Interstate 70.
5 Delaware’s concrete frame stands out as its defining design gesture—even from across Interstate 70.
Photo by 
2 / 8
The new El Dorado Inc. offices are located in a renovated industrial building in the Crossroads neighborhood. Not afraid of barbecue or throwing a good party, the Eldos (the five principals are Jamie Darnell, David Dowell, Dan Maginn, Josh Shelton, and Do
The new El Dorado Inc. offices are located in a renovated industrial building in the Crossroads neighborhood. Not afraid of barbecue or throwing a good party, the Eldos (the five principals are Jamie Darnell, David Dowell, Dan Maginn, Josh Shelton, and Doug Stockman) have a good time at work and at play.
Photo by 
3 / 8
Developer Chris Sally has been known to have conversations with passersby from his “cigar-smoking balcony.”
Developer Chris Sally has been known to have conversations with passersby from his “cigar-smoking balcony.”
Photo by 
4 / 8
The interior of developer Chris Sally's unit was also designed by El Dorado. The table is a hand-me-down from Sally’s parents, but the Marre Moerel light fixture is not. Sally’s fiancée, Julie Gibson, had doubts about the trademark Eldo Green they decided
The interior of developer Chris Sally's unit was also designed by El Dorado. The table is a hand-me-down from Sally’s parents, but the Marre Moerel light fixture is not. Sally’s fiancée, Julie Gibson, had doubts about the trademark Eldo Green they decided to paint the unit’s ceiling.
Photo by 
5 / 8
The bedroom. The addition of the couple’s art collection “has really given [the color] purpose,” says Julie Gibson.
The bedroom. The addition of the couple’s art collection “has really given [the color] purpose,” says Julie Gibson.
Photo by 
6 / 8
To minimize costs and give buyers maximum flexibility, the units were left as “warm shells,” which the resident can finish in any number of ways. “So far, nobody’s come in and done a country kitchen,” notes El Dorado partner Doug Stockman.
To minimize costs and give buyers maximum flexibility, the units were left as “warm shells,” which the resident can finish in any number of ways. “So far, nobody’s come in and done a country kitchen,” notes El Dorado partner Doug Stockman.
Photo by 
7 / 8
Sally challenges Gibson to a game of backgammon in their second-floor living area.
Sally challenges Gibson to a game of backgammon in their second-floor living area.
Photo by 
8 / 8
kansas city, apartment building, 5 delaware
From across Delaware Street, the 5 Delaware lofts blend into their downtown surroundings. Just a block away, the stalls of the River Market, which gives the neighborhood its name, are visible in the background.
Project 
5 Delaware
Architect 

Robert Altman’s 1996 film Kansas City may have left a sour note at the box office, but on a recent visit to its namesake town, it kept popping up in conversation. Widely panned by critics and all but forgotten in the director’s distinguished oeuvre, the film turns out to have had a positive effect on the city itself. Setting the movie in 1934, Altman returns to the Kansas City of his youth—a burgeoning Art Deco metropolis full of shady dealings and smoldering jazz. In restoring decrepit period locations, like the Beaux Arts Union Station, the Spanish-revival Granada Theater, and the 18th and Vine jazz district, the movie’s production unwittingly spurred on a downtown revival that continues today.

Over the course of the 20th century, Kansas City suffered a fate common among American cities: Minced by imposing highways and strangled by suburban flight, its downtown was left for dead. On a sunny summer day in 2006, however, there are signs of life. Civic development comes in the form of a huge new IRS headquarters (its location selected amid low-rise structures largely for homeland-security reasons) and the soon-to-be-completed 18,500-seat Sprint Center. These large-scale projects are just the tip of the development iceberg. Kansas City’s downtown population has increased—from 13,000 in 2000 to 16,700 in 2005—with the real estate market swiftly following suit. Once-dilapidated high-rises are being snapped up and turned into housing. A quick search of KClofts.com reveals 49 buildings with available units for sale. At the top of the list is 5 Delaware.

Unlike the competition, 5 Delaware is unabashedly contemporary. “When the downtown market started happening, we wanted to do something where we didn’t have the restraints of working in a historic structure,” says Chris Sally, a partner in Marketview Properties, the 13-unit building’s developer. For four years, Sally served as downtown development director for the city’s

Economic Development Corporation and was schooled in local real estate dealings. With 5 Delaware, he had a vision for something unique. “We didn’t want to do anything too controversial, but we also didn’t want to do anything safe. We knew we would piss off about 30 percent of the people, but that there would also be 20 percent who’d say, This is what I’ve been waiting for.”

Sally and his partner Jim Potter found the perfect architects in El Dorado Inc. “We knew there was this tension between the nostalgic architecture people and the new breed of young professional types who wanted a modern building,” says Dan Maginn, one of El Dorado’s founding partners. “We thought we could do something that really paid more homage to historic buildings by way of scale and typology than trying to replicate them.”

For the past decade, El Dorado, or “the Eldos” as the firm’s members are known to friends, has been at the heart of Kansas City’s metamorphosis. From an office in the Crossroads Arts District, a once-overlooked neighborhood just south of downtown (at the cusp of gentrification but still largely dominated by Mexican eateries and graduates of Kansas City’s Art Institute), El Dorado has overseen a prolific number of projects both large and small. It is as adept at turning out AIA Award–ready single-family homes and commercial spaces as idiosyncratic installation art (such as the BaDDaSS—an elaborate overscaled bacon-distributing device built for a neighborhood Mardi Gras parade). Part of El Dorado’s unique approach comes from the fact that its members are not only architects but also fabricators—each endeavor informs the other. With 5 Delaware, the Eldo team was able to put all of their talents to work.

The building’s design arose out of the constraints and opportunities offered by the sloping 9,800-square-foot site at the corner of Fifth and Delaware streets in the River Market—a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood cordoned off from the rest of the city by a mind-boggling array of roads (Interstates 70, 35, and 29; Highways 169, 71, and 24) and the Missouri River. “It was a unique lot,” says Doug Stockman, an El Dorado partner who was the building’s lead designer on a team that included Maginn and Sean Slattery. “Even though it was infill, it wasn’t cramped in between two buildings. We had a lot of exposure on all the right sides—east, west, and south. So we wanted to make the most of that.”

The lot’s downward slope also meant that a slight excavation could create underground parking, which lent itself to a stacked multifloor building as opposed to the cluster of townhouses the developers initially envisioned. Utilizing the maximum footprint allowed by code meant that the team was limited with what they could do on the building’s north side, which abuts another property. But out of this constraint, the building’s plan readily fell into place. The light- and window-deprived north became the obvious place to locate the building’s corridors. “There was a little fear that that would create long narrow spaces in the middle,” concedes Stockman, “but you need some of the units to be more affordable, so it seemed like a natural solution.”

The building’s first two floors feature units that range from 1,780 to 2,200 square feet. Marketview Properties maintains an office on the first floor—in keeping with the neighborhood’s blend of commercial and residential space. The designers packed five two-story penthouses onto the third floor, all of which feature gracious rooftop decks with panoramic views of downtown.

One of the first buyers was longtime city architect Tom Bean and his wife, Dyanne. “I’ve always liked the character of this street,” says Bean. “Dyanne had been wanting to move downtown for a while and said, ‘Let’s go take the urban homes tour.’ They had a tent set up here [at 5 Delaware] with a sign, and I just had a good feeling for it.” Bean’s enthusiasm lent a great deal of credence to the  project for both the architects and the developers.

River Market’s stalwart traditionalists weren’t as easily convinced, and the building went through a series of design revisions. For El Dorado, working with an exposed concrete frame not only made sense structurally, but also paid homage to the surrounding turn-of-the-century masonry buildings. Because “brick just seemed odd,” the team decided to wrap the exterior in Mangaris wood and painted steel. “We picked three basic nonsynthetic materials that made sense,” says Stockman. In the meantime, just down the street architecture firm HOK’s ultra-modern sports-division headquarters went up. “They got a lot of heat and took some pressure off us,” notes Sally.

To keep costs down—5 Delaware was built for a mere $76 per square foot—and to offer potential buyers the most flexibility, the units were sold as “warm shells,” which buyers had to finish out themselves with their own architect and contractors. “Given that,” explains Stockman, “the intent of the building was to try and set the tone for what would be done inside. So far, nobody’s come in and done a country kitchen.”

Sally and his fiancée, Julie Gibson, moved into their El Dorado–designed second-story unit in the spring of 2006. “The lifestyle of living down here is unbelievable,” Sally says. “There’s no yard to clean up. Saturdays and Sundays are free to walk a block to the gym or to the market.” But the best part: “It’s 35 steps down to my office—you can’t beat that.”

All but three of the Delaware’s units have sold, and Sally is working on two more River Market developments. Meanwhile, El Dorado has fully moved into its new Crossroads office and has a slew of projects on the boards. The trains that rumble through downtown Kansas City may no longer be full of livestock, but the city’s stock is on the rise.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

in the mix antwerp belgium warehouse renovation live work space lounge area cushions dining table kitchenette borge mogensen cabinets
An artist and an architect build their home, studios, and an exhibition space inside an Antwerp warehouse.
February 13, 2016
senses sight products kinetic wire sculpture alexander calder mobile
A phenomenon of light and visual perception, colors signal a language of their own.
February 13, 2016
beach weathered seaside retreat sagaponack new york pine walls aluminum furniture
Balancing texture, proportion, and found objects lends unexpected sophistication to a seaside retreat.
February 13, 2016
Concrete floor, white walls, Bend sectional sofa, Metropolitan chair by B&B Italia, and Arper pouf in living room of Rhode Island family vacation home by Bernheimer Architecture.
Create comfortable areas to lounge, sit, eat, and entertain with these designs.
February 12, 2016
São Paulo apartment dining room with local wood floors and HAY chairs
From concrete to wood, these South American homes enjoy nature inside and out.
February 12, 2016
Custom cabinetry and trim in Chicago apartment renovation.
The Second City is second to none when it comes to inventive modern architecture, from Louis Sullivan to the present day.
February 12, 2016
Kitchen of 1956 midcentury modern Palm Springs home.
Celebrate Palm Springs Modernism Week, which runs from February 11–21, with a look at some of our favorite modern desert oases.
February 12, 2016
Gustav bicycle by Coh&Co
Designmuseum Danmark unveils a permanent collection highlighting new developments in Danish design.
February 12, 2016
A Seattle studio's courtyard
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 12, 2016
Chalet in the French alps
An innovative glass addition adds contrast to a timber mountain lodge in France.
February 11, 2016
Aumas' assorted collectables.
Bright colors and vintage furniture are abound in these French homes.
February 11, 2016
Kogan designed a number of the built-in furnishings, including the headboard and cupboard in the master bedroom.The cupboard is deliberately reminiscent of a mid-century stereo speaker. The vintage lounge chairs are by Percival Lafer.
Need to relax? Make your bedroom an oasis from the rest of the house.
February 11, 2016
Modern Florida seaside home with corian island, dornbracht faucet, cees braakman combex chairs and marble knoll table in the kitchen
Read more about Knoll's impressive career here, but in the meantime, explore just a few of her works in these contemporary homes.
February 11, 2016
Modern small box home in Mexico
Letting the warm climate indoors is a common thread through these diverse dwellings.
February 11, 2016
Modern white cabinets under the stairs with skylight above
What could be better than a modest-sized house in a quaintly historic city?
February 11, 2016
dining room lighting
These renovations connect rustic, classic, and modern design in Italy.
February 10, 2016
12362509 211441865858796 1743381178 n1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 10, 2016
modern outdoor garden room plastic polycarbonate
From colorful living rooms to a backyard retreat, Belgian designers reimagine vernacular forms and materials for the modern world.
February 10, 2016
Tel Aviv kitchen with custom dining table and Smeg fridge
Would you go for an out-of-the-box palette for your major appliances? See how these kitchens tackle the trend.
February 10, 2016
Exhibition view, of Klaus Wittkugel works at P! gallery, New York
On view through February 21 at New York's P! gallery, a new show explores the politics of Cold War-era graphic design with a presentation of works by Klaus Wittkugel—East Germany's most prolific graphic designer. Curator Prem Krishnamurthy walks us through the highlights.
February 10, 2016
Reclaimed cedar and gray-stucco home outside San Francisco.
The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
February 10, 2016
A third floor addition and whole-house renovation modernized a funky cottage on an unusual, triple-wide lot in San Francisco.
From modern interiors hidden within historic structures to unabashedly modern dwellings, these seven renovations take totally different approaches to San Francisco's historic building stock.
February 10, 2016
Delphi sofa from Erik Jørgensen and gyrofocus fireplace in living room of Villa Le Trident in the French Riviera, renovated by 4a Architekten.
The Aegean's all-white architecture famously helped inspire Le Corbusier; these five dwellings continue in that proud modern tradition (though not all are as minimalist).
February 10, 2016
San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016