From the avalanche of criticism that greeted last week’s announcement about Polsinelli Shughart’s plan to build a high-rise on the Plaza, one published comment struck a chord with a lot of people.
A woman said the law firm’s leaders would have been “heroes” if they had committed the firm to resurrecting the West Edge project on the southwest part of the Plaza.
Well, Polsinelli Shughart bypassed its chance to be the hero, and in the process it may have tarnished its reputation forever.
On Thursday, however, a new prospective hero stepped forward. And it’s none other than AMC Entertainment, one of the nation’s largest movie theater companies.
Kansas City-based AMC emerged as the primary tenant after a group associated with RED Development submitted the apparent high bid of $10 million for the long-stalled office and hotel project, according to The Kansas City Star.
To me, it is fitting that AMC become the hero because the man who took AMC big-time, the late Stan Durwood, probably would have wanted to help clean up the West Edge mess that advertising mogul Bob Bernstein and snake-oil salesman Ray Braswell left us.
In a way, Durwood, who died at age 78 in 1999, saved downtown, where AMC company currently has its offices. It was Durwood who conceived of, pushed for, and named the Power & Light District. It took his former girlfriend — a woman by the name of Kay Barnes — and a Baltimore outfit — Cordish Companies — to make it happen. But it’s still very much a part of Durwood’s legacy.
His main legacy, in case you didn’t know it, is the multiplex theater. He opened the first one, side-by-side theaters at the Ward Parkway Shopping Center, on July 12, 1963.
In a 1999 article about Durwood’s death, the Associated Press wrote: “It was clear he didn’t have the multiplex figured out yet: Both screens played the same movie — “The Great Escape,” starring Steve McQueen and James Garner. But the idea was born, and according to AMC, Durwood coined the multiplex name at that time, too.”
Durwood never sought the limelight and didn’t promote himself; he just stuck to business and pushed the ideas he thought would work. It was in the same low-key vein that AMC spokesman Justin Scott commented in The Star on AMC’s possible interest in the West Edge:
“Currently, we are making some preliminary inquiries into some locations in Kansas City, yet no decisions are being made at this time.”
To me, it’s playing out as a picture of two companies. The picture I have of one — Polsinelli, Shughart — is of a brash, boastful and back-slapping group congratulating each other on their initial Plaza plan, which they thought was a done deal…before the public weighed in.
The picture I have of the other is of a group of no-nonsense folks who keep their heads down and try to figure out what is best for their company and the city in which they operate.
And when those folks get together in the boardroom, I have no doubt that they talk business below a portrait of Stanley H. Durwood.