"Reconciliation is..."

"Reconciliation is..."

Reconciliation Services (RS) has served the urban core of Kansas City since 1987, driven by dignity, community, and advocacy to address needs for affordable food access, safe gathering spaces, and building positive connections. In 2018, BNIM led visioning workshops and programming conversations that informed a conceptual master plan for the organization’s existing property at the corner of 31st and Troost.

The assessment and renovation represents a reinvestment by RS in its programs, neighborhood, and history. The design creates a place of gathering and reveals the beauty of the original building and the history of this intersection and neighborhood, which will be a driving force for supporting the vision and mission of the organization. BNIM is currently leading the design of the building’s renovation, a transformative project that will support RS in its work creating living-wage jobs, increasing social and mental health services, and increasing equitable access to programming that connects neighbors and strengthens community engagement.

Reconciliation Services’ home at 3101 Troost was constructed around 1908 as the Westover Building, which provided office and retail space for a nascent commercial district developing along Troost Avenue. The site has a charged history. In the early 1800s, present-day Troost Avenue was a canoe trail used by the Osage Nation to reach the Missouri River. After the forced relocation of the Osage, in 1934 the surrounding land became the Rev. James Porter’s plantation, maintained by up to 100 enslaved people. At the end of the Civil War, the Porter family parceled their farmland for the country estates of Kansas City’s gilded society, whereupon the 3100 block of Troost became known as “Millionaire’s Row”. Picking up in the middle of the 1900s, white flight, redlining, and other forms of racial segregation calcified Troost Avenue into a boundary dividing Kansas City’s Black residents on its east side from the primarily white neighborhoods to its west. Today, that legacy is manifested in disparities of health, education, and income between residents on either side of Troost. Reconciliation Services’ mission confronts these disparities directly, and so it was vital for the project to manifest a whole-hearted reinvestment in this place.

Left: Troost and 31st on Christmastime, 1929.  Right: Circa 1890, Kansas City’s Millionaire Row at 31st and Troost. Photos courtesy Kansas City Public Library – Missouri Valley Special Collections.

Reconciliation Services’ Executive Director, Father Justin Mathews, challenged BNIM to imagine a version of 3101 Troost that was “neither janky nor swanky.” The existing facility had good bones, but they were obscured by decades of makeshift renovations and code non-compliance. The design process started with stripping everything back to the exterior walls. The remaining plaster finishes were maintained but not completely restored, collaged within a patchwork of exposed brick. The wood flooring, damaged from water infiltration, was replaced with new tongue-and-groove oak. At each floor, the original mosaic tile hallways were restored as a trace of the building’s past life.

To better serve Reconciliation Services’ operations, the newly opened floor plates were zoned into areas for community gathering and private consultation. Offices and conference rooms are enclosed by glass walls with privacy film, optimizing daylight while limiting views of client appointments. Life-safety improvements include a new interior staircase and a full sprinkler system.

The existing floor-to-floor height is relatively shallow, which presented a challenge for updating the building’s heating and air conditioning. The design team reframed this as an opportunity to use zoned variable refrigerant flow (VRF) throughout the building, resulting in a higher-efficiency mechanical system. Other energy-use improvements include replacement windows with insulated glazing, LED lighting throughout the building, and a rooftop solar panel array.

One notable addition to the building is the new fifth floor, which replaced the original penthouse lost to fire sometime after 1955. The new addition provides staff, clients, and visitors with panoramic views of Kansas City, as seen from within an intimately scaled Greek Orthodox chapel and the rooftop self-care garden above Troost Avenue.

Street level is occupied by Thelma’s Kitchen, Reconciliation Services’ mission-driven, nonprofit restaurant. The renovation expands the cafe to nearly 80 seats and pares down an existing mezzanine structure to provide the kitchen with improved daylighting. The existing basement was excavated two additional feet down, providing room for an auxiliary prep kitchen and storage, which will allow Thelma’s Kitchen to expand their catering service and hours of operation.

In 2022, 31 community members gathered at the corner of 31st and Troost, each of them offering a one-word response to the prompt: “Reconciliation Is…”. Poet Glenn North composed these 31 responses into a poem, which appears in excerpts throughout the building:

RECONCILIATION IS…. US – together 1 standing here / on this sacred corner / our centuries long journey / has brought us to this place / A new beginning 2 lies before us / dancing on the edge of the wind / a dream we can now inhabit / If the City of Reconciliation is where we choose to reside / we must never hide / from the truth of our history / With humility / we recognize / parking lots were paved / over the home of the Osage / beneath the concrete / are the bones of slaves / We move beyond intentions 3 / in pursuit of redemption 4 / We recover 5 & reclaim 6 / the ruin & rubble that remains / from riots & rebellions & red lines / that attempted to define / humanity / Our bodies comprise a liturgy of inclusivity 7 / All are welcome here / This City of Reconciliation is not built with bricks & mortar / it sits on a foundation of love 8 & hope 9 / & its infinite growth 10 / is empowered 11 by the heart of the people / We of the broken spirt / We of the wounded soul / forge a conspiracy of forgiveness 12 & acceptance 13 / which inevitably makes us whole 14 / with fierce vulnerability 15 / our strength is revealed / we build 16 an amazing 17 citizenry / our homes 18 are habitats of honesty 19 / fractured relationships 20 are restored 21 joyfully 22 / with the masonry of civility / We have even learned to ponder sonder 23 which is to say we perceive / all that we experience collectively / We commemorate 24 this historic intersection / as a site for reflection 25 & reconnection 26 / for communion & reunion 27 / for comfort & peace 28 / In this house we have prepared a table for you / Our balanced 29 menu is stupendous / Everything is seasoned with transcendence 30 / This City of Reconciliation can become our truth 31 / May it all begin on the corner of 31st & Troost

Owner: Reconciliation Services
Project Manager: MC Realty Group
Architect: BNIM 
Interior Architect: BNIM 
Landscape Architect: BNIM 
Civil Engineer: SK Design Group
Structural Engineer: STAND Structural Engineering
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: Henderson Engineers
Life Safety & Fire Protection: FSC Consulting Engineers
Kitchen Consultant: TriMark USA
Artist: Glenn North
General Contractor: Straub Construction