Why a Midtown self-storage facility was built to look like fake apartments

Photography by Jeremy Theron Kirby

At first glance, the perfectly coordinated paint colors and tidy porches on a block of Midtown neighborhood buildings appear commonplace. To the casual passerby, the white windows look like drawn drapes, not the solid walls that they truly are. What appear to be front yard gates actually don’t open.

Since the late nineties, the bricks, stucco and columns have been hiding a massive 100,000-square-foot Public Storage self-storage facility. The property at 3440 Main Street had been a car dealership. New owners planned a big-box self-storage business. But, to do so, it planned to expand the building’s original footprint by consuming adjacent plots that were zoned residential. Worried the character of their historic neighborhood would forever be altered, board members of the then-new Old Hyde Park Historic District pushed back.

“Basically, the city allowed them to build into the residential Old Hyde Park Historic District but required them to negotiate with our board about blunting the impact of such a huge commercial and non-conforming building,” says Matthew Browning, a current Old Hyde Park Historic District director who was not on the board at the time of the negotiations.

Eventually, a compromise was reached. The company cloaked the storage facility in a facade mimicking the various styles of local homes. “It was not ideal but better than the original proposal, and was a start for the then-newest and -largest historic district to flex its community muscle,” Browning says.

Due to the efforts of those early board members, rather than an imposing warehouse, a faux apartment building fronts West Armour Boulevard, and running down Baltimore Avenue are what appear to be townhomes.

The property and its various architectural elements tell that story. The building’s commercial side is lined with large glass windows that harken back to its car dealership days, and a plaque proudly reveals that the meatpacking company Armour & Company, which also invented Dial soap, had at one time operated a plant there.

This little neighborhood secret was recently revealed by a TikTok video made by local @laurenislosingit that went viral, garnering 1.3 million views and more than 100,000 likes. (The company that owns the building, California-based Public Storage, wasn’t available for comment.) 

The Old Hyde Park neighborhood is known for its mix of architectural styles and historic buildings, many of which were built by some of Kansas City’s most well-known architects. And like its surroundings, the Public Storage facility’s various architectural elements help it fit right in. 

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