Pennway Point: Despite Delays, a Sprawling New Entertainment Destination is Rising in a Most Unusual Location

A massive observation wheel—with heated and cooled gondolas that would be operated year-round—will change the Kansas City skyline.

Drive by 25th and Jefferson now, and you’ll see a typical construction yard. Local developers, however, are working to make it a centerpiece of Kansas City.

“These few acres between two bridges,” says Dante Passantino, a managing partner for the project. “This was the center of activity 100 years ago. Literally, this site helped build Kansas City.”

What was abandoned to history has now inspired Passantino and company to create a part of the cultural future: Pennway Point, a family-friendly entertainment district bookended by a Ferris wheel-type “observation wheel” and a beer barrel hall with KC-themed beverages and foods.

Developers DaVinci KC, including Passantino and Vince Bryant, with operations led by Passantino and David Belfonte, hope the multimillion-dollar entertainment district at Pennway and Pershing will open in 2024. This despite the same supply chain issues and construction delays facing nearly every big development in the country.

“This is by Kansas City people, with Kansas City operators, featuring Kansas City investors,” says Passantino. “This will be a regional destination.”

The centerpiece of the entertainment district is the 6,000 foot Barrel Hall, named for the exposed “barrel” ceiling. Inside seats 150, and the adjoining Smoke Shack seats another 100. (Don’t like waiting in line? Some vendors will be using geolocation to bring your food to you.)

It aims to be the central gathering and entertainment place showcasing the spectrum of authentic KC beverages and foods.

That variety includes Boulevard Brewery’s Barrel Aged Tasting Experience and Taproom.

“This will be an actual Boulevard barreling warehouse where you can taste the beer at three months, six months, and nine months along the process,” Passentino says. “We went to Boulevard to see their interest in a brewery, and they brought back the idea of the barreling warehouse. It was a match made in heaven.”

The Talegate building will have an indoor-outdoor experience.

The entertainment district also plans to include:

Würstl: Offering authentic old-world sausages by Nicholas Grünauer.

Chef J BBQ: Serving barbecue, sides, and specialty desserts, including many of Chef J BBQ’s Justin Easterwood’s grandmother’s recipes.

The Bull Creek Distillery: Featuring spirits and cocktails with a craft cocktail bar and crafty mixologists.

Adjoining Barrel Hall is the Smoke Shack, Chef J BBQ’s live working smokehouse.

Next door, the multi-level 30,000-square-foot Talegate concept by Whiskey Design and Davinci KC will feature:

Beef & Bottle: An elevated burger and cocktail concept serving Wagyu beef offerings and a large selection of bottled beers, wines, and spirits.

Funk House: Named in tribute to the building’s original use as the former Funkhouser Equipment Depot Building, Funk House serves as a lounge during the week and transitions to a hot nightlife venue during the weekends.

Talegate Park: Features a central stage and screen that will have year-round programming, from live music to ice skating. (So, why “Talegate” and not the traditional “tailgate”? “There’s been a lot of tales told on the site over the years, and we expect many more to be told—whether they’re tall or not,” Passentino says.)

Sitting betwixt Talegate and the Beer Barrel Hall will be Neon Alley, a collection of 50-plus KC vintage neon signs—including the old Katz Drug store sign—displayed in the alleyway between buildings.

Incredibly, plans for more are in the works. Retail spaces, seasonal programming, offices, and the real eye-grabber: a 170-foot Observation Wheel.

When it’s lit, the wheel is sure to be featured on every soccer, baseball, and football game broadcast from Kansas City. Construction on the wheel and accompanying miniature golf course has recently begun.

“Our goal is to create a family-friendly entertainment district in Kansas City for the region,” he says. “The ability to park 400 cars on site. The food we’re bringing in. What they’re doing with the Observation Wheel. We’re creating this destination that is right next to Crown Center and Union Station. Creating this hub that connects Crown Center, Union Station, Boulevard Brewery …”

To say nothing of the streetcar to the east circulating people back and forth all the way to City Market. As it comes together fully, Pennway Point could be the new heart of Kansas City.

Pennway Point is comprised of former industrial buildings at the corner of West 25th Street and Pennway Street.

Before developers started to clean up this long-sitting chrysalis, it was hard to see what exactly was in the area.

“We came down here and sort of started kicking the tires,” Passantino says. Walking the grounds amidst the skeletons of buildings brought to mind another age.

The existing wood-timbered canopy was enhanced with 100-year-old reclaimed timbers from another building, adding to the historic preservation throughout. Two bridges above and a nearby railroad create a kind of rackety industrial ambiance, calling back to when this was the industrial hub of town. “A train goes by every 20 minutes,” he says. “That’s part of the activity down here.”    

As developers uncovered more, wheels (figuratively before literally) started turning. What’s emerging certainly could make a new entertainment garden downtown, bringing with it tourists and visitors.

Passantino is passionate for this project. Spotlighting the region, the town, the city, the downtown. His home and what it means, not only to him but to his business partners. Giving the world a taste of Kansas City.

“We live in one of the great cities in the United States, if not the world, and I don’t know if people realize it,” Passantino says. “Our little piece of it is going to say, ‘Have a great time and come back again.’”

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