KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Crown Center management is closing three landmark Kansas City restaurants. They are not sure how many people will lose jobs, but said dwindling demand for upscale dining left no choice.
For Elizabeth French, Crown Center is a fountain of memories.
"A lot of those really special memories with my kids, even back to (my) high school (days) involve coming into the city and coming to Crown Center," French said.
There is one place more momentous than others for French. It is a place Rick Brown's employers at Crown Center plan to change.
"This is going to be an even more exciting place a year from now than it is today," Brown said.
In nine months, Crown Center will open an aquarium, Legoland Discovery Center, watch Starwood Hotels take over the Hyatt and, on December 1, they will close The Skies Restaurant, Benton's Chop House and the Peppercorn Duck Club. Management believes there is currently too much upscale dining in Crown Center. So, only the four-star American Restaurant will remain.
"Peppercorn (Duck Club) will become meeting space," Brown said. "Skies will become a club lounge. Then with Benton's, there's a real need in Kansas City for an upscale catering and meeting facility. That's what Benton's will become."
Currently, the Hyatt, which houses the Skies and Peppercorn Duck Club, employs 400 people. It is not clear how many will lose jobs.
"What we do know is the hotels are still going to need a lot of people to operate the two facilities," Brown said.
Management insists change is for the better. French is not convinced.
"For me, personally it feels kind of sad," French said
Her high school prom dinner was inside the Peppercorn Duck. She remembers her date like it was yesterday.
"They wrapped our leftovers up in foil and it looked like a swan and there was a chocolate buffet and it was great," French said.
She understands the need for more traffic in Crown Center. Management hopes to attract an additional one million visitors in the next 12 months. French just hopes those grand plans work.
"Living in Kansas City, I'm skeptical, but we're just waiting to see how it pans out," French said.