By Kathy Feist
It was in May 1990 when Elaine Fry opened her State Farm Insurance Agency in a temporary office space slightly bigger than a closet at the UMB building at I-435 and State Line Rd.
“They boxed in a space at the end of the third floor,” Fry recalls. It was just enough room for a round table and a chair.
Fry endured the tight quarters for nine months until her current location became available on the second floor. For Fry, the wait was worth it.
The UMB building, constructed in 1979, housed CPAs, attorneys, financiers, psychologists, realtors in the top three floors. Kemper Crosby, Jr. had an elaborate office on the fourth floor. The first floor was shared by UMB and the popular fine dining establishment, EBT restaurant.
“The parking lot was always full,” recalled Fry. “It was a grand place to be.”
Today, Fry’s State Farm Insurance Agency and the Madison Avenue Pscyhological Group are the only tenants left in the upper level floors. EBT closed in 2015. Soon, only the bank will operate out of the south Kansas City landmark.
In June, Fry will relocate her agency to the Red Bridge Professional Building.
For the past three years, rumors have been swirling regarding the future of the UMB bank building. At one point, bank customers shared unconfirmed news that the bank would be demolished and operate from the Metcalf bank until a small building was constructed.
Another rumor suggested the property had been sold to a developer.
The Telegraph reached out to UMB and was given the following statement: “UMB is always seeking ways to improve our properties to better serve our customers. At this point, we have plans to enhance our customer experience at the State Line facility. We are working through the proper city channels to obtain permits to begin work.”
Last week, UMB got the go-ahead from the city of Overland Park to downsize its two-story bank at 80th and Metcalf, a trend among many banks as customers move to online service.
While the statement from UMB is noncommittal, a letter by Travis Lavendar, Vice President of Property Portfolio Management at UMB Bank, delivered March 3rd to Fry and Madison Avenue stated that “the landlord intends to demolish the building sometime in 2021.”
“People began talking about the razed building in 2019,” says Fry. She saw tenants gradually begin to move out and no new leases tendered.
Fry herself had been on the hunt for a new office space for the past year or two, knowing her days were numbered as a tenant at 1310 Carondelet Dr. But it’s been difficult to replace her beloved location.
“It was an easy location to get in and out of. Everyone knew where it was. And it was safe,” she says. “The building was very busy even at night.”
In her 31 years in business there, Fry has written over a thousand policies. Many of those policies were with UMB bank customers who found her location convenient.
“This place has been fabulous,” she says. “There’s nothing like it.”