#66 – Dean’s Underground
1501 W 31st St, Kansas City, MO 64111
Features: 1.2 million square feet of space, 10 stories underground.
Good for: Saying you’ve driven under Kansas City.
Tip: Drive through Dean’s Underground to see the whole complex.
KANSAS CITY HAS AN UNDERGROUND CITY. WHAT. Made from abandoned mines, Dean’s Underground is a 1.2 million square foot real estate space located 10 stories underneath the streets of Kansas City.
The History of Dean’s Underground
The history of Dean’s Downtown Underground begins in 1873, when contractors for the railroad created a railroad tunnel known as the Magnificent Tunnel. It was never completed due to lack of funds and stopped about halfway of the original planned length.
It then became a mine, to likely reap the omnipresent limestone in the Kansas City area.
After the mines’ abandonment, Lester Dean, Sr., explored the abandoned, flooded mine in a rowboat that he lowered down a shaft. He drained the mine and used a mobile hard rock cutting machine and dynamite to expand the future warehouse. He was among the first in America to visualize abandoned mines as commercial real estate.
The grand opening of Dean’s Downtown Underground took place in 1966, featuring a Fred and Wilma Flintstone-themed party. Attendees wore fur, carried clubs and ate roasted pig by torchlight. Apparently the ventilation was terrible and attendees were coughing and blowing black soot out of their noses the next day. (Today there is a ventilation and air recycling system in place).
The first tenant in Dean’s Downtown Underground was local business, Hallmark Cards. Dixie Cups also set up their warehouse and distribution operation in Dean’s Downtown Underground in the early days.
Dean’s Underground Today
Today, Dean’s Downtown Underground offers office, warehouse, meeting space and storage. They can offer reduced utilities and lease rates beat above ground prices because of its geo-thermal environment that keeps temps moderate year-round. It felt wonderful in Dean’s on a cold February day.
Some of interesting tenants include the Nelson-Atkins for art storage and lots of individual use for RVs and cars.
The facility is also open to the public to explore by foot or vehicle. The tunnel entrance to Dean’s Downtown Underground is on the south side of 31st Street just west of Terrace Street. To access Dean’s Downtown Underground via foot, take the elevators off 31st & Mercier Streets.