How Many Years Can A Building Exist…

There are multiple predictions about the future of the Earth after the humans are no longer populating it; scientists, writers, movie directors are guessing how long it will be before the Planet erases all the traces of our existence. These predictions are not very hard to make: there are multiple examples of abandoned and lost cities from the ancient times and not so ancient like Chernobyl.

And then there is former Benchmark Express Furniture store in Olathe, KS – a slowly deteriorating reminder of a failed business I drive by several times a day. The store closed around 4 years ago, when the economy was still doing fine and people still were spending the money they didn’t yet know they didn’t have. Recently one of the large signs fell down and I thought it was a good time to stop by and take a few photos.
Apparently the letter X is the first to go:

This sign crashed a month or two ago:

No one backed up to the loading dock for a long time:

Concrete is slowly converting back to its original ingredients:

Customers are long gone…

…and trespassers are not welcome:

Grass is growing on the parking lot:

This sign may last a year or two before it falls:

Formerly grand facade is sprouting cracks:

Even the parking lot signs are tired of standing idle:

Wind is blowing through the banner:

Soon after the final sale was over with and the store was closed for good, the developers promptly constructed more retail space across the street.

  • Dial 311 from your workplace. Tell them that an historic structure looks all fally down to you. I guarantee that KC Dangerous Buildings will be there within the hour to blow it up…. doesn’t matter if it’s in Olathe,, they have a quota.

  • And here we just thought things were neglected only in the Inner City! Wonder of the JOCO Business Community wants those pictures linked to “Johnson County growth” on the internet? heh heh. It was actually a pretty nice store, I think we bought a piece there but I don’t remember what. Then we were invaded by the Nebraska Russian Bear!

  • Great shots. Vacant retail was actually the first thing I ever blogged about. There are few things more depressing than hundreds of thousands of square feet of vacant commercial space.

    Radioman’s right – once Nebraska Furniture Mart moved in, Benchmark was gone in mere months.

    Check out to see dying/vacant retail across the country. Their focus is on dead indoor malls; the term “labelscar” refers to the outline of dust and dirt that is left when a sign is removed.

    And if you have a chance to walk through Indian Springs in KCK before it’s torn down…what a fascinating and eerie place. You can still get a really good slice of pizza at Italian Delight, strangely. I have no idea how it survives.

    • Josh, I recently took my kid to Metcalf South mall, pretty sad-looking nowadays but still clean and neat;apparently she didn’t realize it was a mall, which makes sense – there are only anchor stores on both sides that are doing any kind of business. I always imagine how exciting it must have been when it first opened in 1967. I’ve been to both Indian Springs and Bannister, but unlike these malls, nothing like crime or shootings happened around Metcalf South to bring it down.

    • sarah

      second indian springs and italian delight. I know people who literally drive from JoCo to get a slice there. More people than you’d think have strong family roots in KCK, many even my age early 30s grew up there, but hopped over the county line in search of a better life like the one illustrated above. I think that’s what drew me in on this post. Those pix could’ve been taken at 48th and State Ave, 75th and Quivira, or 435 and Bannister.

  • Rick in KC

    There is something very poignant, and ugly, about suburban, big-box decay …

  • Teigan H.

    Good riddence. I nearly always dislike the furniture in stores like that. Fuuuugly. They should really do something with the building though. Skating rink! All ages club? I think I just miss Gee Coffee.

    What about the Circuit City that never was at 35 highway and Johnson Drive? That was a pretty crappy move. They started building that at the same time they announced they were going bankrupt/closing.

  • I think “Tie your load” is just generally good advice.

    • “tie your load”, what is a three word definition of vasectomy, Alex?

  • sarah

    Love this post. Additional song suggestions:

    Rush – Subdivisions
    Arcade Fire – Sprawl (Flatland)

  • midtown miscreant

    You should do a suburban blight series. I go through there a few times a week, cops love to shoot radar from under a tree on the north east corner of the parking lot.
    Ive got to go tie my load now.

  • Sarah – I am one of those who finally jumped the county line, though it took 34 years to do it. My grandmother managed the Topsy’s next door to Italian Delight when I was a kid, so I got to witness the mall’s decline that began in earnest after the shooting at Fun Factory. I’ve been in Merriam for a year now, and frankly I wish I’d moved sooner.

    Speaking of Merriam…they simply couldn’t have picked a worse time (or worse anchor tenant) to knock down 60 homes and build that ghostly strip mall at Johnson and I-35. Like condos downtown or any other real estate trend, eventually the saturation point hit and we were built out. At least they hadn’t started on their next project, which currently consists of a few hundred feet of road and curbs on a flat plot of land at the SW corner of 67th and I-35.

  • and the thing is, as someone hinted at above, these things are all over town—the mess that is the strip center across from the old Bannister Mall, for one, and the list goes on.

    We keep expanding this metropolitan area so we can get “ever newer” buildings and offices and shops and we walk away–literally and figuratively–from the existing. No wonder Troost is a mess.

    It really won’t be that long until Zona Rosa starts falling down, either, folks. I give it less than 10 years. Seriously.

    Then go to 135th and Nall and look at the mess that was supposed to be that development before the world fell apart.

    God we’re a stupid people.

    Mo Rage

    • KCLovesItsChains

      It was my understanding they decided to close; they didn’t fail. And it’s mostly due to people flocking to chain stores like Nebraska Furniture mart. KC loves it’s chain stores and smaller places go out of business… I would rather go to Benchmark and pay less than go to Nebraska furniture mart which is just over-priced asian imports anyway. I do hope KC folks do someday realize supporting the local stores is important… so much has been lost in this city already. This city is basically turning into one large cookie cutter like most of the houses in Johnson County… What shade of beige would you like? Stop embracing the chains… There is a handful of local good stores/restaurants left but even then having good taste is another topic entirely… KC people should be forced to spend time in Chicago, NY, San Francisco and see what good food/homes are, and how to support local businesses…