- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2003

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — St. Louis has the Arch. Seattle has the Space Needle. New York has the Statue of Liberty. Tom Overby wants to create a monument for his hometown, Kansas City: a 650-foot-tall tornado — 45 feet taller than the Space Needle, 20 feet taller than the Arch and 345 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.

The monument would anchor a tourism district with a theme based on “The Wizard of Oz.”

The giant tornado “would be a state landmark,” says Mr. Overby, whose nonprofit development company, Avenue Area Inc., has been working for years to spruce up down-at-the-heels Kansas City. As Mr. Overby envisions it, visitors could take an elevator to the top, where they could eat at a restaurant and enjoy the view.

The area surrounding the tornado would include buildings made to look as though they were destroyed by a twister. Inside those buildings would be gift shops. The base of the tornado would include a museum with information on the history and science of twisters.

“I think Kansas can really capitalize on using something that it’s known for, and building a structure of this magnitude would certainly be a draw,” Mr. Overby says.

The twister is still far from becoming a reality, however.

Don Denney, a spokesman for the governments of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, is reserving judgment until state officials and local residents react.

“It’s obviously an off-the-wall concept,”Mr. Denney says. “It definitely brings chuckles, if not full-out laughter, when people first hear about it, but I suppose the same thing was done when they first built the Arch.”

There’s a risk that the project could offend people who have suffered from tornadoes.

“I don’t think that would be a problem. It’s not a problem with me,” says Paul Dary, whose 81-year-old brother, Ralph Dary, was the only Kansas City-area fatality during a spate of powerful May tornadoes in the Midwest.

Mr. Dary would like to see a plaque honoring tornado victims as part of the plan.

Mr. Overby is hoping government officials will endorse the project, and he says he has investors lined up to fund the projected $50 million cost.

Architecture experts say the impact of a giant tornado looming over the city’s downtown wouldn’t necessarily be bad.

Richard Sommer, an architect who also is associate professor and director of urban design at the Harvard Design School, says that as part of a network of attractions and art and entertainment venues, the tornado “could be a boon to downtown,” but he adds that people probably won’t want to live or work near the structure.

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