The building was designed by the Kansas City architecture firm of Hoit, Price and Barnes, which also designed Municipal Auditorium and 909 Walnut. The original plans included a twin building to be paired on the immediate west side of the building, but the second tower was never built due to the effects of the Great Depression on local real estate prices. As a result, the west side of the building has no windows. The Power and Light Building, at 34 stories, was Missouri's tallest habitable structure from 1931 until the completion of One U.S. Bank Plaza in St. Louis in 1976.
Kansas City Power & Light Co. left the building in 1991. As of March 2012[update] the building has only one tenant, which fills three floors of the building.
In 2010 Kansas City selected the area adjacent to the Power and Light Building as a potential location for a hotel and convention center, to fulfill a need for the city. However, the city only received two proposals from property developers for a convention hotel at the site. The city considered the two proposals it received in 2011 as lackluster and were considering reopening the bidding process for a different downtown location. In 2012 the building was put on sale and was purchased by a Minnesota developer.
The Kansas City Power and Light Building is crowned by an ornate Art Deco lantern, which features prismatic glass panels concealing red-orange lights that glow each evening at sunset. Originally, each recessed setback of the building also held multicolor flickering flood lights that dazzled nighttime viewers with the impression of blazing flames. Today, only the lantern is illuminated by this effect.