Viewing entries in
Downtown 101

5 Questions, 5 Answers with a Downtown Pro


5 Questions, 5 Answers with a Downtown Pro

Jason Nivens and family at Kauffman Stadium for a Kansas City Royals Dressed to the Nines game.

Jason Nivens and family at Kauffman Stadium for a Kansas City Royals Dressed to the Nines game.

Jason Nivens has spent the last decade living in various parts of downtown Kansas City.  From his current home on the top of the hill in the West Side, to the Crossroads, Columbus Park and Westport, he’s chosen urban living after being raised in the Kansas suburbs.  Most of his time is spent in the city for work, entertainment and taking his step-daughter to school at the Crossroads Academy.  Here are a few tips from a downtown pro!

1. You lived in suburbia before transferring to a few other states.  What made you choose downtown when you returned in 2004?

After living in downtown Dallas, Midtown Atlanta and for a spell being homeless in Houston (a story for a different blog) I knew that when I moved back to KC I needed to be in the city. There's just something special about being able to walk out to the market, a show, a pub for a beer or a laid back coffee shop which I don't feel exist when you have to "jump in the car" to go somewhere in suburbia. Especially the further out you get in the burbs. I relied on mass transit in those other cities and I wanted to utilize the same in KC, which we do. 

2. After living in several neighborhoods in the downtown area from Columbus Park to Westport, what are your top 5 favorite things about urban living?

  1. Walkability 
  2. The (human) characters
  3. Architecture 
  4. No where near as milquetoast as the burbs
  5. The city lights at night

3. As an avid user of mass transit, what is the best advice you can give a newbie?

Buy a monthly bus pass. Try it out, test which routes & buses will work best for you. Wear headphones and keep a book close, helps keep some of those characters from chatting with you if you don't feel like it. And because we're still improving our mass transit, download the Uber app. It'll come in handy if there's a bus set back. 

4. Enrollment is going on now for the Crossroads Academy.  How long has your step-daughter been a student?  What do you see as the greatest benefit in attending the Crossroads Academy?

Our little bug's been at Crossroads for 2 years now. The greatest benefit is being involved with life in the city. Seeing all the different people who live and work downtown. Meeting people of different races & creeds and understanding we're all in this together so let's work together. 

5. We know downtown Kansas City has changed a lot since 2004, but for someone considering moving here, what would advice or words of wisdom would you provide?

As the late Hunter S. Thompson said, "Buy the ticket, take the ride." You don't know what you don't know and I know everyone of my friends I've made that have moved here from either coast are always impressed with our downtown. The people, the energy, the vibe, and the fun we're having. Not to say you can't have fun in the burbs but we're having way more fun down here! ;) 


Downtown 101: VOTE!


Downtown 101: VOTE!

Havis encourages everyone to improve the community around you by getting involved. He lives in Midtown and can be found on Southwest Boulevard on just about any Taco Tuesday.

Havis encourages everyone to improve the community around you by getting involved. He lives in Midtown and can be found on Southwest Boulevard on just about any Taco Tuesday.

The day we’ve all waited for is finally upon us: after an unrelenting crush of forums, receptions, and appearances, Dowtowners have an opportunity to voice your opinion for city council representatives and mayor for the coming stages of a newly energized downtown. I encourage you all to vote on June 23, 6am-7pm, and to remain engaged with the process in the days and weeks to come. The deadline to vote absentee in-person is 5:00pm today, June 22, downstairs in Union Station with the Board of Election Commissioners.

The growth in size and energy downtown in the last decade has been significant, with acceleration in the last few years remarkable. The increased engagement and participation by downtown residents in municipal boards and commissions has increased the impact and relevance of the downtown voice. The continued involvement of all Downtowners — through attending hearings and public information meetings, voting, and providing feedback to the council, mayor, and city manager — is vital to the success of plans underway to make downtown and the entire city a premiere destination to live, work, and play.

Much has been made of the abysmal voting behavior of this city and its young people in particular. In the most recent primary, only 10 percent of registered voters turned up, and the turnout among the “under 30” set was little better than a rounding error. I embrace the notion that our elected officials take the views of all citizens seriously, but they must know and hear those views.

Transportation solutions that yield positive outcomes for visitors and residents of downtown are important, as are clear and prudent rules governing business. The city must hear from you on how to proceed with this and other issues. Share your thoughts at the polls and in person. I would again encourage to you make a plan to vote on June 23rd. The success of your downtown depends on it.

Be informed!

Check out candidates’ responses to questionnaires from The Pitch and BikeWalkKC before you vote on Tuesday.

Your vote works for you

Your "I voted" sticker is worth something! Downtown residents can show their sticker Tuesday night at Cleaver & Cork in the Power and Light District for a free drink courtesy of DNA. Any KCMO resident can show their sticker for drink specials at Kelly's in Westport


Downtown 101: How to use Bike Share KC


Downtown 101: How to use Bike Share KC

Ellen  is a DNA board member and has lived downtown since 2009. You can find her riding her bike to find good beer and fun friends, or hanging out on the Boulevard speaking Spanish with  ClaroKC .

Ellen is a DNA board member and has lived downtown since 2009. You can find her riding her bike to find good beer and fun friends, or hanging out on the Boulevard speaking Spanish with ClaroKC.

You may have noticed the solar-powered B-Cycle stations popping up around downtown, Westport and the Plaza, and thought, “How do I use those? They look so convenient!” Biking around downtown can be faster and less frustrating that driving, and bike share stations make wheeling around even easier. Here’s how to use them.

Want to try Bike Share for yourself? Join us this Sunday, May 24, for a bicycle tour of downtown! You can BYOBike or try a 24-hour bike share pass for free. Learn more >>

Or, join BikeWalkKC and New Belgium Brewery for Clips Beer and Film Tour tonight, May 21, at Theis Park. Ride Bike Share KC to the event and you can get high-fives and beer tokens!

Uno: Buy a pass

There are three places to buy a Bike Share KC pass: from the Kansas City B-Cycle website, the mobile app, or at any Bike Share KC kiosk. Online you can buy any pass: 24-hour, 7-day, 30-day, or annual. At a kiosk, only 24-hour memberships are available. Pro tip: at $65/year, the annual pass is a steal if you live or work downtown! Once you’ve bought your membership, be sure to take the credit card used to purchase it with you — it’s tied to your account and you’ll use it at the kiosk to check out your bike (you won’t be charged again unless your membership expires). If you buy the annual membership, you’ll receive a membership card in the mail.

Dos: Get a bike

  • Head to a kiosk! Approach the touch screen wielding the credit card tied to your account.

  • Follow the instructions on screen: select a language (English or Spanish), whether you’d like to check out a bike (yes), and if you need a 24-hour membership (“no” if you already bought your pass, “yes” if you are buying at the kiosk).

  • At this point you’ll insert your credit card and either purchase a pass or the system will verify your account.

  • Once bought or verified, select a bike using the dock number. The dock number is on a sticker at the top of the dock. The selected dock will unlock a bike for 30 seconds and beep until you remove the bike.

Tres: Adjust your bike

Each bike has an adjustable seat height. Open the clamp, scoot the seat up or down, and close the clamp again (all the way!). The seat post is marked, so you can make a note of where you like your seat for quick future adjusting. I’m 5-foot-6-ish and like to set the seat between the “5” and “6”. You should be able to extend your leg almost-but-not-quite straight when sitting on the seat with your foot on the pedal.

Cuatro: Go!

You’re ready! You’re pumped! Each bike also has hand signal reminders directly below the handlebars. If it’s been a minute since you rode in traffic, be sure to review those while you secure your helmet (it’s BYOH for health reasons). Drivers in Kansas City are still getting used to sharing the road, so keep an eye on traffic, look and signal before changing lanes, and always obey traffic laws!

Now get out there! Kick off and have fun cruising to some of Kansas City’s best coffee shops, parks or even barbecue. Share photos on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!



Downtown 101: Riding the Bus


Downtown 101: Riding the Bus

Maren is a DNA Board Member. She has lived in downtown KC since 2005. 

Maren is a DNA Board Member. She has lived in downtown KC since 2005. 

I lived downtown for several years before becoming a regular bus rider. Now that I use it, there is no going back. When I talk to other Downtowners who are reluctant or unsure about riding the bus, I hear many of the same questions and concerns that kept me away. The truth is that riding the bus is pretty easy, and there are a lot of benefits for those who do.  

If your questions aren't answered here, don’t forget to check out KCATA’s rider guide!

“I don’t know where to start.” 

One of the most common reasons I hear for not riding the bus is that people simply don’t know anything about how it works or how to use it. The good news is that downtown is the easiest area to learn. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) operates buses in 7 counties in the Kansas City metropolitan area, and downtown gets the most route variety and flexibility, and the highest frequency and quality of service. If transit serves a location in the region, there is a good chance a route will take you there from Downtown. For someone who lives and works downtown, I can almost always find a bus route to get me where I need to go. 

If you are a brand-new bus rider in Kansas City, I would recommend planning a trip on the Main Street MAX. This route runs very frequently, so you can catch a bus every 10 minutes Monday-Friday, every 15 minutes on Saturdays, and every 30 minutes on Sundays. The MMAX runs from the River Market through the Loop, Crossroads, Crown Center, Midtown and The Plaza, with some continuing to Brookside and Waldo. The stops are designed with large blue beacon signs, shelters, and digital information that tells you how far away the bus is and where it is headed. The front of the bus has a digital sign that will tell you the end location. 

Enter through the front door of the bus and you will immediately buy your ticket by inserting your bills and/or coins in the machine near the bus driver. Once you pay you will get two cards back—one for your receipt or change and one for your transfer pass. When you are ready to get off, pull the yellow cord to alert your driver that you want to get off on the next stop. You can exit through the front or side doors of the bus. If you are catching a transfer bus or if you want to return to your original location, you can use your transfer pass within two hours of the stamped time on your card. The drivers are very friendly so don’t hesitate to ask them for help! 

“I don’t know where to get a bus pass.” 

Anyone can buy a ticket when boarding the bus. It costs $1.50 — cash only — which includes one transfer within a 2-hour period. If you will be riding the bus multiple times in one day, you can buy a 1-day or a 3-day pass when you get on the bus. Be sure to tell your bus driver before you insert your cash if you want a transfer card or day pass. If you don’t have exact change, you will receive a change card that you can reuse until your balance is zero. The bus will not accept credit cards, so be prepared and keep $3 in your wallet. If you want a 31-day pass you can buy one at 30 area locations. Check with your employer, too, as many offer discounted rates.

“I don’t know the bus schedule.”

Finding a route is easy — just open Google Maps! Enter your destination normally, then choose the bus icon and select what time you want to leave or arrive. You will be instantly provided with multiple options, just like you would if you were driving. Google Maps will even tell you when to leave your current location and will provide walking directions to the bus stop. KCATA also has digital maps, schedules and a trip planner on their website. Happy hour at Le Fou Frog has never been easier!

“What if I miss the bus?” 

Missing the bus is no fun. I remember the last cold and rainy day when I watched my bus drive away without me. Since that sad day, I’ve learned to always arrive at my bus stop 5 minutes early. If you are relying on Google Maps, it will almost always tell you to leave in time to get you to your bus stop exactly when your bus is scheduled to arrive. Google uses an average walking pace, so you may walk slower or faster than what it estimates. In my experience, unless there is a snowstorm, the buses in downtown stay very close to their schedules. If you do miss the bus, KCATA has real-time bus monitoring so you can tell when the next bus is supposed to arrive. Or, search for a different bus route. Since you’re downtown, you should have lots of options. If all else fails, downtown is very walkable, a BikeShare station is probably nearby, or Google Maps can estimate an arrival time for an Uber driver.

“What if there is construction or a road closure on my bus route?” 

Don’t worry if there is streetcar construction or a festival on your bus route. The KCATA posts reroute bulletins on its home page which will tell you where the bus will be rerouted and where you will be able to catch the bus. There is also reroute information listed on each individual route page.

“I have a car. Why wouldn't I just drive?” 

Compared to the costs of parking for the day, bus fare is a pretty good deal! My morning commute is much less stressful when I am on the bus and I can let my excellent bus driver deal with the hassle of rush hour traffic. Imagine attending an event at the River Market, Plaza Art Fair, Sprint Center or Kauffman Center and not having to worry about jockeying for a parking spot. In comparison to event parking, riding the bus is easy — plus when you don’t drive, you can enjoy some drinks while you are there! The availability of transit has also allowed my husband and me to become a one-car household. The cost of car payments, insurance, fuel, maintenance, and other expenses totals around $9,000 per year on average. If access to transit can work for you, giving up a car can save a lot of money!

Remember, KCATA and Google Maps are very helpful resources. Grab a friend who is a frequent bus rider and have them show you the ropes. Don’t know anyone that rides the bus? Come to a Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting and you will be sure to meet some new friends that love the bus. Riding the bus in Downtown and Midtown KCMO is easy and I encourage all of you to consider taking the bus instead of driving at least once a week or more. You may even save some money in the process! 


Downtown 101: Urban Greenspace


Downtown 101: Urban Greenspace

“One of the most important but least recognized essentials to an attractive and healthy urban environment is a well-designed and well-maintained network of city parks — an essential component of any city’s infrastructure.”         City Parks Alliance

We are fortunate in Kansas City to have a variety of downtown greenspaces, each with its own personality. We hope with this beautiful spring weather you will do some exploring and find one that suits your mood!

Case Park/West Terrace Park

Joy Cota is a Brookside transplant and loves downtown's walkability, access to the arts scene and delicious, local restaurants. She is ready and excited to talk to you about how she is enjoying retirement in a building just two blocks away from the new streetcar line.

Joy Cota is a Brookside transplant and loves downtown's walkability, access to the arts scene and delicious, local restaurants. She is ready and excited to talk to you about how she is enjoying retirement in a building just two blocks away from the new streetcar line.

Located in the northwest corner of the downtown loop, this large park overlooks the West Bottoms to the west and the Wheeler Downtown Airport to the north. Sprawling lawns make it perfect for soccer, Frisbee or lawn darts. It’s also a great spot for a blanket and a good book on a sunny day. It boasts a small playground is available for children and a shaded area with grills and picnic tables, a frequent spot for our annual DNA picnic. This is also the prettiest place to watch the sun set over the West Bottoms. The furthest point north has a sloping hill toward the airport and is THE place to be in August for the 2015 Air Show (featuring the Blue Angels!). Living here you will also be treated to having the fighter jets buzz your buildings the week before the show as they practice. If you’ve not yet seen or heard that, you’re in for an experience! Plans are also currently underway for the northern portion of the park to be an off-leash dog park for all our furry friends, and a Kansas City native is organizing a clean-up effort for the north stairs.

Berkley Riverfront Park

Berkley Riverfront Park is just northeast of the River Market neighborhood, accessible either by crossing the Grand St. Bridge at 2nd St. or from the Town of Kansas Bridge at 1st and Main. The Heritage Trail starts below the Town of Kansas Bridge and follows the river through the park. It is great for walking, jogging, and bicycling. Picnic tables are located along the river as well. If you are in town for the 4th of July, there is no better fireworks display than during KC Riverfest. An all-day celebration with food, drinks and music, culminates with a fantastic display reflected in the water. Buses run throughout downtown to the park on the day of the festival, making it easy to carry lawn chairs, blankets, and picnics.

Oppenstein Brothers Memorial Park

Located at 12th and Walnut, this European-flavored park provides shade trees and dappled sunlight for downtown workers. Bistro-style tables and chairs provide a great spot for an alfresco lunch purchased at one of the nearby restaurants or food trucks. The Downtown Council is sponsoring “Art in the Loop” this summer, including artistic performances from 11:30-1:30 on Thursdays. Also performing this summer will be the KC Guitar Society with Guitars in the Park on Sunday evenings from 7-8 pm. Bring a lawn chair and come enjoy these classical and flamenco musicians. These events are always free and no matter how hot and humid the weather gets, there is always a breeze blowing through the towers surrounding Oppenstein Park!

Rooftop Park above Cosentino’s parking garage

Another option for an alfresco meal is the Rooftop Park accessible from 8 am to dusk from now through Fall. Pick up some tasty treats from Cosentino’s, take the elevator to the top and spend some time in the sun watching the OneLight residential tower rise to its 25 stories. Great urban views in all directions! It is also the only park we know of that sends its own tweets, so if you visit, be sure to let the world know you’re there!

Ilus Davis Civic Mall

Located between the Federal Courthouse and City Hall, this 5.2 acre park contains sweeping lawns, trees, flowerbeds, and a fountain that runs down to a large reflecting pool. This is great space for meeting friends for a pick-up game or playing ball or frisbee with your dogs. After a day of running, you and your pup will enjoy cooling your feet in the fountain.

Garment District Pocket Park

This sweet little parklet located at 8th and Broadway is dedicated to the many manufacturing workers who populated this area until most clothing manufacturing moved overseas. Notice the sewing needle and button sculpture in honor of this industry which was so important to Kansas City. Today this shaded spot with a fountain and picnic tables provides another lunchtime option. Even if you don’t work nearby, this park has a B-Cycle bikeshare kiosk for your convenience. Music will be provided from 12:15-1 pm on May 14, 21 and 28, and June 4, 11, and 18, with rain dates June 25 and July 17. Bring your lunch!

River Market Park

Just west of the City Market is a greenspace that is an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of the City Market itself. Residents enjoy exercising their dogs, buskers entertain, and people-watching on Saturday mornings can be great. Shade trees and benches provide a great place to eat or drink whatever treat you’ve picked up from the farmers and vendors. Movies are also shown throughout the summer on select Friday nights. Follow The City Market for details and announcements. 


Downtown 101: Civic Involvement


Downtown 101: Civic Involvement

So, you want to keep track of what's going on in your neighborhood and the city, and help advocate for the future you want to see, but you're not quite sure how to get started? That's understandable.

Between public meetings, online engagement platforms, committees, commissions, and City Council, it is hard to keep track of what it happening when, where, and why. Here's a handy guide for untangling it.

How do I find out when stuff happens?

  • The City Clerk's site is a great resource for all things KCMO city government. Each week, there is a combined agenda for all of the council committees ( listing the dockets for all of the meetings planned that week. These committees address new issues before they are passed on to the full council, so it is the best way to get in on the ground floor for a new issue. While these groups tackle issues citywide, you can scan for addresses in your area quickly, or just search the text for stuff you are interested in. And here's a calendar ( of everything coming up at City Hall.
  • If you want agendas pushed to you, you can sign up to have agenda mailed to you automatically. It can get a little spammy, but it is a quick and easy way to review everything happening as it is released. Sign up here:
  • So you're saying it isn't easy for you to take hours out of your day to go sit at City Hall? Well, you can catch all of the Council proceedings on Channel 2, the city's government channel. It can be streamed online both live (, or you can dig into the archives on demand (

So, what are all of these groups, commissions, and committees?

Here's a few, all of which have meetings that have agendas posted ahead of time and are open to the public -- usually with an opportunity to provide comments during or afterward:

The Parking and Transportation Commission is a City Council-established, mayorally-appointed body providing governance on transportation issues within the greater downtown area. This group consists of leaders from neighborhood and industry groups, and also includes the Director of the KC Area Transportation Authority, the Director of Public Works, and several members of the City Council. I was appointed as a representative for the Downtown Neighborhood Association and was recently appointed chair.

The PTC meets monthly to address all things transportation impacting downtown. We receive briefings from city staff on issues and projects, and make recommendations to the City Council for adoption. This group provided the groundwork for the streetcar, and has been the mechanism by which one-way streets have been made two-way, signage has been improved, sidewalks and streetscapes standards have been established, parking regulations have been standardized, and transit improvement studies have been coordinated. All of the little changes to downtown sidewalks and streets that change our neighborhood experience start here.

The Parking Policy Review Board was formed as an offshoot of the PTC for the purposes of reviewing proposed changes to parking policy in the greater downtown area. Before, parking changes were managed through a variety of disparate processes, all of which were not well coordinated with each other or grounded in policy. As downtown grows, the city-controlled parking inventory will become more important and more challenged. The review board has the task of getting that process under control, and for making recommendations on citizen and business requests for changes to public parking policy.

The Board also reviews and makes recommendations on parking technology, enforcement techniques, and holistic parking law, in coordination with City staff and the police department. Improvements like ParkMobile smartphone payment for on-street parking happen through this group.

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority is the body appointed to operate the streetcar. It was created by City Council resolution to allow those paying the most for the streetcar — downtown residents and property owners — to have the most substantial role in operating the system. This group meets monthly, and handles business including the hiring and managing of a company for day-to-day operation of the streetcar system, coordinating the marketing efforts for the new line, and managing safety and security concerns — among many other things.

The Greater Downtown Area Plan Implementation Committee is tasked with implementing the expansive and ambitious goals of the Greater Downtown Area Plan [PDF], a long and highly involved vision for Greater Downtown that the Downtown Neighborhood Association has been heavily involved in since its conception. The plan was adopted by Council in 2010 and serves as the principle guiding document for everything we’re doing downtown.

While all of these groups are driven by the area plan goals, the Implementation Committee works on the practical steps to take to move the plan forward. Most importantly, the committee recommends one coordinated discretionary funding request (through the city’s PIAC program) on behalf of all downtown neighborhoods. This competitive process usually brings many requests, and the broad downtown coalition’s ability to agree on priorities has gone a long way toward making the right improvements at the right times.

But what, there's more! These groups aren't limited to Downtown-related issues, but downtown projects will cross their desks when they apply.

  • The City Council, which has 5 committees ( that review issues in their focus areas before they go to the full council.
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is the city's go-to group for making recommendations for a more walkable and bikeable KC
  • Board of Zoning Adjustment reviews requests and grants exceptions to zoning regulations, which could have an impact on development in the neighborhood
  • City Market Oversight Committee keeps an eye on the operations of the city-owned City Market
  • City Plan Commission covers all kinds of projects, including reviewing the plans for development projects, zoning, and land use throughout the city
  • Public Improvements Advisory Committee decides how a special fund for neighborhood improvements is spent, which is a popular method for neighborhood projects

The easiest way to sort all of this out? Join and participate in the Downtown Neighborhood Association! The DNA team is keeping an eye on these items and advocating for downtown residents whenever it can, and DNA members have official spots on many of the committees mentioned. Follow the blog and DNA on Twitter and Facebook, and add your voice to the mix at meetings and in social media when issues arise. Have a concern or question? Let DNA carry it into the discussion by sharing it!


Downtown 101: KCMO 311


Downtown 101: KCMO 311

Written by Scott Harris, downtown resident.

Written by Scott Harris, downtown resident.

KCMO 3­1­1 is how city residents communicate a request for services to city government. Almost anything can be submitted to 3­1­1. A few popular examples among downtowners include missing street signs, nuisance properties, or unshoveled post-­snow sidewalks.

Submitting an issue to 3­1­1 is simple and response times are generally quick (usually within 2 days).

The city offers several ways to interact with 3­1­1. My personal favorite is Twitter (@KCMO311), but you might prefer to report online or via the handy iOS app. You can also call 3­1­1 (literally dial 3­1­1), but in my experience, this is a less desirable option because it includes phone hold times and you can’t send a photo of an issue. I often see issues while walking around downtown and sending a picture is a great way to improve the accuracy of communication.

In addition to a photo when possible, including as many details as possible in your request helps expedite handling. You should include the following in your 3­1­1 submission:

  1. Location – An address or intersection. If not an issue involving a particular address, then give as much geographical detail as possible (which corner, side of the street, etc.).
  2. Description – What needs the city’s attention? This can be nearly anything, from nuisance properties to broken sidewalks and missing or incorrect street signs.
  3. Contact – Include your contact information so the appropriate city department can contact you with follow-­up questions and to alert you when the issue has been resolved.

After submitting a request to 3­1­1, you’ll receive a case number allowing both you and the city to track your case to resolution. Once again, you can call 3­1­1 with your case number or, better yet, use the handy 3­1­1 status tracker to see where your case stands. You can also follow­-up if you need to share additional information, you’re dissatisfied with 3­1­1’s resolution of your case, or you simply need more information.

Using 3­1­1 helps inform city departments of items requiring their attention. As is often said, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Judicious use helps abate nuisance issues and expedite needed repairs, making for a safer and more attractive downtown for visitors and residents alike.

The 3­1­1 website can also help you with lots of additional topics that don’t require a service request, for example scheduling a bulky ­item trash pickup, finding your regular trash day, accessing water services, and Municipal Court information.