The city of Kansas City, MO is tentatively planning to ask voters to approve a property tax increase to pay for an $800 million bond issue - GO (General Obligation) Bonds. We've started a rough list of ideas on how to spend that money downtown (within the GDAP boundries)!
DNA - your voice is needed! On Thursday, May 26 at 9:30 am in the 26th Floor Council Chambers, the proposed Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Ordinance will be heard before a joint meeting of the Transportation & Infrastructure and Planning, Zoning & Economic Development Committees. This proposed ordinance, sponsored by Councilwoman Jolie Justus, would give the city more tools to foster quality development along our transit corridors.
Per the City's website, a TOD Policy is an important first step to ensure public transit investments are accompanied by new development and economic activity for several reasons:
- It creates a broad framework to incorporate TOD policies and principles into existing plans and future plan updates;
- It guides more detailed planning and dialogue for specific neighborhoods and station areas.
- It identifies potential barriers to TOD in existing plans and policies and outlines a corrective course of action;
- It assists in prioritizing capital investments to maximize benefit and leverage limited resources.
- It facilitates improved coordination of City agencies and departments to support TOD; and,
- It identifies potential areas to strategically focus investment and development. Development Policy identifies the critical elements of a successful TOD and provides a concise program of initiatives to implement TOD in Kansas City.
What might the results of the TOD ordinance look like? Just look at your neighborhood! Transit-oriented development is people-oriented development, and is the fundamental bedrock of downtown. Anything that you would walk to, bike to, or take transit to before driving to is an example. TOD is part of what makes Downtown Downtown. Even if you are not a regular transit user, you will benefit from the quality development that the ordinance encourages.
The proposed policy has been developed and reviewed by the City Planning Department, and has been vetted through public outreach and comment. It is important for residents to speak up and defend the policy, which has gone through due process and not let it be derailed or diminished by special interest groups at the last minute as other past efforts have been.
If you would like to learn more, the city has an informative website set up with links to the actual policy documents:
Kansas City has made significant investments in transit over the last decade - most visibly the Streetcar - but also the Ride KC MAX lines, enhanced Ride KC Bus service, and Ride KC Bridj. Encouraging TOD would help the city leverage these investments and generate a greater return on them, providing a benefit to everyone.
Come to City Hall on Thursday, May 26 at 9:30 am to be seen and be heard! If you are unable to attend on Thursday, please email, call, Tweet, or otherwise reach out to the City Council. Email sent to "firstname.lastname@example.org" will reach all members.
The members in Thursday's meeting:
Scott Taylor, Vice Chair (@Scott_TaylorKC)
Jermaine Reed, Vice Chair (@JermaineReed)
Katheryn Shields (@K_J_Shields)
Heather Hall (@Hall1stDistrict)
Quinton Lucas (@QuintonLucasKC)
Jolie Justus (@JolieJustus)
Lee Barnes Jr.
Kevin McManus (@McManusKC)
Stay tuned to our Twitter (@DNAKCMO) for more info!
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?
- The (human) characters
- No where near as milquetoast as the burbs
- 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! ;)
The following list represents the top infrastructure priorities for the Downtown Neighborhood Association. We look forward to working with other Downtown neighborhoods and organizations to develop a shared list of priorities in accordance with the Greater Downtown Area Plan Implementation process.
Case Park / West Terrace Park
The Downtown Neighborhood Association supports the finalization of the KCDC preliminary master plan for Case Park, and a phased approach to implement recommended improvements. With one of the largest contiguous open spaces downtown, unparalleled panoramic views, and directly adjacent residential uses, this space is a unique and important amenity for downtown. However, the DNA believes that this park is not fulfilling its potential as a signature public gathering space that could enhance quality of life and catalyze new activity in the Quality Hill area.
The preliminary master plan identifies concepts to activate the existing park space, create new dynamic public gathering spaces, and to increase the visibility and integration of the park with the surrounding areas. These student concepts require vetting and professional design. The DNA believes that these improvements will help to enhance Case / West Terrace Park as a downtown amenity and improve quality of life for residents of the west loop.
Grand Boulevard Improvements
The Downtown Neighborhood Association supports improvement to Grand Boulevard to achieve the goal of making Grand a premier urban boulevard that includes all of the following components, integrated in a thoughtful and well-designed manner: increased transit service, a safe and comfortable bikeway, green infrastructure, public spaces, and a destination linear park experience. The Downtown Neighborhood Association believes that Grand Boulevard is an important priority for downtown because of its potential to transform the area, attract new residents and businesses, and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors. This project is important in part because it links many of the downtown neighborhoods – River Market, Downtown Loop, Crossroads, and Crown Center.
DNA understands that there is currently a plan being enacted to perform a paint-only road diet on Grand by Public Works. However, there are several other overlapping initiatives for Grand Boulevard, namely the KCATA efforts to create a transit corridor on the street. KCATA is requesting PIAC money in this cycle to enact several improvements in the corridor, so we believe there is a prime opportunity for a synergy between DNA’s goals and KCATA’s goals. DNA implores the City and KCATA to coordinate behind a unified vision for Grand that satisfies the goals of all constituencies, and to move forward with incremental investments in this shared vision.
Northeast Loop Connectivity Project
The Downtown Neighborhood Association supports efforts to realize the potential of Admiral Boulevard by transforming it into a Complete Street with bike lanes, forming the spine of a network that links Downtown, Columbus Park, Paseo West and the Northeast. We also seek to convert Admiral, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th Streets to two-way streets to improve local circulation and the installation of pedestrian way-finding signs to encourage exploration of these downtown-adjacent neighborhoods and to welcome residents of those neighborhoods into
We believe that this project has the potential to make progress on the five goals outlined in the Greater Downtown Area Plan:
1. Double the Population – The Northeast Loop area features entire blocks ready for new mixed-use development. Putting the multi-modal infrastructure in place now to make this a desirable area for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users will be seen as an asset by developers and a benefit to residents.
2. Increase Employment – Adding new density in this area would provide future residents with walkable access to the Government District, numerous bus routes and a future streetcar route.
3. Create a Walkable Downtown - 6th and Charlotte Streets form the primary pedestrian connection between Downtown and Columbus Park, yet lack proper pedestrian infrastructure. Several new developments underway in Columbus Park will increase the population of that neighborhood and create demand for a quality walking route into Downtown.
4. Retain & Promote Safe, Authentic Neighborhoods - The Northeast Loop area features connections to Columbus Park via Charlotte Street and to Paseo West via Admiral, 8th, 9th, and 10th Streets. Continuing on Admiral Blvd leads one to the Historic Old Northeast area of the city. Giving downtown residents an inviting connection to these resurgent areas would be beneficial to all neighborhoods involved.
5. Promote Sustainability - The gentle grade of eastbound Admiral, its excess capacity, and connections to existing bike routes on both Grand & Woodland make it a logical choice for a bike route between the neighborhoods listed above. A quality bike route would encourage people to use this sustainable mode of transportation to travel between these areas. By simplifying transit routing through two-way street conversions, transit becomes more attractive to people who might otherwise drive.
Recognizing that PIAC funds are finite each year and this is an ambitious project, we have laid out the following phases to allow the City to begin making upgrades immediately while scheduling later phases for following years when they are more feasible for financial or policy reasons.
Phase 1 – Enhance the Bike KC Network: Sign Admiral Boulevard as the official bike route between Downtown and the Northeast. Reconfigure traffic lanes between Locust and Woodland to include bike lanes. Add bike facilities to 6th Street between Grand and Charlotte until Admiral Blvd can be converted to two-way between Locust and Grand. Install one or more bike share stations in the project area.
Phase 2 – Inform & Entice Pedestrians with Walkability Improvements: Improve pedestrian connectivity between Downtown and Columbus Park by closing the sidewalk gap on 6th
Street in the block west of Charlotte. Add underpass lighting to I-70 over Charlotte to create an attractive link between Downtown and Columbus Park. Add pedestrian way-finding signs to the area.
Phase 3 – Finish the Conversion of Admiral to a Complete Street: Add bike lanes along the remainder of the corridor. Improve pedestrian crossings along Admiral, specifically along the north side of the intersection with Oak & Locust. Convert to two-way between Locust and Grand.
Phase 4 – No More One-Ways: DNA understands that it is the intention of KCMO Public Works to delay any further two-way conversions until after the completion of the downtown streetcar line. Once that project is complete, Admiral Blvd, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th Streets should be converted to two-way streets.
Quality Hill Lighting Improvements
The Downtown Neighborhood Association supports the repair, upgrading and expansion of street lighting in the historic Quality Hill neighborhood.
Reconstruction of Walnut Street Through City Market
DNA supports the reconstruction of Walnut Street as a city street through City Market in an efficient and cost-effective manner. We believe re-establishment of a through, bi-directional route for all traffic will enhance access to the Market on weekdays and conform to the goals laid out by the Greater Downtown Area Plan. We understand the need to close the interior of the Market to traffic on weekends, but believe the addition of through traffic during weekdays will enhance the visibility and viability of businesses located in the interior market buildings.
Reconstructing Walnut will mend a hole in our city's street grid; northbound travel is impossible between Grand and Wyandotte - a gap of four blocks. Southbound travel is only possible on one street in that stretch. This creates more traffic on Third and Fifth streets as drivers are forced to make longer trips to either through street. Walnut offers a direct route between Second Street and the heart of Downtown. Allowing Walnut to function as intended would remove traffic from Grand (allowing for more efficient streetcar and bus operations) and Wyandotte (making way for possible future bike lanes). The street grid is the circulatory system of a city and this project will be a key boost to its health.
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.
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.
When you picture the urban areas of KCMO do you see a place that is great for children? Our downtown is full of unique experiences for children who live here or even visit for a day. Many of the metro’s children’s destinations are in our backyard. Places such as Union Station, Crown Center, Family Fun days in Power & Light, the City Market, the Central Library complete with rooftop terrace, Sea Life Aquarium, and Science City are either a walkable distance or a short bus ride away. Many children love the experience of riding the bus. It can turn a regular trip into an adventure. One easy downtown trip example is taking Max through downtown to Crown Center for ice cream. Then it’s simple to use a transfer to return. (If you’re curious about riding, see our previous post about riding the bus.)
Beyond destination locations, just being outside Downtown provides a wide variety of unique adventures. There are fire trucks, helicopters, busses, double decker busses (Megabus), limousines, construction cranes, tractors and a variety of other vehicles on any given street throughout the day. Or you can ride the glass front elevator in Power & Light. During the day there aren’t many people inside the Live block and the upper level bridges and walkways are prime for exploring. While you’re out getting coffee, headed to the store or just wandering around you can also let children do some “shopping” of their own. For example, the ladies at LaBruzzo’s Sweet Oven on Delaware can help children pick out a single cookie and provide them their own bag.
In the River Market it’s easy walk to watch the freight trains from the Town of Kansas pedestrian bridge. Similar viewing is available at Union Station, but the trains travel much slower along the riverfront route and the engineer will usually honk a “hello” to any children on the bridge along with a wave. From there a staircase leads to the Riverfront Heritage Trail and ultimately Berkley Park. In addition, several nearby parks have playgrounds. Dietrich Park at 26th & Gillham is one of the most accessible playgrounds in KCMO and has a good variety of elements for children of all ages. If it’s hot outside, the pool at Jarboe Park or the splash pad outside Garrison Community Center are a great, nearby spots too cool off. Another fun location is up Locust Street next to Children’s Mercy where you find a unique in sidewalk exterior piano for children of all ages. Columbus Park and Case Park both also offer playground equipment and are walkable from Downtown & the River Market.
Children enjoying being out and seeing a variety of environments. Downtown offers a unique experience no matter the weather or time of year. Interior areas like Union Station and the connection to Crown Center are always nearby. Parks have ample area to play in fresh snow. Warmer weather brings opportunities to select food from farmers and interact with street activity. The entire neighborhood offers unique experiences not found elsewhere in the city.
We get the question a lot when talking about downtown living: “But… where will your kids go to school?” It’s a loaded question, pointing out the recent and very real tumult of our local public school district but also the general belief that not enough is happening downtown to sustain a young family (more on that topic in our next post!).
Last month, DNA’s meeting was hosted by Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) at Primitivo Garcia Elementary, and we heard from outgoing Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green about the great strides the district has made.
Full disclosure: Kansas City Public Schools is a DNA sponsor, but they did not request this post be written nor did they have editorial authority over its content. There are many great school options for residents of downtown; KCPS is the public, non-charter option so we wanted to learn more and pass that knowledge on to our resident base. If you have more questions about KCPS or Primitivo Garcia Elementary, Eileen Houston-Stewart is ready and willing to talk with you. If you are looking for a school for your child, check out an overview of all of your options at Show Me KC Schools.
“Once in demise, now a rocket on the rise.”
- KCPS is focusing on “Where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.” Dr. Green used a metaphor of a rocketship: astronauts have to know about every moving piece, from launch pad to landing, and the school has to understand where it was in order to improve.
- In 2011, test scores were way down. Dr. Covington had just left, and the district was meeting only three of the 14 target areas. The district fell out of accreditation.
- Over the past three years, the district’s overall scores have increased significantly: check out this chart. It is now provisionally accredited and expects to be fully accredited soon.
Getting the community involved
- Organizations throughout Kansas City are asking to get involved with the district, after the district all but withdrew as it struggled. City Year will partner with the district during the 2015-16 school year. High school internships impressed companies and will continue to be part of preparing students for college.
- Revitalizing, reopening and maintaining buildings is part of how the district is trying to support the communities it serves. Woodland recently re-opened at 7th & Woodland Ave., as a Pre-K school.
Even though Dr. Green is leaving, the administrative offices are not leaving with him. There is a dedicated group of staff who are working to keep the district moving along the same path.
The district has a leadership continuity plan in place for the transition. The entire cabinet has had to be “superintendent for a day”, gaining a better understanding of how the district’s day-to-day activities and responsibilities work.
- There will be an interim superintendent while the board works to hire a new one (hopefully by March 2016). Check out kcpublicschools.org/transition for updates from the district.
What can we do?
Individuals can volunteer at KCPS schools
Join the Mayor’s Turn the Page KC program
ADVOCATE. Schools are important to all neighborhoods. We should be proud of KCPS’s successes and supportive of the steps that remain in creating a great school district. Learn more at kcpublicschools.org/RISE. Be prepared next time someone asks you, “But… what about schools?” KCPS wants to Reconnect, Inspire, Support, and Engage to be better than it has been in a long time.
VOTE. A school board has a lot of influence on the direction of the district. While elections won’t be held until April 2016, it will be important for downtowners to be educated on the candidates and to cast a ballot for the future of KC.