Downtown 101: VOTE!

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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

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Downtown 101: Children in the City

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Downtown 101: Children in the City

  Gretchen is a DNA board member and has lived downtown since 2005. You can find her running, exploring and generally enjoying the neighborhood with her husband, nearly 3-year-old son, and new baby soon!

Gretchen is a DNA board member and has lived downtown since 2005. You can find her running, exploring and generally enjoying the neighborhood with her husband, nearly 3-year-old son, and new baby soon!

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.

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Downtown 101: Kansas City Public Schools

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Downtown 101: Kansas City Public Schools

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.

Consistent administration

  • 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.

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Must Love #DowntownKC

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Must Love #DowntownKC

Hey, there, internet user! Are you Twitter-savvy? Facebook-friendly? Do you know your way around Hootsuite? Is your HTML A-OK? If so, we need you!

Our VP of Communications is moving to London, and while her heart will always be with #downtownKC (figuratively, of course), DNA needs boots-on-the-ground within the Loop and the River Market. 

If you're interested, send us an email that tells us:

  • Why you think you'd be good at this
  • What skillz you already demonstrate on the regular
  • How you would change about our current social media setup (don't be shy!)
  • What you love about #downtownkc
  • Where you live (neighborhood-level; we're not trying to creep.)

We won't give you any money (the DNA Board is 100% volunteer-based). We will give you unlimited gratitude, high-fives, and near-full reign of an up-and-coming #KC neighborhood's online voice. Contact us if you're excited by anything listed above! 

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Downtown 101: How to use Bike Share KC

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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!

 

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Downtown 101: Riding the Bus

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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! 

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Downtown 101: Urban Greenspace

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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. 

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