Date: September 17 – 22, 2017
Location: Kansas City, MO
Sponsor: Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri and the City of Kansas City, Missouri.
Subject Area: Downtown Revitalization and Strategic Planning
Panel Chair: Glenda Hood, triSect, LLC, Orlando, FL
For the panel report, please visit ULI’s Knowledge Finder
Background and Panel Assignment
Over the past 20 years, Kansas City Missouri’s downtown has experienced a tremendous amount of growth, spurred by multi-billion-dollar investments from the private and public sectors, a new downtown streetcar system, and the creation of the Power & Light District. With a heightened priority of increasing the downtown’s resident and office population, Kansas City is examining factors that are deterring new residents and businesses from moving to the area. One highlighted factor is the North Loop, a section of I-70 and the highway system that fully surrounds the downtown business district area. Not only does this section of the highway have a high accident and mortality rate, but it also cuts off neighborhoods from, deterring the communities from interacting. The ULI Advisory Services Panel was asked the following questions to prompt the evaluation of the North Loop and its impacted communities:
- What is the value of land in and around the North loop?
- What is its optimal use considering adjacent communities, KC’s goals and vision for the future, and effects on transportation infrastructure?
- What have been successful solutions to similar projects?
- What part of the North Loop has the most value for potential development?
- What is the optimal use for the North loop study area?
- What are the next steps?
Summary of Recommendations
Based on the background material provided, site tours, and onsite interviews, the panel provided the following strategic recommendations for Kansas City and relevant stakeholders to continue their work in energizing the downtown area. Those Initiatives recommended for immediate action are called out below:
- Develop a comprehensive downtown Master Plan that emphasizes a vision for Kansas City. This Master Plan should incorporate open space systems, circulation, transportation, land use, and green infrastructure, focusing on how these systems will work together. Not only is the creation of a Master Plan important to prioritize what the next steps of development should be, but it is also a key opportunity to encourage authentic and out-of-the-box thinking around civic engagement. (Immediate Action)
- Increase active and creative community engagement. Kansas City is rich with engaged and passionate citizens that want to make the city a dynamic and thriving place to live and work. A diverse spectrum of voices should be brought into the tent and partnered with in outreach strategies moving forward. Traditional, creative and new approaches should be used to reach out to and engage neighborhood groups, religious institutions, non-profits, CDFIs, cultural organizations and the general downtown population to ensure that a true mix of voices and perspectives contributes to and helps shape the planning decisions being made.
- Continue focusing on educational opportunities. The panel heard about both great successes in recent educational charges, such as the Turn the Page KC, but also the staggering statistic that the Kansas City School District has gone from nearly 70,000 to 17,000 students. It is vital for the downtown’s success, and the city’s success generally, that these education efforts continue and grow.
- Focus on regional collaboration. Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas spend a significant amount of time and money to compete for the same projects. Regional cooperation is essential for Kansas City Missouri and Kansas City Kansas to thrive and to create a comprehensive vision that not only benefits both cities, but also improves the quality of life for the larger region.
- Expand the Streetcar. The Kansas City Streetcar has been a huge success, evident by its ridership more than doubling its set ridership goal in its first year. The streetcar should be extended to reach all the neighborhoods in the downtown area to create a more connected and mobile city.
- Focus on Downtown Infill as immediate development. The panel believes the most successful short-term development strategy is downtown infill, rather than new, ground up development. Based on the panel’s analysis, the residual land value in the North Loop area is negative and any development should first focus on existing parcels in the surrounding crossroads and downtown areas.
- Bring Missouri Route 9 and the heart of America Bridge back to grade. Doing so will reconnect neighborhoods, reduce traffic conflicts at the North Loop area, and create the possibility of reconnecting Independence Avenue. This restitching will accomplish many of the social goals of reconnecting Downtown to the River Market. (Immediate Action)
- Reconnect Independence Avenue to Downtown. The Independence Avenue commercial district could serve as a culturally diverse food and retail amenity for the downtown if it was easier to access. Reconnecting the street as a boulevard would not only bring economic benefits to the Independence Avenue area, but it would also connect these two neighborhoods, and make both downtown and Independence Avenue more accessible to a larger number of residents and visitors. (Immediate Action)
- Pause plans to redevelop the North Loop. Returning to the original question of the what to do with North Loop, the panel agreed that a vision of redevelopment is possible, but not today. Any major changes in the section of the highway should come out of a strategic visioning exercise for the City and follow the completion of the city’s priority initiatives.