Missouri Senate passes funding for Downtown Arts Campus

The UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance cleared a major hurdle today when the Missouri Senate passed HCR 19, which includes half ($48 million) of funding necessary to build its Downtown Campus for the Arts.

The UMKC Conservatory Downtown Arts Campus has cleared a major hurdle in its race for approval.

The Missouri Senate has approved HCR 19 – authorizing the issuance of public bonds for half ($48 million) of the financing of a new UMKC Conservatory Arts Campus in Downtown – by a vote of 28 to 4. The Downtown Council received word of the vote just moments after the vote from Warren Erdman, our Downtown Arts Campus champion.

This is, indeed, an “incredible victory” for Missouri, the University and for Kansas City. We share Warren’s “deep gratitude” to Senators Holsman, Silvey, Kehoe, Kraus, and many many others.

The Kansas City Star published this account of the day’s breaking news story on Thursday afternoon:

All that remains between the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s new downtown arts campus and the state funding needed to build it is the signature of Gov. Eric Greitens.

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would authorize the state to borrow $48 million through a bond issue to help fund the arts campus, which would be adjacent to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

“The asset will truly add to the cultural and economic prosperity of the city and state,” said Sen. Jason Holsman, a Kansas City Democrat who has long championed the bill.

Half of the money for the Downtown arts campus already has been raised, primarily by private donors, including $20 million from Julia Irene Kauffman, but also $7 million from Kansas City government.

“The fact that Kansas City was able to come together as a community and raise $48 million tells you how important this is,” Holsman said on the floor.

He said he’d received no indication on whether the governor would sign the bill, and Greitens’ office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Still, leaders at UMKC, City Hall and throughout Downtown were jubilant.

UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton, who has been promoting a downtown arts campus since soon after he became chancellor in 2008, commended the lawmakers who pushed the measure. But he also poured praise on the business and civic leaders who got behind the effort from the onset.

“I tell you, there’s a reason why I love Kansas City and it’s the people,” Morton said. “These folks when they put their minds to it can really make things happen.”

City Manager Troy Schulte called the project “a huge step forward for the university.”

“I think it’s a transformative project for downtown, and it’ll elevate UMKC nationally and internationally,” he said.

 

Schulte envisions the new conservatory as “the Juilliard of the West” because it will have a symbiotic relationship with the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts just as Juilliard has a close relationship with Lincoln Center in New York City.

City Councilwoman Jolie Justus, whose district includes Downtown, said the campus would bring a steady stream of college and graduate students to downtown, increasing the whole neighborhood’s vitality and vibrancy. She also has hopes the new conservatory can serve as a bridge to connect the Kauffman Center with the 18th &Vine Jazz District, with improvements all along 18th Street.

Warren Erdman, chief administration officer for Kansas City Southern, was among those who put special effort into getting Missouri lawmakers to support the project.

“This is one of the best shows of bipartisan leadership I’ve seen in a long time,” Erdman said. “Just an incredible show of bipartisanship. But it’s not possible without the support of the donors. If we don’t have that $48 million in our pocket, we don’t have a bill to bring forward.”

Sean O’Bryne, vice president of the Downtown Council and president of Block 4 Acquisitions, the group responsible for assembling the land where the downtown conservatory campus would be built, said the legislative action “shows that the state of Missouri is willing to invest even in tough times.”

The bill, which the House approved in March, cleared the Senate by a vote of 28-4. But vocal opponents criticized it for taking on more debt during a budget shortfall.

Sen. Bill Eigel, a Weldon Spring Republican, said funding the arts campus would plunge the state further into debt without providing substantive benefits beyond Kansas City.

And while proponents have argued that the arts campus would attract new talent and resources that would have positive statewide impact, Eigel didn’t buy it.

“Is there a great need for dancers in the state of Missouri?” Eigel asked on the floor.

He also expressed concerns that the project would raise tuition without adding to the university’s educational value.

“What I’ve come to realize is that the amount of money going into our higher education facilities is enormous,” Eigel said. “And what we’re finding is that a lot of those funds are being spent on buildings and styles of comfort versus improving the quality of education.”

But Holsman said the project is necessary to maintain the high-caliber reputation that the UMKC arts program enjoys. He said the current facilities have serious shortcomings that must be addressed to maintain talent.

For Sen. Mike Kehoe, who carried the bill on the Senate side, state support is a smart financial move.

Because the project would be state-owned but receive partial private funding, Kehoe said the project is a fiscally responsible move for the state.

“Whenever you can get an asset on a balance sheet for half the price that it will appear on the balance sheet,” Kehoe said, “I believe it’s a good time.”

Eigel challenged that.

“I understand that this is a state asset,” he said. “I’m not sure the founding fathers imagined government being the owners of large dance studios in spite of whatever benefit of fiscal incentive we think there is.”

Holsman emphasized the teamwork required to pass the legislation. He said partnerships with business leaders and among members of the Kansas City delegation helped move the bill over the finish line.

Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican, was part of that partnership.

“I think it’s going to be a great addition to downtown,” Silvey said. “It’s going to create wonderful synergy between the performing arts and the education facilities that we already have.”

For Holsman and Silvey, the passing of the bill marks a major milestone.

“We are ecstatic that Kansas City has the opportunity to have a world-class facility as this to add to our continued momentum,” Holsman said. “This could end up being a signature piece of legislation for the session.”

 

University Health to host Downtown Council on Thursday

Downtown Council members, stakeholders and friends are invited to a special open house of University Health, the newest outpatient health care center in Downtown Kansas City, from 5 -7 p.m. Thursday. (See below to RSVP.)

University Health is located at 21st and Charlotte in Hospital Hill.

University Health, 2101 Charlotte on Hospital Hill, is the newest adult outpatient care center of Truman Medical Centers. It features services for adults in a total of 24 medical specialties.

University Health, the state of the art outpatient health care center of Truman Medical Centers, will hold an open house for Downtown Council members on Thursday.

“Located at 21st and Charlotte, University Health is just minutes away from the heart of Downtown,” said Rhonda Dolan, director of business engagement for University Health. “Parking is free onsite and just steps away from the 13 speciality clinics.”

Tour of the state of the art facility will begin at 5 p.m., along with appetizers, drinks and a specialty cocktail. The tours will break at 6 p.m. for a brief program featuring TMC President & CEO Charlie Shields, UH Operating Officer Todd Clayman, City Manager Troy Schulte, City Councilman Quinton Lucas and DTC President & CEO Bill Dietrich.

University Health extended a special invitation to attend the open house to those working in Human Resources and Benefits Administration for DTC-member businesses.

“We are designed to get your employees in and out and back to work with easy, so they return focused on their work, and not their frustrations,” Dolan said.

To RSVP for the open house, please email Julie Shippy, DTC Development Officer, at julie@downtownkc.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. WWI ceremony to close streets for hours on Thursday

The national ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I will unfold on Thursday morning at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Downtown Kansas City.

 

The World War I centennial event in Downtown Kansas City on Thursday will mean headaches for some commuters and others who will discover closed roads near Liberty Memorial, according to The Kansas City Star today.

For most of the day on Thursday, streets around the National World War I Museum and Memorial will be closed, and there will be no direct access to the WWI Museum and Memorial, Crown Center, Union Station or the Internal Revenue Service.

Road closures around Liberty Memorial, Union Station and Crown Center are planned to begin early Thursday morning and continue for much of the day. (Map courtesy of The Kansas City Star.)

Produced by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, the ceremony, In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace: Centennial Commemoration of the U.S. Entry into World War I, is expected to draw dignitaries from around the world to participate in this historic tribute. Follow this link for FAQs about the event.

Barricades will go up at 3 a.m. on Thursday in anticipation of huge crowds planning to attend America’s ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into WWI. The event will begin at 9 a.m. and run until 12:30 p.m. Public tickets are sold out, but a live stream can be viewed for free.

Downtown workers, residents and visitors can expect heavy traffic on Thursday morning, and are encouraged to plan accordingly.

Inclement weather could lead to cancelling the outdoor event, but it is still planned for an outdoor celebration at this time.

Traffic Alert – for drivers, and bus riders

The morning commute in and around Liberty Memorial, Union Station and Crown Center on Thursday is going to be anything except routine, according to City Hall. The centennial ceremony has prompted the closing of streets surrounding Liberty Memorial, due to security for international diplomats who will be attending.

Road closures and security measures around the museum start at 3 a.m. Thursday – and will continue for most of the day. For commuters who work in the area, this map shows how to access nearby businesses. A second map shows recommended detours for motorists who are just driving through.

In addition, RideKC buses will reroute around the event perimeter from 4 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. This affects a significant portion of RideKC’s routes in Downtown KC.

Closed roads include:

  • Main Street between 20th Street and Grand Boulevard
  • Pershing Road between Broadway Street and Grand Boulevard
  • Kessler Road from Pershing Road to Wyandotte Street
  • 27th Street between Main Street and Grand Boulevard
  • 29th Street between Broadway and Wyandotte Street
  • Wyandotte Street between Memorial Drive / Kessler Road and 31st Street

Main Street detours include Grand Boulevard, Gillham Road, Southwest Trafficway or Broadway Boulevard for north/south traffic. East/west traffic should use 20th or 31st streets.

Public attendees are required to access the event at Pershing Road and Main Street. Accessible transportation for ticketed guests will be available via shuttle at Pershing Road and Main Street, courtesy of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA).

There will be no parking in and around the memorial including Union Station. The public is encouraged to walk or use KC Streetcar and KCATA/RideKC.

Detailed reroute information is online at www.RideKC.org. Routes include local bus service, as well as express routes from Johnson County, Kansas City, Mo., Liberty, Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit.

The centennial event will be streamed live with a link at the U.S. WWI Centennial Commission website. C-SPAN3 will record the event to air at 9 a.m. Sunday.

 

 

LaunchKC to introduce grants competition to SxSW tech festival

LaunchKC will headline a Kansas City program at The KC Outpost, during the SxSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas on Sunday.

LaunchKC, the Downtown Kansas City-based grants competition for tech startup businesses, will kick off its 2017 application process at the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSW)  in Austin, Texas on Sunday.

This year, LaunchKC will provide the award for ‘Startup of the Year’ at Tech.Co Media’s annual startup night, which takes place after a presentation by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and company pitches at The KC Outpost event location in Downtown Austin. Husch Blackwell is the lead sponsor of this special kickoff event.

“The KC Outpost and partnership with TechCo provides the platform to not only promote LaunchKC, but also the Kansas City community and all we have to offer a business,” said Drew Solomon, chair of the LaunchKC grants competition and senior vice president of business development, Kansas City (Missouri) Economic Development Corporation. “We continue to demonstrate why we feel Kansas City is a great place to start and grow the next venture.”

PopBookings is one of the first 10 grant recipients from the LaunchKC competition for tech entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs can win up to $100,000 in funding and one year of free office space in Kansas City’s innovation district through LaunchKC.  Winners will be supported by LaunchKC’s coaching, mentoring and funding programs to help develop high growth, successful businesses in the Kansas City area. The deadline for applications is midnight, Friday, July 7, 2017.

“We are continuing to search for the best and brightest startups and early-stage technology businesses to apply and compete for grants and free office space,” said Mike Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC and the Downtown Council. “Our competition has drawn more than 400 applicants each year, and has funded successful startups that have gone on to raise millions in venture capital funding from Kansas City.”

The 2017 LaunchKC grant competition features a $500,000 grant pool awarded to the top nine applicants – one $100,000 grand prize grant recipient, and eight $50,000 grant winners. The top 20 finalists will attend the annual Techweek Kansas City conference on September 11-16, where a panel of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists will select the grant recipients on Sept. 15. Entrepreneurs can apply at www.LaunchKC.org.

LaunchKC awarded grants in 2015 and 2016 to blooom, HealthID, Integrated Roadways, KC Drone Company, Nodal Security, PopBookings, IntelAg, Square Offs, Vertisense, VideoFizz, Big Bang, BLITAB, Consult US, FEWDM, Forest Devices, Labor Chart, Mobility Designed, Mycroft, Perfect Cube and Super Dispatch.

“The entrepreneurial culture in Kansas City is the strongest I’ve seen in nearly two decades,” said Tim Cowden, president and CEO, Kansas City Area Development Council. “The work that LaunchKC is doing to bring in entrepreneurial talent from around the world is one reason our region has become a draw for innovation and start-up investment.”

LaunchKC focuses on business models in scalable, vertical sectors where Kansas City already has considerable expertise, including Advanced Manufacturing, Agriculture, Animal Health, Big Data, Cloud Services, Data Analytics, Financial Tech, Health Tech, Mobile and Real Estate.

LaunchKC is supported by public, private and philanthropic partners including the Missouri Technology Corporation, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, the William T. Kemper Foundation, The Cordish Companies and UMB Bank. To learn more about LaunchKC sponsorships, visit www.launchkc.org/sponsors.

 

Downtown streets to close during Big 12 Basketball week

Downtown KC will be rocking next week when thousands of basketball fans pour in to town for the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament and Big 12 Run at Sprint Center.

Are you ready for March Madness?!

Downtown KC will welcome thousands of basketball fans next week as the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship returns to Kansas City for its highly anticipated 16th time, March 8-11.

A series of fan fests and other Championship activities will close the following streets surrounding Sprint Center:

  • Grand Boulevard (between 13th St. and Truman Rd.): closed starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 6, through 6 a.m. on Sunday, March 12.
  • 14th Street (between Main and Walnut Sts.): closed starting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 7, through midnight on Sunday, March 12.
  • 14th Street (between Walnut St. and Grand Blvd.): closed starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 6, through 6 a.m. on Sunday, March 12.
  • Walnut Street (between 13th St. and Truman Rd.): closed starting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 7, through midnight on Sunday, March 12.
  • Truman Road (from Oak St. to Walnut St., including the Grand Boulevard Bridge) will be closed starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 6, through 6 a.m. on Sunday, March 12.

In addition, Kansas City’s Big 12 Run will close the following streets on Saturday, March 11, starting at 10 a.m. and last until the conclusion of the race (roughly 12:30 p.m.):

  • Grand Boulevard (between 8th and 12th Sts., and between Truman and Gillham Rds.)
  • 8th Street (between Grand Blvd. and Holmes St.)
  • Holmes Street (between 8th and 18th Sts. and between 30th and 31st Sts.)
  • Truman Road (between Holmes St. and Woodland Ave. and between Grand Blvd. and Oak St.)
  • Woodland Avenue (between Truman Rd. and 18th St.)
  • 18th Street (between Woodland and Highland Aves. and between Holmes St. and Grand Blvd.)
  • Highland Avenue (between 18th St. and 17th Ter.)
  • 17th Terrace (between Highland Ave. and The Paseo)
  • The Paseo (between 17th Ter. and 31st St.)
  • 31st Street (between The Paseo and Holmes St.)
  • 30th Street (between Holmes St. and McGee)
  • McGee (between Holmes St. and Gillham Rd.)
  • Gillham Road (between McGee and Grand Blvd.)
  • Oak Street (between Truman Rd. and 9th St.)
  • 9th Street (between Oak St. and Grand Blvd.)

Due to traffic congestion related to these closures, city officials encourage drivers to allow for extra time when traveling through Downtown.

For a detailed parking map and other Championship information, visit the Official Fan Information Site at VisitKC.com/Big12Basketball. The Kansas City Police Department reminds fans to lock vehicles and stow valuables when cars are unattended.

LaunchKC opens 2017 grants application window today

Rachel Merlo, chair of the LaunchKC Steering Committee, announces plans for the 2017 grants competition, which begins today.

 

LaunchKC, the global grants competition for tech entrepreneurs, will begin accepting applications today, Wednesday, March 1, for its third annual event – this year featuring a $100,000 grand prize grant.

LaunchKC has awarded $1 million to 20 entrepreneurs – from six states and three nations – via $50,000 grants in its first two years of competitions. The 2017 race will feature another $500,000 grant pool that will be awarded in September to the judges’ selection of the top nine applicants – including one $100,000 grand prize grant recipient, along with eight $50,000 grant winners.

The introduction of a $100,000 grant prize was announced early this year by Rachel Merlo, chair of the LaunchKC Steering Committee and community manager of Google Fiber in Kansas City. The announcement came at the Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon on Jan. 27 before 1,000 business, civic and community leaders, as well as at a special LaunchKC Kickoff Celebration on Feb. 1 before 150 sponsors, former grant recipients and leaders in the KC tech space.

“The third LaunchKC competition provided us with the opportunity to introduce a grand prize in 2017,” said Drew Solomon, who chairs the competition for LaunchKC. “We believe the $100,000 grand prize will pique interest and applications from top tech entrepreneurs throughout the nation.”

The application window opens at 8 a.m. (CDT) today, Wednesday, March 1 and will remain open until 11:59 p.m. Friday, July 7. The online application will be available via the http://www.launchkc.org/ website at http://launchkc2017.startupcompete.co/

“We are continuing to search for the best and brightest startups or early stage technology businesses to apply and compete for $500,000 in grants,” said Mike Hurd, the marketing officer for LaunchKC. “We want to help these entrepreneurs make their business dreams come true in Kansas City, Missouri.”

LaunchKC is committed to elevating KC’s brand as an innovation leader nationally by investing in scalable vertical sectors like Advanced Manufacturing, Animal Health, Cloud Services, Data Analytics, EdTech, FinTech, HealthTech, Mobile and Real Estate Tech.

The 120-plus-day application window for the competition begins at 8 a.m. Friday, said Mike Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC. Applicants will be competing for $500,000 in grants – including a new grand prize grant of $100,000; free office space in the KC innovation space for one year; industry-specific mentor teams; and professional services, i.e., legal, financial, marketing, and more benefits. The application window will remain open until midnight on July 7.

“Our goal for 2017 is to raise the bar in our search for the best applicants, the most promising start-up businesses,” Hurd said. “Our focus is on tech-powered businesses and ideas that are poised for sustainable growth.”

LaunchKC selected its first class of 10 entrepreneurs, during the Techweek Kansas City conference in September 2015. The grant recipients included Blooom, Health ID, Integrated Roadways, KC Drone Company, Nodal Security, PopBookings, Pycno, Square Offs, Vertisense and VideoFizz.

The second cohort of 10 startups were selected at Techweek KC in September 2016, and included Big Bang. BLITAB, Consult US, FEWDM, Forest Devices, Labor Chart, Mobility Designed, Mycroft, Perfect Cube and Super Dispatch.

LaunchKC is powered by the Downtown Council of Kansas City, in collaboration with the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City.

It is fueled and inspired by a growing team of sponsors that features the Missouri Technology Corporation, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, the William T. Kemper Foundation, Techweek, the Cordish Companies, UMB Bank, DSI, Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City Power & Light, Lead Bank, Missouri Department of Economic Development, Google Fiber, Husch Blackwell, Polsinelli, Lathrop & Gage and J.E. Dunn Construction.

2017 TIMELINE

LaunchKC has adopted the following calendar of key 2017 dates in preparation for the thorough application review and judging process. The countdown begins tomorrow:

06:    Application window opens at 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 1

05:    National call for applicants is set for SxSW in Austin, Texas on Sunday, March 12

04:    Application window closes at 11:59 p.m. Friday, July 7

03:    Application review process by panel of experts begins immediately after July 7

02:    Narrow list of applicants to 20 finalists by Thursday, Aug. 24

01:    Selection of 9 grant recipients – including the $100,000 grand prize – following presentations by all finalists at Techweek Kansas City on Friday, Sept. 15.

Visit LaunchKC.org, and learn how LaunchKC is turning ideas into dreams come true.

 

Survey to shape long-range parking plan for Crossroads

Employees, residents, students and visitors of the Crossroads Arts District are the focus of City-driven survey of parking- and transportation-related issues. The survey will be available for the next 30 days.

A long-range parking plan for the Crossroads Arts District is the goal of a new parking and transportation survey that has been introduced by the City of Kansas City and Walker Parking Consultants.

As part of the planning process, the City wants to learn more about parking and travel patterns of Crossroads employees, residents, students and visitors, and gauge attitudes toward parking- and transportation-related issues.

Your input will help shape solutions that will enable us to provide for effective and efficient use of our public parking assets with a goal of ensuring public access to and within the Crossroads Arts District.

To participate in the survey, click here.

 

LaunchKC to offer $100K grand prize; applications begin in 1 week

Rachel Merlo, chair of the LaunchKC Steering Committee, announced plans for the new, $100,000 grand prize grant that will be awarded during Techweek KC in September.

LaunchKC, the global grants competition for tech entrepreneurs, will begin accepting applications next Wednesday, March 1 for it third annual event – this year featuring a $100,000 grand prize grant.

LaunchKC has awarded $1 million to 20 entrepreneurs – from six states and three nations – via $50,000 grants in its first two years of competition. The 2017 competition will feature another $500,000 grant pool that will be awarded in September to the judges’ selection of the top nine applications – including one $100,000 grand prize grant recipient, along with eight $50,000 grant winners.

The introduction of a $100,000 grant prize was announced by Rachel Merlo, chair of the LaunchKC Steering Committee and community manager of Google Fiber in Kansas City. The announcement came at the Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon on Jan. 27 before 1,000 business, civic and community leaders, as well as at a special LaunchKC Kickoff Celebration on Feb. 1 before 150 sponsors, former grant recipients and leaders in the KC tech space.

“The third LaunchKC competition provided us with the opportunity to introduce a grand prize in 2017,” said Drew Solomon, who chairs the competition for LaunchKC. “We believe the $100,000 grand prize will pique interest and applications from tech entrepreneurs throughout the nation.”

Entrepreneurs who enter the LaunchKC grants competition will be seeking one of eight $50,000 grants – of course, with an eye on the $100,000 grand prize grant – in addition to one year of free office space in Downtown KC; industry-specific mentor teams; and opportunities to meet and learn from industry and entrepreneurial leaders in Kansas City.

The application window opens at 8 a.m. (CDT) next Wednesday, March 1 and will remain open until 11:59 p.m. Friday, July 7. The online application will be available on LaunchKC.org.

The application window closes, LaunchKC judges will begin work evaluating and scoring each application. They will work throughout July and August to review and cull the list of applicants until they settle on on 20 finalists by Thursday, Aug. 24.

The finalists will be invited to Techweek Kansas City, where they will pitch their business plans before a live panel of judges – along with the Techweek audience – before the final nine grant recipients are selected on Friday, Sept. 15.

For more information, visit LaunchKC.org. And, remember, the application window opens next Wednesday!

Mayor proclaims Downtown KC is ‘back in the game’!

Mayor Sly James put the icing on the proverbial cake, as the Downtown Council celebrated the resurgence of Downtown Kansas City at its Annual Luncheon on Jan. 27 before an audience of 1,000 civic, business and community leaders and stakeholders.

Mayor James

“I look forward to this event each year because as a lifelong Kansas City resident, and as your Mayor, the evolution of our Downtown is something I never get tired of talking about,” Mayor James told the enthusiastic audience. “If there is one thing I believe wholeheartedly, it’s that what we see around us right now – is just the start of what’s to come.

“Downtown is a success story that we all can share in. And it’s a success story we want to see play out in all corners of KC,” he continued. “Thank you for your commitment to our city – to big ideas and bold vision. It’s because of this that I am so proud to say that Kansas City is back in the game! ”

In addition to the Mayor, the luncheon featured a series of awards, a keynote address by Christopher Leinberger, as well as with a series of speakers who extolled Downtown’s revitalization with new hotels, apartments, office spaces and entertainment venues.
The importance of the KC streetcar was touted frequently and proclaimed boldly with a new streetcar development map that tracks $1.2 billion in economic development – completed or under construction – along and adjacent to the streetcar line, PLUS another $955 million in planned development. (Copies of the map are available online or in print at the DTC office.) And, a special Downtown Council version of a rap video by Kemet the Phantom featuring the streetcar made its debut at the luncheon and won a rousing ovation.
DTC leaders also pointed to current urban priorities, including advocating for matching funds from the state to build the UMKC Downtown Campus for the Arts; supporting Kansas City’s $800 million bond package on the April ballot; and breaking ground this year on a new hotel to improve the city’s ability to compete for large conventions.

Diane Stafford, reporter for The Kansas City Star captured the essence of the luncheon, when she wrote “From economic ignominy a couple decades ago, Kansas City’s Downtown has re-emerged as an entertainment, cultural and residential hot spot with a new streetcar line that connects assets and builds walkable neighborhoods.”

Chris Leinberger

The Star focused much its coverage on remarks by Leinberger, the Charles Bendit Distinguished Scholar and Research Professor of Urban Real Estate and Chair, Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis, George Washington University School of Business in Washington, D.C.

“Leinberger gave Kansas City big thumbs-up for the catalytic development of the streetcar line connecting the River Market to Crown Center. But “it’s critical to build the second phase,” he said of the line’s proposed expansion south to the Country Club Plaza and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, according to The Star.

“Transportation, Leinberger emphasized, isn’t just a system to move people from place to place; it’s a system to spark economic development by providing public transportation, bike lanes and paths, and sidewalks that build vibrant neighborhoods.

“Increasingly, he said, sought-after neighborhoods — with premium price points for real estate — are in metropolitan cores, not suburbia. Even in suburban communities, he said, their downtowns and shopping centers are being redeveloped to reflect the new urbanism.”

For a complete rundown of luncheon highlights – including links to videos saluting the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award winner Al Mauro and the five individuals honored as Urban Heroes, click here. Urban Hero recognition went to Deb Churchill, Andrew Bracker, Andrew Bracker, Julie Nelson Meers, Vince Bryant and Matt Staub.

To read the complete Annual Luncheon story in The Star, start here.

LaunchKC raises the bar for the 2017 grants competition

LaunchKC awarded $500,000 in grants to these 10 grant recipient companies on the final day of the Techweek Kansas City conference in September.LaunchKC is in the news again … this time with the Startland Newswhich reported on Friday:

 

Kansas City’s popular grants competition LaunchKC has raised the stakes for applicants in 2017.

Instead of allocating $500,000 via 10 equally-sized grants, LaunchKC will dish out eight awards of $50,000 and one $100,000 grand prize. In 2016, LaunchKC drew more than 400 tech startup applicants for the second year in a row.

Applications open on March 1.

Drew Solomon, chair of the LaunchKC grants competition, said that the new grand prize aims to generate more excitement and even more applicants.

The $100,000 prize is another way to use the competition to reach out to companies around the country and the world and push the envelope for Kansas City,” Solomon said. “We want to continue to be creative to stay relevant. Relevancy is key for competitions like this. Kansas City is part of a big world so we have to continue to innovate.”

In addition to a grant, a winning entrepreneur receives other benefits, http://www.downtownkc.org/including free office space for one year; industry-specific mentors; and professional services, in areas such as legal, financial, and marketing. The grant competition is led by the Downtown Council of Kansas City and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City.

Winners of the 2016 LaunchKC grants were: Big Bang, BLITAB, ConsultUS, FEWDM, Forest Devices, Labor Chart, Mobility Designed, Mycroft AI, Perfect Cube and Super Dispatch.

Winners of the 2015 LaunchKC grants were: Blooom, Integrated Roadways, KC Drone Company, Nodal Security, Health ID, PopBookings, Pycno, SquareOffs, Vertisense and VideoFizz.

LaunchKC will be hosting a 2017 Kickoff Celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 1 for those interested in learning more about the program. For more information for this free event or to register for passes, click here.

Research results: KC streetcar is a win for Downtown businesses

Ninety-seven percent of survey respondents credit the streetcar with having a positive impact on their retail business

According to a recent survey of small businesses located on the KC streetcar route, business is good and many are seeing an uptick in both revenue numbers and foot traffic.

In a unique partnership, the City of Kansas City’s Biz Care Office, the Downtown Council and the Streetcar Authority conducted a survey of retail businesses located directly on the streetcar route. This survey was performed during the fall of 2016 and includes data from May through September 2016.  Forty-one small businesses participated in the survey with a sampling from each district along the streetcar route. Businesses ranged from restaurants, retail shops, bars & pubs, and coffee shops.

“Much attention has been paid to new development along the streetcar route,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority.  “This was an effort to better understand the impact of streetcar operations on existing businesses, many who have been with us since before construction.”

“The City is committed to working with Downtown businesses to make the most of this important investment,” said John Pajor, City of Kansas City, Mo.

Of those businesses that participated in the survey, 97 percent credited the streetcar with having a positive impact on their business and 80 percent have experienced a positive change in revenue. This revenue percentage aligns with the 83 percent of participants that expressed a positive change in foot traffic.

“We are excited about the benefits the streetcar is bringing to Downtown businesses and look forward to what the future holds,” said Mike Hurd, Director of Marketing of the Downtown Council.

In addition to seven multiple choice questions, there were two questions asked that allowed businesses to elaborate on what streetcar related improvements they’d like to see that would benefit their business.  Of the 26 that responded, nine expressed interest in expanding the streetcar line and six expressed interest in either additional parking or a park & ride lot for transit users.

The KC Streetcar opened to the public on May 6, 2016.  In 2016, the streetcar logged nearly 1.4 million trips with a daily average of 5,830.

 

 

Downtown Council to celebrate accomplishments, opportunities

Christopher Leinberger will deliver the keynote address at the Downtown Council Annual Luncheon today in the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center.

The Downtown Council will celebrate the ongoing revitalization of Downtown Kansas City before 1,000 stakeholders and guests today (Friday), while reminding its members and civic leadership that its renaissance is far from complete.

The occasion will be the Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  Friday, Jan. 27 in the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center. This year’s luncheon will carry the theme of Downtown KC: Back in the Game and celebrate the remarkable revitalization of Downtown over the last 15 years.

“This was a banner year for Downtown Kansas City,” said Bill Dietrich, President & CEO of the Downtown Council. “The KC Streetcar began operations and topped its first 1 million rides in just five months of operations; five new hotels have opened or are under construction; the first new construction, luxury, residential high-rise building opened, along with a second elementary school bringing 576 students and their families Downtown.”

The 2017 luncheon program will feature several highlights that will serve to celebrate accomplishments in Downtown, as well as to set the course for new and ongoing initiatives for the coming years. Highlights include:

  • Keynote address by Christopher Leinberger, The Charles Bendit Distinguished Scholar and Research Professor, George Washington University School of Business and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Leinberger will address creating a vital Downtown by improving relationships with adjacent communities, discussing the impact of regional issues on Downtown and improving pedestrian mobility.
    • To learn more about Leinberger’s knowledge of KC, check out this 2012 KCPT story about the potential impact that the future streetcar (via transit-oriented development) would have on Downtown.
  • LaunchKC announcement by Rachel Merlo, KC Community Impact Manager for Google Fiber, and Chair, LaunchKC Steering Committee
  • Downtown accomplishments by Douglas Stockman, Principal, el dorado architects, and Cathy Smith, Vice President of Corporate Planning, Faultless Starch/Bon Ami, and Chairs of the DTC Board of Directors for 2016 and 2017, respectively
  • Five individuals will be recognized with Urban Hero Awards for their contributions toward making Downtown a better and more vibrant place to live, work and play, including:
    • Andrew Bracker, Brownfields Coordinator, City of Kansas City
    • Vince Bryant, 3D Development
    • Deb Churchill, City Market
    • Julie Nelson Meers, mobank
    • Matt Staub, Streetcar Advocate

The DTC’s highest honor, the  Philip Kirk, Jr. Award, in Recognition of Community Vision and Downtown Stewardship to Albert P. Mauro. Mauro served as Chairman of the DTC Board of Directors from 1992-1998, a pivotal time in the turnaround of a declining urban core.

“We will tell the story of Downtown’s recent economic and social revitalization and reflect on the impact of these and other changes,” Dietrich explained. “We will also provide updates on the exciting new projects that are coming closer to fruition including moving the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance to Downtown; extending the streetcar south toward UMKC and the Plaza; and planning for a new Downtown KC high school.”

The Annual Luncheon event will begin at 11 a.m. Friday with a one-hour Spirit of Downtown KC Exhibit showing more than 40 Downtown businesses and organizations.

Click here to see a list of exhibitors: http://www.downtownkc.org/annual-luncheon/exhibit/. The exhibit will make way for the luncheon and program, beginning at noon.

For more information, go to http://www.downtownkc.org/annual-luncheon/.