Streetcar app to promote retailers on the line

A new KC Streetcar app is Open for Business. The app is being launched today in an effort to support and promote retail businesses during the next year of construction along the Downtown streetcar route.

The KC Streetcar app is free and available for download onto Android ( and Apple ( phones and tablets. It features shops, restaurants, bars, attractions and other retail businesses on the streetcar line – from Union Station to the River Market.


Participating businesses, featuring a Downtown KC – Open for Business window stickers  on their front doors, are located on or adjacent to the streetcar route, along Main Street from Pershing Road to the River Market.

“The App features a loyalty rewards system,” said Mike Hurd, marketing director for the Downtown Council. “You earn points for checking in at retailers along the route. The points make you eligible to win a monthly prize, as well as a grand prize drawing.”

Spencer Fane Britt & Browne LLP, a Downtown law firm, has donated $5,000 to serve as the grand prize that will be awarded once the streetcar construction has been completed in about one year, Hurd explained. A minimum of 10,000 points over the next 12 months will be necessary to compete for the grand prize.

“We’re thrilled to be the sponsor of the Downtown Council’s grand prize reward,” said Spencer Fane’s Nate Orr. “This App is a fun and innovative way for us, as Downtown residents, to support and promote our neighbors, clients and friends, while we watch the future of Downtown Kansas City take shape.”

The App is the latest element of a new Open for Business campaign that is spearheaded by the Downtown Council and the KC Streetcar Constructors. The App was developed by Kansas City App Development Platform Moblico.

“We are sympathetic with the local businesses who deal with the daily construction and traffic impacts and we are committed to minimizing the impacts felt during the streetcar construction,” Hurd said. “Just as Main Street will remain open during construction, so will Downtown businesses.”

Retailers located on or adjacent to the route were invited to participate in the Open for Business – KC Streetcar App at no charge.

“Go ahead and download the App today,” Hurd said. “Then, you can get busy earning points while also helping the retailers stay strong during the months of streetcar construction this year and next.”

For more information, visit the KC Streetcar website at


Name, brand ID selected for KC Streetcar

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority has revealed the name and branding for the new Downtown streetcar line, selecting a classic look and feel that is immediately recognizable and achieves world class standards for transit branding.

Streetcar Authority board members approved the branding package during its monthly public meeting on Thursday afternoon.

kcsastreetcargraphicsconcept-304xx998-665-76-0 (1)

“The name, ‘KC Streetcar’, is simple, intuitive and universal, giving Kansas City a place among the best transit systems in the world,” said Streetcar Authority Board Chairman Tom Trabon.

Following an intensive research and design exploration process, Willoughby Design, Inc. presented the final recommendation for the streetcar identity, including the name, KC Streetcar, an original brand icon, word mark, favicon, design system and color palette.

The brand gives the recognizable international streetcar icon a uniquely Kansas City twist with an open, friendly feel. It also gives a nod to the sleek, modern look of the streetcar vehicles Kansas City has ordered.

The streetcar brand identity is also designed to seamlessly integrate with proposed regional branding that will soon unify all transportation in the Greater Kansas City Area under one umbrella. Under the regional branding, the name “KC Streetcar” pairs with the regional name, “Ride KC” to become: “Ride KC Streetcar”.

“This branding and name allows us to move forward with regional collaboration, while also keeping the focus on the downtown streetcar line as a catalyst for economic development and improved linkage of downtown neighborhoods and job centers,” said Tom Gerend, KCSA Executive Director.

The approach for the streetcar name and identity was inspired by a global audit of regional transit and streetcar identity best practices, notably the Utah Transit Authority, RATP in Paris, Transport for London and GVB in Amsterdam.

Willoughby described each of these system identities as “simple, functional, universal, intuitive and cohesive.” Willoughby also presented test applications of the KC Streetcar’s core brand identity to the current website, collateral, social media, web banners, way-finding signage, conceptual promotional campaigns and the vehicle design.

The interior color palette, cobalt blue and silver, and the exterior color palette, pearl, silver and graphite, were approved by the KCSA Board on May 29.

The palette was described as “a timeless, sophisticated, progressive, confident canvas for the future of our city.” To see images of the approved brand identity, visit the KC Streetcar website ( or visit

Streetcar track installation is the ‘Main’ event

Streetcar construction is taking an exciting new turn this week in Downtown Kansas City.

The KC Streetcar Constructors are beginning to embed track on the west side of the Main Street bridge (between Pershing and 20th Street) beginning this week.

Preparations have been under way for the last few weeks as works have been preparing for this milestone by grinding and milling of 1 to 2 inches of concrete off the existing bridge. Once this work is completed on the west side, crews will move to the east side of the budget.

Click here for the latest Construction Update report, construction videos or the construction map.

What’s next for KC streetcar expansion?

Will Kansas City continue to push for expansion of its streetcar project? Probably, but not for a while, The Kansas City Business Journal reported on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, voters in part of the city’s urban core soundly rejected a proposal that would have created a taxing district to advance plans to add 7.8 miles, at a cost of more than $500 million, to the city’s under-construction $114 million, 2.2-mile Main Street streetcar line. It’s a serious setback for the ambitious economic development and transportation project, wrote Business Journal reporter Austin Alonzo.

The Business Journal continued:

On Wednesday, Mayor Sly James issued a statement that said he was disappointed with the results.

“Voters told us that they want to see a balance between taking care of the basics and being ambitious. I still strongly believe in rail as a conduit for economic development, but I understand where voters are coming from,” James said in the statement. “The downtown starter line is a success, and it remains our intention to ensure that the starter line is just that — a start. Now we’ll get to work re-envisioning how we can prudently expand economic development related to transit.”

So does that mean the city is putting off expansion plans for now?

During a Wednesday morning public radio appearance, James said the city will continue to look for a way to make expansion happen. He argued that if the city stops the streetcar program, it will fall behind peer cities.

Joni Wickham, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, said it’s too early for the city to share concrete plans going forward. Doug Stone, a Husch Blackwell LLP attorney working for Kansas City, said he did not know of any firm plans.

Others involved in the streetcar project indicated that the plan may be to wait until the starter line is complete before picking up the expansion issue again.

Steve Glorioso, a Kansas City political operative who helped lead the campaign to extend the streetcar, said things will be different once the 2.2-mile line is up and running. The downtown streetcar, which will run from the River Market to Union Station, is expected to be operational in late 2015 or early 2016.

Tom Trabon, chairman of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority Inc., echoed that sentiment. Missouri is the Show-Me State, and residents of Kansas City need to see the streetcar in action before they can be convinced of its merits. After that, he said, they will support running it elsewhere in the city as has happened in other cities that built rail-based transit systems.

How soon would that vote happen? Councilman Ed Ford said he doesn’t think the city will take up the issue again until 2016. He said civic elections in the spring of 2015 — which will replace at least six members of the City Council and possibly the mayor — and the extension of the Kansas City earnings tax probably will take priority over streetcar expansion.

Ford also said it’s unlikely the city will seek to use the Clay Chastain ballot question as a way to raise money for the streetcar. Chastain is a longtime proponent of a large, public transportation system that includes rail-based transit.

“I don’t think anyone connected with the city is going to encourage anyone to vote yes on it,” Ford said of the Chastain question that will be on the November ballot. “I can’t imagine us going back to the voters so soon on streetcars after it got pretty thoroughly trounced (Tuesday).”

Public transit: creating the fast lane of eco devo

Mayor Sly James: In Search of the Silver Bullet

Around the country, local leaders are searching for the key to economic development.

I have attended several conferences this summer where I have met other local leaders and policymakers, and they are all looking for the same thing: A silver bullet that will bring economic development far and wide in their communities. I’d love to find one myself. That will be hard to find, but it’s our duty to look for proven, research-based economic development tactics.

We do know of one proven way to drive development in cities and it’s called public transit. The Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit organization focusing on how we can wisely use land in cities to cultivate growth and prosperity. In their publication Infrastructure 2014: Shaping the Competitive City, researchers surveyed “high-level public officials and private real estate leaders” on several questions related to infrastructure and economic development.

Here are a few key findings:

  • “Eighty-eight percent of survey respondents rated infrastructure quality as a top or very important consideration when determining where real estate investments are made.”
  • “The survey affirms the importance of infrastructure in metropolitan economic development strategies.”
  • “Upgrades to public transit systems — including bus and fixed-rail systems — merged from the survey as a strong priority for future investment.”
  • “Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents saw improved transit services as a top or high priority.”

We have certainly seen plenty of local evidence of these findings.  We know for sure that since December of 2012, close to $900 million in development, including 2,753 housing units, has, or is, occurring in the starterline Transportation Development District (TDD).

The impact of the Downtown streetcar starter line is a glimpse of what could spread to other parts of the city when expansion routes are approved.  Of the $890 million of development projects on that map, 13 developers have cited the streetcar as a key reason they chose to develop in the area.

Furthermore, studies affirm that rail projects, like streetcar, positively impact property values. That is not a soundbyte and it’s not opinion — it’s fact based on research that found rail transit enhances property values by increasing connectivity and the propensity for property around rail transit investments to be developed.

It’s clear that rail transit is not a pie-in-the-sky strategy.  All of this considered, we may have the closest thing there is to a silver bullet.

The robust development around the Downtown starterline is incentive to spread economic prosperity to other areas of the City long in need of economic development.  By extending the streetcar east on Independence Avenue and Linwood Boulevard, we can provide infrastructure improvements, economic development prospects, better connectivity and jobs.

On July 10th of this year, we, as a Council adopted  Resolution 140519 , which, in short, directed the City Manager to engage in a comprehensive process over the next 60 days to identify, prioritize and implement effective development strategies in the expanded streetcar TDD area.

Specifically, we directed the Manager to develop a plan that:

  • promotes transit- oriented development;

  • revitalizes neighborhoods with an emphasis on addressing properties that are eyesores for neighborhoods; and,

  • sustains and creates affordable housing for those currently in the area.

I am confident this plan will promote investment in areas that have needed it for years, while ensuring current residents will be able to afford to stay in those neighborhoods when their trajectories change course. I have personally committed to working to ensure that happens.

It is my hope, despite a natural fear of change, that we recognize that we must compete on an international scale for talent, revenue, and both economic and social prosperity.

It is my hope that if you will vote Yes on Question A if you live in the proposed Transportation Development District and Vote Yes on Amendment 7 to create better transportation and more jobs in Kansas City.

From the desk of Mayor James, July 28, 2014

Newspaper endorses KC streetcar votes


In a sudden and positive agreement, Missouri and Kansas City officials recently brokered a coordinated plan that could enhance all forms of transportation in this area, The Kansas City Star began its lead editorial in Sunday’s edition of the newspaper.

With the blessing of voters, the region could get more than $775 million worth of needed road, bridge, transit and trail upgrades over the next decade. And Kansas City could move closer to finally building a fixed-rail system outside the Downtown core with extended streetcar lines.

The Star continued in its lead Opinion piece:

How do we get there?

The Star also recommends a “yes” vote on Kansas City Question A, which would create a transportation development district in a large part of the city south of the Missouri River.

A successful election on Question A would not hike taxes. Instead, it would allow voters in that district in November to decide whether they want to pay for a bigger streetcar system. A sales tax increase and special property assessments are proposed. A large amount of federal funds would have to be secured before the city begins collecting the local tax.

Voters could make history in August.

Approval of the higher state sales tax, for the first time, would make it possible to use large sums of Missouri dollars for public transit projects. Currently, state gasoline tax revenues are aimed at road and bridge programs. This emphasis needs to be reduced in the future, especially in the Kansas City region, which would help control sprawl and emphasize the value of mass transit for a larger number of residents.

The state-city deal would help finance extensions of the streetcar line that’s currently being built between the River Market and Union Station. Extensions would go south from the station along Main Street and east on Linwood Boulevard and on Independence Avenue.

The tax also would finance a new bus rapid transit line on Prospect Avenue and extend the Katy Trail closer to the region.

Still, a majority of the funds would go for key road and bridge projects. The biggest would be widening Interstate 70.

Locally, state funds would help pay to replace the Broadway Bridge and to reconfigure downtown roads leading to it. Other major projects on the list would enhance safety on local interstates.

Passage of the state tax would come with a few bonuses for the ambitious streetcar expansion.

First, it would allow the city to reduce a local sales tax request in the transportation district in November to a quarter cent. Overall, the full tax increase would not exceed one cent in the district.

Second, a far larger number of taxpayers would help finance the fixed-rail system, including those who live north of the river and in the southwest corridor, two potential long-term extension spots for streetcar.

The state sales tax is not ideal. It prohibits user fees, such as a higher gasoline tax and tolls for the next decade. That is unfortunate and shortsighted. Missouri has one of the lowest fuel taxes in the nation, and it ought to be increased.

However, we have come to agree with tax supporters that — after years of inaction and previous defeats of other funding plans — Amendment No. 7 is the pragmatic way to meet the challenge of improving Missouri’s roads, bridges and public transportation systems.

The potential bonus of using that money to extend the streetcar lines makes the Aug. 5 package a solid investment in Kansas City’s future.

from The Star’s lead Opinion on Sunday, July 13, 2013

Streetcar Authority selects its first executive director

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) today chose the first Executive Director of the KC Streetcar system.

Thomas Gerend will leave his position as Co-Director of Transportation Planning for the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) to accept this executive role. Gerend spent the last eight years leading regional transportation planning, streetcar planning, and public transit coordination across the eight county bi-state Kansas City region.

Thomas Gerend was selected today as the first executive director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority.

Thomas Gerend was selected today as the first executive director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority.

“I couldn’t be more excited. I want to thank the Streetcar Authority for this amazing and humbling opportunity,” Gerend said. “I look forward to working with the Authority Board, the City of Kansas City, and all of the stakeholders involved to help make this project a success.”

The KCSA will operate the streetcar once construction is complete in 2015. The KCSA is a nonprofit corporation established in 2012 to oversee operations and maintenance of the entire system, as well as ensure stakeholder and neighborhood involvement.

While at MARC, Gerend was responsible for managing, directing and advancing the agency’s long-range transportation plans, including the KC Streetcar. He led the region’s efforts to win the $50 million federal Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER I) Program grant, and secured critical funding to launch KC Streetcar’s initial planning. He also served on the Streetcar Authority’s Technical Committee and NextRail KC’s steering and technical committees.

Gerend, a native of Rockford, Illinois, earned his MBA from the University of Illinois and his undergraduate degree in Community and Regional Planning from Iowa State University in Ames. Prior to moving to the Kansas City area for the MARC position in 2006, Gerend managed the Land Use Planning and Transportation Division for the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission in Peoria, IL.

“The Board selected Tom from among a slate of several local and national candidates.  We were impressed by his ability to think broadly about the economic impact of transportation initiatives as well as his passion for the success of the Kansas City Streetcar in particular,” said Tom Trabon, chairman of the KCSA board. We welcome the leadership that Tom will bring to us on a daily basis.”

When it becomes operational (forecasted for late 2015), the KC Streetcar in Downtown Kansas City will be a modern transit solution to fill a long-noted gap in the city’s resurgent downtown.

The two-mile, north-south streetcar route (approximately 4 miles round trip) will operate on City streets in Downtown, and will include 16 stops, spaced roughly every two blocks. This project will support the City’s long-established goals to make the corridor a place where people can live, work, shop and be entertained.

“I truly believe the streetcar will help to redefine our region’s public transportation system and will serve as a powerful catalyst for the continued growth and redevelopment of downtown,” Gerend said.

The KCSA conducted a national search for its first executive, working with EFL Associates, an executive recruitment firm in Leawood. EFL contacted more than 600 individuals regarding this position. The search began in early March and concluded today with a vote by KCSA board members to offer the position to Gerend, subject to entering into a mutually satisfactory contract.

Gerend is expected to begin work as the new executive director in mid-July.


Streetcar Authority endorses exterior colors, design

They won’t be Chiefs red, or KU crimson and blue, or MU black and gold. Instead, Kansas City’s new streetcars will be white, black and silver. Some critics say boring. Or worse, Oakland Raiders colors.

But those in charge think Kansas City’s colors are instead sleek, sophisticated and elegant.

That’s how Lynn Horsley, reporter for The Kansas City Star,  began her story today about the selection of base exterior colors for the new Downtown streetcar line.

The story continued:

Kansas City’s Streetcar Authority voted 6-1 Thursday to approve the base exterior colors — what the professionals described as white, graphite and platinum — for the four vehicles being purchased for the Downtown starter line.

Authority members emphasized that those base colors will be accented with other bolder colors, graphics, logos and wraps as time goes by. They said they were making this decision now, before the full streetcar branding is finalized, to meet the manufacturer’s deadline to paint the vehicles.

“We’re really thinking of this as the jewel of Kansas City transportation,” said Megan Stephens, president and partner with Willoughby Design, which researched streetcar colors nationally and globally and recommended the color scheme to the authority.

“Something that’s timeless, that’s sophisticated, something that’s a canvas for our city moving forward for the next 30 years.”

Most Streetcar Authority members thought the exterior colors were classic, classy and would give the city maximum flexibility for future accent colors, logos and promotions.

Authority member Liz Serpa-Flook of the Cordish Co. said the neutral background colors look “cool” and will allow future graphics to pop and grab people’s attention.

“For selling sponsorships, you want to be able to do that,” she said.

But not everyone was convinced.

“I think we could be a lot brighter,” said authority member Jim Miller with DST Realty Inc. “I think these cars need to be seen coming down the road. They can still be modern and sleek and have color. … I just think color is so important, and I just don’t think these colors are going to excite anybody.”

Miller was the lone member who voted against the color recommendation.

Authority member David Johnson said he, too, was originally lukewarm on these muted colors. He had envisioned that the vehicles would be painted bright red. But gradually, he grew to appreciate the recommended color scheme and the flexibility it offers for future graphics and marketing overlays.

Others agreed and pointed out that luxury vehicles, the iPhone, the American Express Platinum card and other classic designs are often white, black and gray — and stand the test of time.

“When’s the last time you saw a bright red BMW?” authority member Matt Staub asked, arguing that the group’s choice makes both practical and aesthetic good sense for the streetcar’s long-term future, especially as it is projected to expand into neighborhoods beyond downtown that might object to bold, loud colors.

Some did raise questions about safety. Serpa-Flook wondered whether people will always see the muted colors in the distance and realize they need to get out of the way, especially since streetcars are quieter than a bus.

“I don’t think anyone is going to miss the vehicle when it’s coming down the street,” Johnson said, adding that these are quite large and hard to miss, at 79 feet long and 10 feet tall.

Kansas City’s streetcar construction is to finish in the latter part of 2015.

Other cities have clearly gone a different route with their color choices. Cincinnati has chosen a marigold yellow color for its new streetcar vehicles.

Heritage streetcars, usually used in tourist districts, are often bold red and yellow.

Portland, Ore., and Seattle, which were early adopters of the modern streetcar after 2001, have used a rainbow’s worth of colors for their streetcars. But critics said those color palettes don’t have much of a unifying theme and don’t lend themselves easily to marketing opportunities.

Meanwhile, Stephens said, the Paris streetcar is mostly white and blends beautifully with the French city’s other transit systems.

Stephens also pointed out that the recommended colors mimic those of some of Kansas City’s iconic structures, including the Bloch Building at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The Streetcar Authority also approved using a bright blue color for the interior seats of the vehicles. It said blue is a color common to nearly all the other transportation agencies in the region, including the Area Transportation Authority and MAX buses, and will help connect the streetcar to those other regional assets.

Downtown streetcar groundbreaking draws enthusiastic crowd

Fifty-seven years after streetcars stopped running in Kansas City, an enthusiastic crowd gathered under sunny skies Thursday for the official groundbreaking to bring streetcars back to Downtown, The Kansas City Star reported today.

“It’s a day that we get on board with a new, dynamic mindset,” Mayor Sly James said as a nearby backhoe prepared to bore into the asphalt in the middle of Main Street just south of Truman Road. The 2.2-mile Downtown streetcar route will run from River Market to near Union Station, and construction should be completed in late 2015, wrote reporter Lynn Horsley.

The Star’s coverage continued:

Councilman Russ Johnson, who has championed the return of the streetcars to Kansas City, said they are catalysts for private investment and development virtually everywhere they are built, and predicted the same will be true here.

The groundbreaking occurred on the same morning as the City Council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee endorsed spending $8 million on planning for the next eight miles of streetcar lines. The full council vote is expected Thursday afternoon.

The council committee supported an agreement with HDR Engineering for about $3.7 million to plan an extension along Main Street, south from Union Station to about 51st Street. It also authorized a $4.3 million agreement with Burns & McDonnell Engineering to plan extensions east of downtown along Independence Avenue and Linwood Boulevard.

Johnson and others said the planning needs to occur now even though voters have not yet approved those streetcar extensions. Voters will have their say in elections later this year.

Even if the elections fail, Johnson said the city at some point will almost inevitably proceed with some type of extension to the downtown streetcar system, and this planning will be vital to that process.

“All that work will be valid,” Johnson said.

Ralph Davis, Kansas City engineering service manager, said the city frequently spends money to plan for projects before the money to construct them is approved.

“A lot of times you work ahead,” he said, adding that if this year’s vote on streetcar extensions is positive, people will expect actual work to occur in a timely manner. He said this planning will help with that progress.

City publishes guide to development opportunities on streetcar route

All eyes will be on the Downtown Streetcar route this week, as Mayor Sly James prepares to preside over the streetcar groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. Thursday at the southwest corner Truman Road and Main Street. 

While Thursday’s event is poised mark the celebratory beginning of streetcar construction on the two-mile route from Union Station to the River Market, it will also signal a heightened sense of opportunities for real estate and business development  in Downtown. 

The Downtown streetcar route is blossoming into the region’s hottest economic development district. Since the 2012 election that launched the Downtown Streetcar line, nearly $1 billion in new development has come into view — either completed, under construction or planned in the Transportation Development District that surrounds the streetcar route.

And, as the City prepares for Thursday’s groundbreaking, the streetcar route — scheduled to go live in late 2015 — is gaining even more momentum.

To assist developers in the assessment of opportunities along or near the streetcar route, the City of Kansas City, Missouri — along with the Downtown Council, the KC Streetcar Constructors and the Economic Development Corporation — have collaborated on a new report, the Downtown Streetcar Development & Investment Guide. 

“The streetcar serves as a catalyst for economic development and aims to support a livable, walkable and economically and environmentally sustainable downtown,” according to the report. “Creating a strong physical connection between the streetcar neighborhoods sets the stage for a strong downtown community through supporting existing and new business, improving livability and expanding the cultural environment.”

To read more, simply download a pdf of the report.

To join in the festivities on Thursday, make plans now to join Mayor James, other elected officials, civic leaders and the KC Streetcar Constructors team as they break ground and launch the official first phase of streetcar construction. The groundbreaking is set for 10 a.m. Thursday. It is free and open to the public.

For more information about the groundbreaking event and/or streetcar construction activity, visit theproject website or contact Meghan Jansen at 816-804-8882 or



Tactical Urbanism establishes foothold in Downtown KC

Growing, nurturing, retaining and attracting talent — i.e, creative, often I.T. talented young professionals, is one of the greatest challenges for Downtown Kansas City businesses today.

Through a new Downtown Council committee, we are prepared to bring familiar and new leaders to the table to focus on this most pressing need.

Downtown Kansas City is transforming into a creative crossroads that beckons some of the best minds in America to a thriving ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship. That focus was at the heart of our Annual Luncheon in January 2014.

For the last two years, the Downtown Council’s Business Attraction & Retention and Greenspace Committees have actively engaged creative entrepreneurs and innovators who want to connect to the energy of Downtown to live, work and grow businesses.

“That work led us to develop a creative business map to illustrate the concentration of more than 400 “brain-powered” businesses in greater Downtown,” said Bill Dietrich, President and CEO of the DTC. “This density feeds an environment – an Innovation District – where investors, inventors and entrepreneurs can collaborate within a livable, walkable and transit-connected urban community.”

This Innovation District is an economic game-changer destined to create jobs, attract talent, – there’s that talent word again – unlock value and engage private investment in Downtown KC.

“This is a moment of clarity and opportunity for Downtown. Today, more than ever, the Downtown Council needs your leadership and support as we navigate the current and future crossroads that can lead us to a healthy, strong and sustainable place,” Dietrich said.

Toward that end, the Downtown Council has introduced a new, working committee on Tactical Urbanism, as we work to make Downtown a more desirable place for millennials to live, work, start and grow businesses. This is a focused effort to nuture and develop the ecosystem that gives Downtown its swagger with millennials across the country.

In just a few short weeks, this new initiative is bubbling right along.

Even though the term may seem foreign, Tactical Urbanism is rooted in research and urban collaboration. Tactical Urbanism is a national model, as advanced by The Street Plans Collaborative, an urban planning group in Brooklyn.

“City planners and public leaders are frequently preoccupied with making large-scale, transformative change in the built environment,” according to The Street Plans Collaborative white paper on this subject.

“Improving the livability of our towns and cities commonly starts at the street, block or building scale. While larger scale efforts do have their place, incremental, small-scale improvements are increasingly seen as a way to stage more substantial investments. This approach allows a host of local actors to test new concepts before making substantial financial and political commitments.

“Sometimes sanctioned, sometimes not, these actions are commonly referred to as guerrilla urbanism or pop-up urbanism.”

“We like Tactical Urbanism – Short-term, small-scale actions serving a larger purpose,” said Mike Hurd, the DTC’s marketing director and one of two staff liaisons for the Tactical Urbanism committee.

For the Downtown Council, Tactical Urbanism provides us the opportunity to welcome new faces and new partners – innovators, young professionals and Downtown residents (including a committee chair reserved for the Downtown Neighborhood Assocaition) – to push the envelope with us.

KC’s Tactical Urbanism campaign features two components:

  • Steering committee, chaired by David Scott of Avid Communications, that will serve to identify project and priorities, i.e., “short-term actions serving a larger purpose … with low risks and possible high rewards.”
  • Guerrilla teams of young innovators, professionals and residents to carry out projects designed to make the urban core a better place and a more attractive place for talent recruitment. Even in these early stages, there is a groundswell of interest in this work.

In recent weeks, the Steering Committee identified its first project – chaired by Richard Wetzel of Centric Projects — marketing, communications and outreach focused on supporting retailers, who are adversely impacted by streetcar construction over the next 18 months.

This budding team of young innovators set out to:

  • Provide social media and earned media communications about businesses to be supported throughout streetcar construction
  • Build an inventory of retail businesses and outlets along the streetcar route
  • Develop an app to promote a loyalty program and special offers for affected businesses
  • Create a pop-up portal or parklet to welcome visitors throughout the 12 segments of streetcar construction
  • Rally young professionals to join our guerrilla forces.

Conversations are already under way about the next projects, we’ll save that update until the streetcar construction-related initiatives take flight in May.

“Keep an eye on our blog posts and social media channels for updates, beginning tomorrow, Saturday May 3,” Hurd said. “We are moving quickly and will have much to share over the new few weeks, and that’s just the start.”

To explore how you can get involved in KC’s Tactical Urbanism efforts, contact Mike Hurd at or Tommy Wilson at


Mayor on streetcars: ‘We’re making history here in Kansas City’

The new Downtown streetcars may still be two years from roll out, but we got our first peek at them during a special ceremony during First Friday festivities.

According to reporter Lynn Horsley’s coverage in The Kansas City Star:

“A life-size image of a new streetcar and a mockup of a streetcar shelter helped enliven the corner of 1900 Main St. as revelers started to gather in the Crossroads for October’s First Friday’s celebration.

‘“We’re very excited,” said Amanda DeLeon, who lives in a condo at 18th Street and Baltimore Avenue and brought her 5-year-old daughter, Coco, to the event.  “We’ll be able to take it to the grocery story, the library, the City Market.”

“The city expects the streetcars to be operating by fall 2015 on the 2-mile route, running from the River Market to close to Union Station, primarily on Main Street.

“A large crowd gathered to view the displays and think about how the Main Street corridor will be changed by the streetcars.

‘“We’re making history here in Kansas City,” Mayor Sly James said, describing the streetcars as “the most significant transportation project in this city in the last 50 years.”

“City officials unveiled renderings of what the streetcars will look like, although the actual colors have not yet been chosen.

“The vehicle of choice is the URBOS 3 Platform Vehicle, built by CAF and manufactured in Elmira, N.Y. CAF has extensive rail transit experience in both the U.S. and Europe.

“Public Works Director Sherri McIntyre said it made sense financially and in terms of the schedule to piggyback on a contract Cincinnati already has with CAF.

“The city expects to buy four streetcars at a total cost of about $20 million. Each car will hold about 145 passengers. They will take about 18 months to be built after the contract is approved.”

The Star expanded its examination of the streetcar over the weekend with an opinion piece written by Yael Abouhalkah

“…just the promise of streetcars to come already is galvanizing plenty of downtown development near the two-mile line that will run from River Market to Union Station.

“Most notably, more than 1,500 new or renovated apartment units are planned in buildings on or near Main Street. These units, if all come to fruition, could be completed by 2015, amounting to tens of millions of dollars worth of private investment.

“That’s an encouraging vote of confidence in not just the streetcars but also in the continued revival of downtown.”

Click here to read Horsley’s complete story and Abouhalkah’s related editorial.