Former Mayor Kay Barnes was honored by the City in June with a special ceremony at the Kansas City Convention Center. A sculpture by local artist Tom Corbin was unveiled and the Grand Ballroom was dedicated in Barnes’ name. Both honor Barnes’ leadership from 1999 to 2007 that catalyzed the revival of Downtown. (Photo courtesy of The Kansas City Star.)

Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes will receive the Downtown Council’s highest honor at its Annual Luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in the Kay Barnes Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center.

Barnes is considered the architect Downtown’s renaissance. Serving as mayor from 1999-2007, she championed the rebirth of Downtown around three complementary initiatives – the relocation of the H&R Block headquarters, and the establishment of the Sprint Center and the Kansas City Power & Light District.

The former Mayor has long been dedicated to paving the way for women in Kansas City business and civic circles. She is currently serving as a leader at Park University, where she was named senior director for university engagement on July 1.

“Kay Barnes set the stage for this city’s revival that we are seeing continue to flourish,” Mayor Sly James said in June, during a ceremony that marked the dedication of the Kay Barnes Ballroom at the convention center. “If it wasn’t for what she did, we wouldn’t have this situation that we have now. It’s just that simple.”

The Downtown Council Annual Luncheon – this year titled Destination Downtown KC – will shine a spotlight on Downtown’s remarkable renaissance that is attracting meetings, residents, visitors, employers, workers and riders to a thriving arts, cultural and business scene … in addition to honoring Barnes and other urban heroes.

Jonathan Tisch, Chairman and CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co., will join Jeffrey Jones, President and CEO of H&R Block, in a keynote conversation at the Downtown Council Annual Luncheon on Jan. 24.

Downtown’s emerging role as a leading destination was underscored in early December, when National Geographic Traveler selected Kansas City, Mo. as the only U.S. city on its listing of 28 Best Trips Around the World.

“Most visitors to this Midwest outpost come for the barbecue and the jazz, but soon find themselves caught up in an urban renaissance,” the magazine reported.

The Destination theme also serves as a platform to showcase an urban hotel boom that is currently unfolding in Downtown, including a 200 percent increase in hotels (from eight in 2015 to 24 by 2020) and an 85 percent increase in rooms (from 3,414 to 6,415), including the $325 million Loews Kansas City Hotel that will open 800 new convention hotel rooms in two years.

The luncheon will feature a keynote conversation between Jonathan Tisch, Chairman & CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co., and Jeffrey Jones II, President and CEO of H&R Block. Tisch joined city leaders in August, at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the convention hotel.

“Kansas City is a vibrant destination which has experienced significant growth over the past several years,” Tisch told the Downtown Council. “We look forward to investing in and becoming an integral part of the Downtown community with our new hotel, Loews Kansas City, opening in May of 2020.”

Destination Downtown KC is expected to attract about 1,000 business, civic and philanthropic leaders to celebrate progress and accomplishments; present awards; assess the trajectory of Downtown Kansas City for the long-term; and, embraces the largest urban networking event of the year. The luncheon is set for 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Jan. 24 in the aptly named Kay Barnes Ballroom.

Luncheon Highlights:

    • Keynote Conversation: Jonathan Tisch, Chairman & CEO of Loews Hotels & Co.,  and Jeffrey J. Jones II, H&R Block, will discuss the challenges to maintain or even accelerate the growth of Downtown.
    • Presentation of the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award in Recognition of Downtown Stewardship & Community Vision to Kay Barnes. The former mayor will be the 17th recipient of the Kirk Award, presented annually to leaders whose vision, guidance and commitment have helped set Downtown on a path for revitalization.
    • Presentation of the 2018 Urban Hero Awards honoring individuals who impact Downtown on the grassroots level. The Urban Heroes also will be honored during a reception on Wednesday evening, Jan. 23. This year’s heroes include:
  • Annual State of Downtown update by William Dietrich, President & CEO of the Downtown Council.
  • Immediately before the luncheon, guests will participate in the Spirit of Downtown KC Exhibit. More than 50 booth spaces will highlight new developments, creative businesses and the arts of Downtown.

The Annual Luncheon will feature three honorary co-chairs, including Paul Neidlein, Midwest Regional President, JE Dunn Construction; Jeffrey J. Jones II, President & CEO of H&R Block; and Brenda Tinnen, Senior Vice President/General Manager, Sprint Center.

Luncheon planning chairs include Jerry Riffel, Attorney, Lathrop Gage, and 2019 chair the Downtown Council Board of Directors; Julie Pierce, Vice President / Director of Kansas City Operations, Henderson Engineers; and Nate Orr, Partner, Spencer Fane, and immediate past chair of the DTC Board of Directors.

To reserve your space at the luncheon, visit https://www.downtownkc.org/2019-luncheon/  or contact Ann Holliday, ann@downtownkc.org, or Ashley Broockerd, abroockerd@evenergy.com.