Downtown Council to lift up Urban Heroes at Luncheon

The Downtown Council will award its 15th annual Urban Hero awards during the 2020 Annual Luncheon on Jan. 30. Winners of the Urban Hero distinction in early 2019 were (from left) Chris Harris, Harris Park Midtown; Cheryl Kimmi, KC Creates; Kite Singleton, transit advocate; and Chris Goode, Ruby Jean’s Juicery.

The Downtown Council of Kansas City (DTC) has selected four community champions to join its honor roll of Urban Heroes next month.

The new Urban Hero selections will push this elite list to a total of 101 honorees over the last 15 years. The awards ceremony will be part of the DTC Annual Luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 30 at the Kansas City Convention Center.

“This annual tradition – dating back to 2005 – recognizes extraordinary people who work day-in and day-out to make Downtown KC a better and more vibrant place to live, work, play and stay,” said Bill Dietrich, DTC president & CEO.

Dietrich said the annual selection process began in late summer with a call for nominees. A special DTC committee – chaired by Jason Parson, owner of Parson + Associates – reviewed the nominations in November before making its selections this month.

The 2019/20 honorees – and a comment from colleagues of each one – include:

Dick & Evelyn Craft Belger, artistic icons in the Crossroads Arts District

“The Belger Art Center played a premier, foundational role as an art gallery in the Crossroads Arts District in years past and has continued to be a relevant, exciting and innovative center for the arts and artists today,” said Julie Johnson, board liaison for the Crossroads Community Association.

Peregrine Honig, internationally recognized fine artist; entrepreneur; co-owner/operator, Birdies; artistic director, West 18th Street Fashion Show

“As an artist and entrepreneur, Peregrine has co-owned and operated Birdies, one of the Crossroads most cherished retailers,” said Jay Tomlinson, founding principal and owner, Helix Architecture + Design. “Also, for 18 years she has served as artistic director of the West 18th Street Fashion Show, a nationally-recognized fashion event that supports local and regional talent.”

Jennifer Lapka, champion of fashion, art and the KC community

“Jennifer Lapka is the visionary founder of Rightfully Sewn and a champion for the creative fusion of art, fashion and entrepreneurial spirit embodied by this dynamic business that’s sparking the revitalization of KC’s garment manufacturing sector,” said Paul Tyler, retired grants director at ArtsKC.

Bob Kendrick, catalyst, champion, historian

“Bob deserves this award for being the lifeline – and Buck O’Neil’s spokesman – that keeps the Negro League Baseball prospering,” said Keith Novorr, CEO of Michael’s Clothing.” If you are lucky enough to get a personal tour through the museum by him, you’ll never forget the stories or the experience.”

 The Urban Heroes will be honored (twice), as part of the DTC’s Annual Luncheon in the Kay Barnes Grand Ballroom next month, including:

Annual Luncheon theme to focus on the future of Downtown

The DTC luncheon – Downtown KC 2030 – will introduce a new, comprehensive strategic planning process to the Urban Heroes, along with 1,000 Downtown leaders and stakeholders. The plan is designed to articulate the Downtown KC of tomorrow.

“In a time when urban centers are revitalizing nationwide due to favorable trends, we are imagining how we can shape Downtown Kansas City into a more successful urban place, maintaining its authenticity and affordability, while promoting strategies of economic inclusion,” Dietrich said.

One of those potential strategies will be reflected by the luncheon’s keynote speaker. Paul Goldberger is a Pulitzer Prize winning architecture critic and author of numerous books, including BALLPARK: Baseball in the American City, an architectural history of baseball parks as a form of civic space, published in May 2019 by Alfred A. Knopf.

Goldberger, who The Huffington Post has called “the leading figure in architecture criticism,” is now a Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair. From 1997 through 2011 he served as the Architecture Critic for The New Yorker, where he wrote the magazine’s celebrated “Sky Line” column.

The Annual Luncheon is expected to attract more than 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, embrace the largest urban networking event of the year.

Luncheon Highlights

  • Keynote address by architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who in was honored with the Award in Architecture of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2017. A book signing of BALLPARK will follow the luncheon program.
  • Opening ceremony and call to action for the Downtown KC 2030 strategic planning process by Bill Dietrich, DTC President & CEO.
  • Presentation of the Philip Kirk Jr. Award in recognition of Downtown Stewardship and Community Vision. Kay Barnes, former Mayor of Kansas City, received the 17th annual award last year. This year’s award recipient will be announced in the first week of the new year.
  • Announcement of the Urban Hero Awards, described earlier.
  • Recognition of the Harvey Fried Award for Community Spirit and Kindness presented annually to an outstanding Ambassador for the Community Improvement Districts.
  • Immediately prior to the luncheon (beginning at 11 a.m.), guests will participate in the popular networking event, Spirit of Downtown KC Exhibit. More than 50 booth spaces will highlight new developments, creative businesses and the arts in Downtown.

Luncheon planning is led by Julie Pierce, Chair of the DTC Board of Directors and Senior Vice President, Henderson Engineers; with the assistance of Lynn Carlton, Vice-Chair of the Board and Vice President/Regional Director of Planning, HOK; Richard Wetzel, Vice-Chair of the Board and Partner with Centric; and Jerry Riffel, immediate past board Chair and Attorney, Lathrop Gage.

Goldberger will also appear at the Kansas City Public Library Plaza Branch on Thursday, Jan. 30, to speak about his book. A reception will begin at 6 p.m. followed by the program at 6:30 p.m. Visit for more information.

To reserve your seats, visit, contact Ann Holliday, or Ashley Broockerd,