The Downtown Council of Kansas City (DTC) has selected Suzie Aron, the venerable champion of the Crossroads Arts District over the last 30 years, to receive its highest honor at the DTC Annual Luncheon on Jan. 30.

Aron will become the 18th recipient of the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award – presented annually to a leader whose vision, guidance and commitment have contributed to the revitalization of Downtown. The award ceremony will be featured in the luncheon program before an audience of 1,000 community leaders on Thursday, Jan. 30 at the Kansas City Convention Center.

As with the award’s namesake Phil Kirk, Suzie Aron has a passion for real estate and historic urban revitalization. Thirty years ago, she saw the potential in a blighted area called the Crossroads. Ever since, she has worked tenaciously to establish a thriving community that has become the region’s artistic heart.

Suzie has been an active leader in the Crossroads Community Association since its founding in 2002, and played a hand in establishing First Fridays, the artistic and cultural phenomenon that attracts thousands to the Crossroads and Downtown on a monthly basis.

“The Kirk Award – dating back to 2002 – recognizes the lifetime accomplishments of extraordinary people who have committed themselves to making Downtown Kansas City a better and more vibrant place to live, work, play and stay,” said Bill Dietrich, DTC president & CEO. 

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 for the Kirk Award and the Urban Hero honors during the holidays.

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, 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 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 J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award in recognition of Downtown Stewardship and Community Vision to Suzie Aron, as explained above.
  • Announcement of the Urban Heroes, announced during the holidays. The new class of Heroes pushes the total number of honorees since 2005 to 101. They include:
    • Dick & Evelyn Craft Belger, artistic icons in the Crossroads Arts District
    • Peregrine Honig, artist, entrepreneur, artistic director
    • Jennifer Lapka, champion of fashion and the KC community
    • Bob Kendrick, catalyst, champion, historian
    • Go to http://bit.ly/35vTKFX for a more complete look at the Urban Heroes
  • 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.

Following the luncheon, Goldberger will appear at the Kansas City Public Library Plaza Branch that evening to speak about his book. A reception will begin at 6 p.m. followed by the program at 6:30 p.m. Visit www.kclibrary.org for more information.

To reserve your seats, visit https://www.downtownkc.org/annual-luncheon/#registration, contact Ann Holliday, ann@downtownkc.org or Ashley Broockerd, abroockerd@evenergy.com