All aboard for 2019 Annual Luncheon: Destination Downtown KC


Downtown Kansas City’s ascension to becoming the region’s leading destination for conventions, visitors, and business and leisure travelers will be the main course of the next Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 at the Kansas City Convention Center.

“Today, Kansas City can be said to have actually achieved the elusive dream of scores of proud old American cities that have seen better days: It has a revised downtown, which now skews closer to “bustling” than “desolate” many nights,” The New York Times reported in July.

“You can see what is arguably the single best embodiment of the phenomenon for yourself” – the KC Streetcar – “at regular intervals as you stroll along – or even stand still – on Downtown’s Main Street.”

The Downtown Council’s annual event – this year, Destination Downtown KC – will illustrate Downtown’s miraculous renaissance that is attracting meetings, residents, visitors, employers, workers and riders to a thriving arts, cultural and business scene.

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

“Most visitors to this Midwest outpost come for the barbecue and that 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 keynote address will be delivered by Jonathan Tisch, Chairman & CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co. 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, as he accepted this speaking invitation. “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. to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 24 in the Kay Barnes Ballroom.

Luncheon Highlights

  • Keynote speaker Jonathan Tisch, Chairman & CEO of Loews Hotels & Co., will identify the challenges to maintain or even accelerate the growth of Downtown, and then discuss the challenges ahead.
  • Presentation of the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award in Recognition of Downtown Stewardship & Community Vision to Kay Waldo Barnes
  • Announcement 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
  • 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 Tim Dunn, Chief Investment & Treasury Officer, 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 are Jerry Riffel, Attorney, Lathrop Gage, who also currently chairs the Downtown Council; Julie Pierce, Vice President / Director of Kansas City Operations, Henderson Engineers; and Nate Orr, Partner, Spencer Fane.

To reserve your space at the luncheon, visit  or contact Ann Holliday,, or Ashley Broockerd,