Vote YES on Prop D: Safer Roads, Safer Streets

The Downtown Council supports new funding for safer roads and bridges in Missouri, and encourages a YES vote on Prop D. The election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Prop D is a statutory change allowing a 2.5-cent tax increase on gas and diesel annually for four years, resulting in an overall dime-per-gallon motor fuels tax increase. The new funding will provide money to be spent on construction and maintaining safe highways and bridges.

Today’s blog – written by Downtown Council board member Warren Erdman – is designed to explain why the DTC Board of Directors voted to support Prop D in this important election. Vote YES for safer roads and safer streets on Nov. 6.

Proposition D on the November 6 ballot is vitally important to Kansas City and to Missouri.  It would raise the motor fuels tax in Missouri by 2.5 cents per year for four years, and make over $400 million a year available for state and local roads and bridges across Missouri, including $55.3 million in state funds for transportation projects in the Kansas City region and $14 million for local county and municipality transportation projects in our area.

Over its four-year phase-in and when fully implemented, the extra 10 cents per gallon will help fix our roads and bridges, create jobs and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into our local communities for roads and bridges. The new money will allow Missouri to move to the front of the line to return federal tax money we have already paid to Washington, to fix our roads and bridges back home. If we don’t provide the matching money, other states will and receive our money.

Missouri hasn’t raised our state motor fuels user tax since 1996. Inflation has eaten away at this 17 cents tax, which only has 7 cents of purchasing power today. While steel, concrete and asphalt have doubled and tripled in cost over the last 22 years, the state motor fuels user tax has lost 60 percent of its value.

MoDOT has cut overhead spending and has its house in order.  Its leadership is committed to prudent stewardship of this constitutionally protected, regularly audited road and bridge money.

This infrastructure funding is badly needed in Missouri and the Greater Kansas City region to address our transportation infrastructure, highways and bridges.

Missouri Governor Parson, Lieutenant Governor Kehoe and other state leaders across Missouri strongly support this modest, overdue initiative for our highways and bridges.

Kansas City needs to do its part to help pass Proposition D this November.

Please join me in voting YES on Proposition D on November 6.

– Warren Erdman, Kansas City

Save the Date – 2019 Downtown Council Annual Luncheon

Save the Date for the 2019 Downtown Council Luncheon:  Destination Downtown KC

Join the Downtown Council of Kansas City on Thursday, January 24, 2019, as we celebrate Downtown and kick off the new year with our theme of “Destination Downtown KC.”

If you have walked around Downtown Kansas City lately, then you know Downtown has evolved into a popular, visitor-friendly destination.

We already knew people wanted to live Downtown – today’s population of 27,500 marks a 41 percent increase since 2000. Downtown’s first high school in decades, the Crossroads Preparatory Academy, will reach full capacity in 2020. And, people want to work Downtown – with more than 90,000 employees and counting.

Well, these days, visitors are joining us in growing numbers and frequency in Downtown hotels, restaurants, shops, conferences, art galleries and performance halls. And, not just occasionally. Visitors are part of the Downtown scene and on board the KC Streetcar every day.

During the Annual Luncheon, we will honor both civic and grassroots leaders through our Kirk and Urban Hero Awards.  We’ll start things off with the Spirit of Downtown KC Exhibition and update you on the State of Downtown.  Stay tuned for more information about speakers and expert panelists, who thrive in the world of growing an urban core with locals, visitors, residents, workers from all walks of life.

Visit to learn more about the annual event or to register. Sponsorships range from $10,000 to $500. Individual tickets start at $125.

Contact Ann Holliday ( or Ashley Broockerd ( with any questions.

And, mark your calendar for lunch on Thursday, Jan. 24. You won’t want to miss a thing.


Downtown Office Summit expects full house Wednesday

The Downtown Council is expecting a sold-out audience for its highly anticipated Downtown Office Summit from 2-5 p.m. Wednesday at BNIM at Crown Center, 2460 E. Pershing Road, #100.

The Hon. Sylvester James, Mayor of the City of Kansas City, Missouri, will serve as the keynote speaker for the event, which will focus on the hottest element of Downtown’s escalating revitalization, the commercial office marketplace.. The Summit has attracted more than 250 community and civic leaders, real estate developers, building owners and future Downtown office tenants.

“Downtown’s renaissance has entered the critical third wave of revitalization,” said Nate Orr, chairman of the Downtown Council Board of Directors and Partner at Spencer Fane LLP. “After revitalizing the residential sector and making major investments in visitor amenities, the rebirth of the office market is paramount to sustaining the momentum.

“This third wave is an economic game-changer that will elevate momentum at creating jobs, attracting talent, unlocking value and engaging private investment in Downtown.”

The Office Summit is designed to provide a better understanding of the Downtown Office Market today and to chart a course to greater success tomorrow, according to Gib Kerr, co-chair of the event and Director of Capital Markets in Kansas and Missouri for Cushman & Wakefield.

“Downtown Kansas City is one of the fastest growing downtowns in America,” Kerr said. “And, that means we are in the thick of competing for businesses – and the talent to elevate those companies – with large and small cities all across the country.”

The Downtown Office Summit will feature three components at BNIM on Wednesday:

  • 2 p.m. – Office Summit Expo – a networking opportunity to learn more about the commercial office marketplace and the people who represent Downtown properties, opportunities and trends.
  • 3 p.m. – Office Summit Program – a series of speakers and panel discussions that illustrate the challenges and opportunities facing Downtown Kansas City in light of the rapid growth of commercial businesses marketplace, along with residents and visitors in Downtown. Kevin Collison, editor of CityScene KC, will serve as the event moderator. Highlights include…
    • Keynote address by Mayor Sly James
    • Market overview by Summit co-chairs Michael Klamm, Managing Director of CBRE and Gib Kerr of Cushman & Wakefield
    • Development panel featuring experts from Platform Ventures, 3D Development, Crown Center, Lathrop Gage, AREA Real Estate Advisors and EPOCH.
    • Tenant panel with leaders to share insights about the Downtown marketplace from Benton Lloyd & Chung, Centric, ACI Boland, BNIM, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Park University.
    • Summary & closing remarks by Julie Henderson of Henderson Engineers, and chair of the Business Attraction and Retention committee for the Downtown Council.
  • 5:30 p.m. – Cocktail reception and networking to follow.

The event is a virtual sell-out. To place your name on a waiting list, you are encouraged to email Julie Shippy at the Downtown Council at

The Downtown Office Summit is produced by the Downtown Council of Kansas City in partnership with the City of Kansas City, Missouri and the Economic Development Corporation. The summit is presented by Bank of America, BNIM, Crown Center and Lathrop Gage LLP.

LaunchKC tops $2 million in grants to tech start-ups

2018 LaunchKC grant recipients share $500.00.

LaunchKC judges awarded $500,000 in grants to nine tech start-up businesses on Friday, following a months-long competition designed to attract and retain tech entrepreneurs in Kansas City.

This year’s grants competition elevated LaunchKC to the $2 million mark in grants to 38 different entrepreneurs over four years.

“This is a tremendous milestone as we demonstrate our commitment to attracting, growing and retaining startup businesses in Downtown Kansas City,” said Mike Hurd, spokesman for LaunchKC, an initiative of the Downtown Council and the Economic Development Corporation.

The nine winners, including five from Greater Kansas City were selected Friday afternoon from a pool of 20 finalists. Each of the final 20 presented their business pitches that morning to LaunchKC judges and the Techweek Kansas City audience at Union Station.

Grant winners were announced Friday afternoon at a special LaunchKC / Techweek Kansas City awards ceremony at No Other Pub in the Power & Light District.

Ag Voice from Atlanta, GA, was only the second, $100,000 grand prize recipient in LaunchKC history. It is a mobile voice-interaction service designed for food and agriculture professionals to capture insights on the go. By using proprietary analytics and processing of raw voice files including captured time stamps and location data, users can improve productivity and workflow management, increase documentation accuracy, and gain valuable insights to optimize the use of resources in crop and animal production for a sustainability and environmental impact.

Another $400,000 was awarded on Friday in $50,000 parcels to eight entrepreneurs, including:

Drew Solomon, right, begins the LaunchKC awards ceremony on Friday afternoon at No Other Pub In the Power & Light District.

“Each of the 20 finalists were very strong contenders for LaunchKC’s grants, as well as for building strong, economically successful businesses,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president for business job development at the EDC and chair of the LaunchKC competition.

Today’s announcement marks the culmination of weeks of application reviews and scoring by a panel of more than 35 business and financial leaders, who volunteered their time to thoughtfully narrow the field from 586 applicants – up 32 percent from 2017 – to the 20 finalists who competed on Friday.

“LaunchKC attracted more than 2,000 applications from throughout the nation and the world in our four years of competition with tech entrepreneurs,” said Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC and the Downtown Council. “This year’s awards mean we have reached $2 million mark.

“We believe in entrepreneurship and we believe these start-ups have a better chance to success in Kansas City,” Hurd said.

In addition to cash grants, the nine winning applicants will receive a network of support, industry-specific mentor teams for each grant recipient; and opportunities to meet and learn from industry and entrepreneurial leaders in and around Kansas City – all designed to elevate their efforts to build high-growth, tech sector businesses and jobs in KCMO.

“LaunchKC is an economic game-changer in Kansas City through its support of start-up businesses. It creates jobs, attracts talents, unlocks value, and engages follow-in investors,” Solomon said.

LaunchKC is a nonprofit, civic engine in the Kansas City entrepreneurial space. It is an initiative of the Downtown Council and the Economic Development Corporation. The program is fueled each year by the visionary support of corporate, public and philanthropic partners. For 2018, the sponsor honor roll includes:


  • Missouri Technology Corporation and the City of Kansas City, Missouri


  • The Cordish Companies / Power & Light District; Downtown Council of Kansas City; Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City; and the William T. Kemper Foundation


  • Husch Blackwell; KCP&L; and the State of Missouri, Department of Economic Development


  • Adknowledge; American Century Investments; BalancePoint; J.E. Dunn Construction; Google Fiber; ITEN; Lathrop Gage; LightEdge Solutions; Metropolitan Community College, Parson & Associates, RubinBrown; and Spring Venture Group


  • Academy Bank; Country Club Bank; Generator Studio; Helix; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center; Park University; and the UMKC Bloch School of Management. * @Launch_KC

NASA leader & LaunchKC Pitch Day are on tap for Friday

Kira Blackwell, NASA.

An executive from the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) will “launch” the annual LaunchKC Pitch Day with an opening keynote address on Friday, Oct. 12 at Union Station.

Kira Blackwell, Program Executive, Office of the Chief Technologist, NASA will speak to the audience at 8 a.m. Friday, immediately before the start of the LaunchKC Pitch Day in the Extreme Screen Theatre at Union Station.

Blackwell will share insights into NASA iTech, a year-long effort to find innovative ideas that address challenges and fill gaps in five critical areas identified by NASA as having a potential impact on future exploration, including big data and data mining; artificial intelligence and autonomous robotic capabilities; revolutionary concepts for communications; medical breakthrough; and x-factor innovations.

The NASA-inspired keynote falls on the fifth and final day of the Techweek Kansas City conference. Friday is primarily focused on LaunchKC, the the final round of the fourth annual grants competition for tech startups that has been a part of the Techweek KC experience, since its first local conference in 2015.

“We are delighted to welcome Kira Blackwell and NASA to ‘launch’ the Pitch Day events,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president of business and job development for the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri, and competition chair for LaunchKC.

The LaunchKC Pitch Day marks the final day of the annual grants competition. Beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday, the 20 LaunchKC finalists will make their  business plan presentations to a panel of LaunchKC judges AND the Techweek Kansas City audience. Solomon said Blackwell has agreed to join the panel of judges.

“NASA iTech and LaunchKC are cut from the same innovative cloth – both are showcases for entrepreneurs who are looking to change the trajectory of the world through their innovative thinking and business plans,” Solomon said.

NASA iTech is a program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and works in collaboration with The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in support of the Agency’s Mission. This collaborative effort identifies and fosters innovative solutions that aim to solve challenges on Earth and also have the potential to solve some of NASA’s challenges agency-wide.

LaunchKC is a national grants competition designed to attract tech entrepreneurs to compete for non-dilutive grants and the opportunity to build their new and emerging tech businesses in Kansas City, Missouri.

“LaunchKC has attracted more than 2,100 applications from throughout the nation and the world during our four years of competitions,” said Mike Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC and the Downtown Council.

LaunchKC judges worked for six weeks to narrow the 2018 field of entrepreneurs from 586 applicants to the final 20, who will compete on the big stage this Friday, including:

  • AgVoice – Atlanta, Ga. – Ag Tech
  • Bluepoint2 – Leawood, Kan. – Health Tech
  • Boddle Learning – Kansas City, Mo. – Ed Tech
  • Bungii – Overland Park, Kan. – Mobile Technology
  • Case Helper – Kansas City, Mo. – Cloud Services
  • Digs – Chicago, Ill. – Fin Tech
  • Erkios Systems – Kansas City, Mo. – Network Security
  • Just Play Sports Solutions – Lawrence, Kan. – Cloud Services
  • Listing, LLC – Kansas City, Mo. – Real Estate Tech
  • MindSport – Overland Park, Kan. – Health Tech
  • Motega Health – Lawrence, Kan. – Health Tech
  • OpenCities – Kansas City, Mo. – Cloud Services
  • PlaBook – Kansas City, Mo. – Ed Tech
  • Project Ray – Yokneam, Israel – Mobile Technology
  • Realquantum – Overland Park, Kan. – Fin Tech
  • – San Francisco, Calif. – Ag Tech
  • SaRA Health – Kansas City, Mo. – Health Tech
  • SmartBridge – Bethesda, Md. – Health Tech
  • Strayos – St. Louis, Mo. – Data Analytics
  • Venture360 – Lee’s Summit, Mo. – Fin Tech

The LaunchKC / Techweek Kansas City schedule on Friday in the Extreme Screen Theatre at Union Station will look like this:

  • 8 a.m. Keynote address by Kira Blackwell, NASA
  • 9 a.m.-12 p.m. LaunchKC Pitch Day of all 20 competition finalists
  • Noon-3 p.m. Judges meet in private to score presentations and decide who will receive grant money
  • 3:30 p.m. LaunchKC to announce winners of 2018 grant competition

Tickets to the LaunchKC Pitch Day – including Blackwell’s keynote address – are part of the Techweek Kansas City ticket package, and are available right here.

Also, make sure you download the Attendify app to view the entire week’s schedule and see the location of every session. We will have multiple sessions in multiple areas of Union Station. The Attendify app is the best way to confirm the location and time of the session you wish to attend. Link to App:

See below for a summary of the complete Techweek 2018 schedule.


LaunchKC is an initiative of the Downtown Council of Kansas City and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City. It is fueled each year by the visionary support of corporate, public and philanthropic partners. For 2018, that honor roll includes:


  • Missouri Technology Corporation and the City of Kansas City, Missouri


  • The Cordish Companies / Power & Light District; Downtown Council of Kansas City; Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City; William T. Kemper Foundation; and Techweek


  • Husch Blackwell; KCP&L; and the State of Missouri, Department of Economic Development


  • Adknowledge; American Century Investments; BalancePoint; J.E. Dunn Construction; Google Fiber; ITEN; Lathrop Gage; LightEdge Solutions; Metropolitan Community College, Parson & Associates, RubinBrown; and Spring Venture Group.


  • Academy Bank; Country Club Bank; Generator Studio; Helix; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center; Park University; and the UMKC Bloch School of Management.

For more information, contact Mike Hurd at or visit and

Downtown Council opens nominations for annual awards

2017 Urban Heroes

The Downtown Council is seeking nominations for our two annual honors, the J. Philip Kirk Award and the Urban Hero.

The Kirk award  – given in recognition of community vision and Downtown stewardship – is presented to a civic leader who has helped build Downtown Kansas City over a lifetime. Urban Hero recognition is given to three to five individuals annually who are moving Downtown forward at a grassroots level.

This past year, the Kirk Award was presented Don Hall Jr., on behalf of the Hall Family, Hallmark Cards and Crown Center. Urban Hero recognition was bestowed upon Cydney Millstein, architectural historian; Phil Shafer, artist; Paul Masao Matsuoka, Kansas City Rescue Mission and community volunteer; and Butch Rigby, Screenland Theaters and real estate services.

If you would like to suggest a recipient for either award, please complete the following forms by August 31, 2018.

Need more information about the award criteria and past recipients?  Click here to learn more or contact Ann Holliday, or Julie Shippy,

Mayor Barnes honored for her legacy, commitment to Downtown

Mayor Sly James praises former Mayor Kay Barnes accomplishments at the celebration last week.

By Kevin Collison,

Former Mayor Kay Barnes now has the Convention Center Grand Ballroom named after her, but her lasting legacy was on display beyond the windows of the ballroom lobby where the event was held last week.

From its vantage point above the South Loop freeway, the Sprint Center, H&R Block office tower and Power & Light District were clearly visible.

“Look out the window and you’ll see what Kay did,” Mayor Sly James told the audience. “I have a sense of what that took. People don’t like the way things are, but they hate change. Kay Barnes set the stage for this city’s revival that we see continuing to flourish today.”

Barnes became mayor in 1999 when much of the south third of the Central Business District was in shambles after decades of neglect. Attorney Herb Kohn, who was master of ceremony at the ballroom dedication ceremony, checked off the sad list.

“Downtown consisted of a wig shop, a dirty bookstore, a massage parlor and lots of empty office buildings,” he said, adding a couple of those buildings were used as haunted houses a few weeks out of the year. “Kay’s vision was clear, ‘I want to rebuild Downtown.'”

Former Mayor Barnes enjoys unveiling of sculpture honoring her, “Woman Walking Tall” by Kansas City artist Tom Corbin.

The first step was persuading H&R Block to relocate its headquarters from Main Street near the Country Club Plaza to 13th and Main. At the same time, Baltimore-based Cordish Co. was approached about creating an entertainment district on the surrounding eight blocks.

The third critical piece of the revival puzzle was when Barnes used her friendship with Tim Leiweke, then a top executive at Los Angles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to partner on a new arena at Truman Road and Grand. It didn’t hurt that Barnes had met Phil Anschutz, the AEG founder, while both attended the University of Kansas.

Click here to read the complete story in CitySceneKC.Com, including a video clip of the event.

Don’t miss any Downtown news, sign up for our weekly CityScene KC email review here.

Nourish KC celebrates serving Millionth Meal to homeless

Mayor Sly James congratulates the kitchen staff at NourishKC.

By Kevin Collison, CityScene KC

Eight years after opening in new space at Eighth and The Paseo, NourishKC celebrated serving its millionth meal to the homeless people of Downtown.

Mayor Sly James recognized their charitable work at an event last week, but also used the occasion to call out the broader issue of homelessness and growing economic disparity in the United States.

“I don’t want to celebrate the one millionth meal, there’s nothing to celebrate about serving a million meals to people who need food,” he said. “I want to celebrate you’re doing it.

“I think a better milestone will be when you serve your last meal. We’ve become too calloused in this country to those who are without. Those who are without are multiplying faster than those who have.”

The kitchen and dining room are on the lower level of the Downtown Community Services Center owned and operated by the Downtown Council. The upstairs is occupied by ReStart, an organization that provides housing services, healthcare and counseling to homeless people.

Two local TV stations also aired stories about the Millionth Meal. Take a look at KSHB TV-41 and FOX 4

Sean O’Byrne, vice president of the Downtown Council, said providing social services is part of the broader mission of the organization of Downtown property owners. The organization raised $1.3 million in 2008 to open the center.

“You can’t talk about economic development or a resurgence of Downtown until you address the issue of homelessness in a dignified manner,” O’Byrne said. “Our goal is, when you come for a meal you can come upstairs and talk to somebody about housing, see a doctor or talk to a counselor.”

NourishKC traces its roots to 1983 when it opened as a soup kitchen operated by what was then Episcopal Community Services in the basement of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral at 415 W. 13th St. The operation relocated to 750 Paseo Blvd. in 2010. Last year, Episcopal Family Services was renamed NourishKC.

The NourishKC facility is designed to resemble a comfortable bistro rather than an institutional soup kitchen. It also offers culinary training to help people find lasting jobs.

“Our mission is to build a food secure region,” said spokeswoman Victoria Cherrie.

Meals are served Mondays through Fridays from 7 to 9 a.m., and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. An average of 150,000 people are served each month. And, the program is working to expand its funding base.

“In the past, we were largely funded by foundation grants,” Cherrie said. “We’re trying to build a platform of donors.”

Before his formal remarks, James enjoyed a tour of the NourishKC kitchen where he joked with several of the staff and praised their work.

“A lot of people don’t get the need for this,” he said “I’m glad you get it. You’re making sure people have food. People in need do strange things, sometimes bad things. To the extent you show they’re cared for…God bless you, that’s cool stuff.”

Don’t miss any Downtown news, sign up for the weekly CityScene KC email review here.

The data tell the real Downtown housing story

The KC Streetcar is one of many amenities that’s adding  fuel to the housing boom in Downtown Kansas City.

Guest Commentary by Bill Dietrich  – The Kansas City Star, published March 15, 2018

Maintaining existing affordable housing stock and increasing that inventory are critical for the sustainability and continued growth of greater Downtown Kansas City. We’ve come a long way from the blight of the late 1990’s, but have much work still to do.

In greater Downtown Kansas City today – 31st Street north to the Missouri River, and State Line east to Woodland –  residential housing density is among the lightest of any of our peer cities and many new opportunities remain.

To place Downtown on the path to a long-term, balanced mix of housing inventory will require an updated revitalization strategy. Kansas City has accomplished most of the plan that was published in 2000 by Sasaki Associates. The Downtown Council agrees that it is time to update this plan.

The cost of housing is on Kansas City’s mind because on March 22, the City Council is expected to consider two measures concerning affordable units in future apartment projects from The Cordish Companies. To be successful, strategies need to be based on accurate information. So, here is what the data say, according to federal figures:

  • Department of Housing and Urban Development and census guidelines define affordable rent as up to 30 percent of household gross income. HUD‘s Jackson County individual median income ranges from $41,900 to $52,375.
  • At year-end 2016, there were 14,189 total rental housing units in greater Downtown, and growth continues. According to census data, 6,055 or 42.6 percent of those housing units are considered affordable, according to HUD’s criteria.
  • Market rate rents are increasing as new value is created, growing the tax base.

These data paint a picture of a Downtown with a healthy mix of affordable and market rate housing.

With its residents paying a median 41 percent of their income for housing and transportation, versus 48 percent in the whole city, Downtown rates as the most affordable neighborhood in our region, with 53 percent of its population a cross section of African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and those of mixed ancestry –  almost twice as diverse as any other part of our region.

And, currently, 41 percent of the 26,000 residents in greater Downtown are millennials – the largest percentage in any neighborhood in the metropolitan area. As you move away from the city center, the percentage drops to 26 percent for Kansas City and 22 percent for the greater region. Younger generations are our future and we must be competitive to retain them.

In 2000, only those in the vanguard of urban living were willing to pay below-market rents for an apartment in an amenity poor environment.  That is not the case today with arts, culture, entertainment, retail, streetcars, employment opportunities.

Today, the greatest threat to affordable housing begins with the state of Missouri’s ill-conceived refusal to allocate funds for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, or LIHTC, which are essential to the development of new affordable inventory.

Right now, a 400-unit LIHTC, rent-restricted, affordable housing project planned for the Central Business District is unable to advance without those credits. We should be sounding the alarm. An effective strategy would be to unite as a community to educate legislators on why affordable housing and these tax credits are so important.

LIHTC obligations on existing inventory will be expiring over the next several years.  Property owners will be reviewing their options on what the next iteration will be: continuing as affordable, converting to market rate or another use. Many will determine that the upward delta in rent doesn’t justify the investment required to make their properties competitive.

Understanding the importance of affordable, workforce housing, the Downtown Council remains committed to work with the city and community to develop a comprehensive plan promoting affordability. We are steadfast in our  dedication to attracting new jobs and residents, and growing the tax base within a diverse, affordable and walkable urban community.


Bill Dietrich is president and CEO of the Downtown Council of Kansas City.

Roll the highlights: 2018 DTC Annual Luncheon

Downtown Council members and stakeholders poured into the Kansas City Convention Center on Jan. 26 to celebrate successes in Downtown KC, as well as to network and to be inspired to continue the urban momentum of Kansas City. Did you miss the Downtown Council’s 2018 Annual Luncheon held early this month?  Well don’t despair, we’re pleased to provide you with the highlights!

Nearly 1,000 people came together for networking, lunch and celebrations on Friday, Jan. 26 in the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center. The luncheon itself was preceded by the Spirit of Downtown Exhibit, which included 67 businesses and organizations showcasing Downtown KC.

The luncheon served to honor the Hall family, Hallmark Cards and Crown Center with the Kirk Award in recognition of community vision and Downtown stewardship and to recognize our 2017 Urban Heroes – Paul Masao Matsuoka, Cydney Millstein, Butch Rigby and Phil ‘Sike Style’ Shafer.

The audience was buzzing over Mayor Sly James and Board Chair Nate Orr, as they “slow-jammed” the accomplishments Downtown with Kemet the Phantom and the Phantastics! (Click here to watch the video.)

Kemet Coleman (left), Board Chair Nate Orr and Mayor Sly James brought the house down when they Slow Jammed the Accomplishments at the DTC Annual Luncheon.

The Downtown Council also released its State of Downtown Report and provided insights about the Smart City platform via keynote speaker TJ Costello, Cisco Systems.

This event could not have taken place without the leadership of DTC chairman, Nate Orr; immediate past-chair Cathy Smith; honorary co-chairs, Irv Hockaday and Steve McDowell; and our presenting sponsors Commerce Bank, Hallmark Cards, JE Dunn Construction and Kansas City Southern; as well as our other corporate sponsors.

Click here for a web-page summarizing the event, with links to the videos, images and media coverage.

Downtown Council honors five urban champions

The Downtown Council recognized five community leaders at its Annual Luncheon on Friday at the Kansas City Convention Center.

More than 1,000 guests gathered at the Grand Ballroom to celebrate accomplishments in Downtown, as well as to set the course for new and ongoing initiatives for the coming year. A highlight of the luncheon was the recognition of several individuals and institutions for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of Downtown.

The Hall family was awarded the J. Philip Kirk, Jr. Award at the Downtown Council Annual Luncheon on Friday. Family members include, standing from left, David Hall, Margi Pence and Don Hall, Jr., and (seated) Don Hall, Sr.

The Downtown Council’s highest honor, the J. Philip Kirk, Jr. Award was presented to the Hall family, along with Hallmark Cards and Crown Center in recognition of community vision and downtown stewardship.

“Through Hallmark Cards, Crown Center, and their own civic leadership, the Halls have contributed greatly to making Kansas City the creative, artistic, and culturally advanced city that it is,” said Cathy Smith, 2017 Chair of the DTC and vice president of corporate planning for Faultless Starch/Bon Ami, at the opening of the annual meeting

Hallmark Cards has operated its corporate headquarters in Downtown Kansas City since the company was founded in 1910.

“Hallmark and the Hall Family are deeply honored to receive this award,” said Hallmark CEO Don Hall, Jr., “because it celebrates the economic vitality of Kansas City, something the company and my family have been deeply committed to for generations.”

All of the award winners were selected by a panel of Downtown Council leaders, chaired by Richard Wetzel, partner at Centric Projects.


The Downtown Council recognized four community leaders as Urban Heroes at its Annual Luncheon on Friday. Honorees include (from left) Cydney Millstein, Phil Shafer, Paul Masao Matsuoka and Butch Rigby.

The DTC also presented Urban Hero Awards to four individuals who strive to improve the quality of life in Downtown through their personal and professional lives. The 2018 recipients include:

  •  Paul Masao Matsuoka, Kansas City Rescue Mission & community volunteer
  • Cydney Millstein, architectural historian
  • Butch Rigby, Screenland Theatres and real estate developer
  • Phil Shafer, aka Sike Style, artist.

“Each year, the Downtown Council recognizes individuals and small businesses who are passionate about making Downtown Kansas City a healthier and more vibrant place to live, work, play and build businesses,” said Evie Craig, executive director of reStart and a former Urban Hero selection.

“This year’s this year’s cohort makes the measure. They represent a broad array of personal and professional contributors to our new urban landscape.”

State of Downtown introduces new platform of data reporting

The Downtown Council introduced its new online dashboard on Friday that illustrates the progress that Downtown has achieved in quality of life categories such as economy, housing, development and quality of life.

This is a moment of clarity and opportunity for Downtown Kansas City.

The KC urban core is riding a 15-year wave of growth and prosperity that is attracting residents, employers and talent, while unlocking opportunities and engaging private investment in Downtown. The momentum is gaining speed every day, as evidenced by more than $2 billion in new economic development projects – to date – that have begun along the Downtown streetcar line in just the last 2.5 years.

In the face of this urban propulsion, the Downtown Council (DTC) on Friday introduced a new platform – the State of Downtown – to report objective data that captures progress and trends, as well as distinguishes Downtown KC locally, regionally and nationally.

This marriage of clarity and opportunity has resulted in the release of the first State of Downtown report by the DTC, in cooperation with mySidewalk, an independent data clearinghouse in Kansas City. The inaugural report – drawn from objective data sources such as the U.S. Census – is available at

“Downtown Kansas City is experiencing an incredible boom,” said Bill Dietrich, President & CEO of the DTC. “With its highest population and growth rate since Kansas City’s population peak in 1970, investment and construction in Downtown infrastructure, housing and business is all increasing.

“When you add it together, Downtown has a youthful, diverse, growing population of high-wage earners in a growing economy in the most affordable, amenity-rich neighborhood in our region.”

A sampling of results from the initial State of Downtown indicates:

  • 41% of Downtown residents are Millennials (roughly, ages 20-36); a greater share of the population of Kansas City, Mo., or the metropolitan KC area
  • Downtown KC’s Millennial population is very comparable to our U.S. peer cities
  • 74% of all Downtown residents are younger than Baby Boomers (ages 53-71)
  • Downtown has the highest job density in the metropolitan area with more than 81,000 jobs, as of 2015. Given that, less than 1 percent of the city’s landmass generates 27 percent of its employment opportunities.
  • Employees in Downtown collectively earn more than $3.5 billion in total annual wages; in earning tax alone, that amounts to $35 million in revenue to the city annually


“Our work with continuously updated data provided through mySidewalk is designed to elevate the economic engine of Downtown, as well as to escalate the Downtown Council’s efforts to create a vibrant, diverse and economically sustainable community,” Nate Orr, Chair of the Downtown Council and Partner at Spencer Fane, told an audience of 1,000 Downtown stakeholders on Friday at the Kansas City Convention Center.

mySidewalk is a city intelligence tool that helps analysts extract data out of silos and into operational, strategic, and policy decisions. It provides the DTC with the tools necessary to capture accurate, objective data and to compare Kansas City with most of the major metropolitan area across the United States.

The resulting State of Downtown report aligns data for Downtown Kansas City with the downtowns of peer cities, including Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Louisville, Ky; Salt Lake City, Utah; and San Antonio, Texas.  The platform enables us to pull data from almost any city in America.

“The State of Downtown report features an online dashboard to illustrate the significant progress Downtown Kansas City has achieved in our economy, housing,  development and quality of life sectors,” Dietrich said.

Orr’s announcement not only reflects the dynamic forward progress that is palpable in Downtown Kansas City, but also that is underscored by data (a broad sampling of public and private data sources) data that is now available to the DTC through statistical data that track key indicators, answer questions about city progress, and create reports that drive awareness and action.

“What is great about these reports is that once designed they automatically update as new data becomes available,” Dietrich explained. “Plus, you can continuously add new data sources for richer reports.”

Context for the State of Downtown report

The first edition of the State of Downtown report offers numerous insights and findings about Downtown Kansas City – both in relationship for the metropolitan area, as well as to peer cities across the nation.

Dietrich shared some of the highlights, along with his conclusions:

KC is a young Downtown, but appeals to all ages

The big story of the recent decade is that Millennials continue to seek experiential living and Downtown Kansas City, MO provides that in abundance. We see that more than 40 percent of the population living in Downtown KC is Millennial (roughly, ages 20-36), but that Gen X (ages 37-52) and Baby Boomers (53-71) regularly choose to live Downtown as well.

Some 41 percent of Downtown KC residents are Millennials – greater than in peer downtowns of Cincinnati, Louisville and San Antonio, and trailing Charlotte and Salt Lake City.

Downtown KC is diverse

According to the U.S Census Bureau, Downtown  Kansas City, is one of the most diverse areas in the region with over 53% per capita of its population being an ethnically diverse cross section of African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and those of mixed ancestry. This adds to the vibrancy and resilience of our downtown culture spurring greater diversity in development, retail, and restaurants.

When compared to the greater Kansas City, MSA, Downtown Kansas City is almost twice as diverse. This healthy mix of unique individuals creates the rich cultural experience that drives the vibrancy and resilience of our Downtown.  This Downtown truly is everybody’s neighborhood.

Affordable: Percent of income spent on housing and transportation

Downtown KC provides the lowest percent of income spent on housing and transportation at 41.8 percent – compared to the City of Kansas City, MO at 49 percent and the Kansas City Metropolitan Statistical Area at 51 percent. Among peer cities, KC proved to be one of the more affordable downtowns.

Economy: Job density

Downtown Kansas City has the highest density of jobs in the region. The Central Business District, for example, has a job density of nearly 100 jobs per acre. However, taken as a whole, there is still room to add more jobs to Downtown. And, when compared to peer cities, Greater Downtown KC sets in the middle at 30 jobs per acre.

Downtown Kansas City is the economic center of the region. It has the highest job density in the metropolitan area with more than 80,000 jobs. Employees in Downtown work across a wide variety of occupations collectively earning more than $3.5 billion in total annual wages.

“The State of Downtown report is an effective platform for telling the Downtown Kansas City story with facts, figures and reliable data,” Dietrich said. “Downtown is a satisfying place to work, thanks in part to the incredible retail districts and amenities enjoyed by residents, workers, and visitors alike.

“It’s no exaggeration to say Downtown Kansas City is the economic hub of the region.”



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