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.

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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.”

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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.”



2017 Urban Heroes to be honored at special event

The 2016 Urban Heroes will welcome the 2017 award winners at a special reception on Jan. 24. The 2016 honorees included, from left, Deb Churchill, The City Market; Andrew Bracker, City of Kansas City; Julie Nelson Meers, mobank; Vince Bryant, 3D Development; and Matt Staub, KC Streetcar advocate.

The Downtown Council – in preparation for its Annual Luncheon next month – will honor four community champions with Urban Hero status during a very special event next month.

Make plans to join us at the Urban Hero Reception from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24 at Suitable Technologies Inc., 1200 Main St., Suite 4200. Our Urban Heroes are passionate about making Downtown Kansas City a more vibrant place to live, work and play. Light hor d’oeuvres and beverages will be provided.

2017 Urban Hero Honorees:

Tickets are $20 each, and you may purchase tickets at DTC Annual Luncheon sponsors may receive complimentary tickets as part of their sponsorship package.  Contact Ashley Broockerd to make your reservation,

In addition, don’t forget to join us at the Annual Luncheon at 11 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 26. Reserve your sponsorship and or purchase tickets at


Luncheon to focus on Downtown as a Smart City

Downtown Kansas City and its evolving place in the global Smart City stratosphere will be the focus of the Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon on Friday, Jan. 26, in the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center.

An estimated 1,000 DTC members and stakeholders, will gather for the 2018 Annual Luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The event serves as a celebration of the accomplishments and trajectory of Downtown Kansas City of the past year and decade. Click here to reserve your table or tickets.

TJ Costello, Cisco, will serve as the keynote speaker.

Smart City is the theme of the 2018 Downtown Council Annual LuncheonSmart Cities are about people… and tools… and data… and analysis… and leveraging them in order to improve the citizen experience and to predict future needs.

Kansas City’s Smart City Initiative began when the City of Kansas City leveraged a complex capital project – the introduction of the KC Streetcar – and added advanced technological capabilities. That transformed simple transportation into a multi-functional data collection and analysis platform, which is revolutionizing the way it manages operations.

The KC Smart City infrastructure features an extensive, coordinated suite of connective Wi-Fi technology and analytical platforms along the 51-block streetcar corridor on Main Street to improve delivery of city services.

Currently, Downtown’s 51 square blocks are “smart.” The City is working to expand these capabilities to all 325 square miles of Kansas City, Missouri. This is one of the most connected cities in the country with more than 5.5 million miles of fiber. KC is also a leader in digital inclusion, increasing the entire community’s computer literacy. The City’s digital capacity is also supporting numerous high-tech start-up companies.

The objective of the Smart Cities initiative is to enable Kansas City to be the smartest city in North America within five years and remain among the thought leaders for Smart City efforts around the world.

Keynote speaker, T.J. Costello, Director of Smart Cities and IoT – Americas at Cisco, will share how Downtown KC might just be the smartest place in the country, which creates a crystal clear competitive advantage for Kansas City regionally, nationally and globally.

Costello is responsible for Cisco’s Smart Cities go-to-market strategy for the Americas. His team focuses on building economic, social and environmental sustainability for cities through the use of technology.

2017 Downtown Council Annual Luncheon

Luncheon Highlights:

Our honorary co-chairs are Steve McDowell, Design Director, BNIM Architects and Irv Hockaday, retired President and CEO, Hallmark Cards Inc., past President and CEO, Kansas City Southern. Planning chairs are Nate Orr, Partner, Spencer Fane and Cathy Smith, Vice President of Corporate Planning, Faultless Starch/Bon Ami.

We hope you will join us at the luncheon. Click here to reserve your table or individual tickets. Contact Ann Holliday,, or Ashley Broockerd,, for more information.

Christopher Leinberger to speak at Downtown Council Annual Luncheon

Christopher Leinberger

Christopher Leinberger

The Downtown Council is pleased to announce Christopher Leinberger as the keynote speaker at the 2017 Annual Luncheon, Downtown KC: Back in the Game, on Friday, January 27, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center.

Leinberger is a nationally recognized expert in emerging experience-based economies.  His vision of Downtown’s place in a world of accelerating change will inspire us and frame the question how do we position ourselves to understand and realize the opportunities before us.  Leinberger is also a land use strategist, professor, developer, researcher and recently the author of the book, The Option of Urbanism.  He will inspire us to continue creating a vital Downtown Kansas City.

Luncheon Highlights:

  • Presentation of the Downtown Council’s highest honor, the J. Philip Kirk, Jr. Award in Recognition of Community Vision and Downtown Stewardship to Albert P. Mauro.
  • Announcement of the 2016 Urban Hero Award recipients, honoring small businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals who are improving the quality and diversity of life Downtown.
  • Introduction of the 2016 LaunchKC innovative technology-based start-up business grant recipients
  • Prior to 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.

Reserve your seats today at Individual tickets start at $100; sponsored tables of 10 start at $2,500. Contact Ann Holliday,, or Shannen Merrick,, with any questions or for additional information.




Luncheon makes the case for Downtown – the Smart City Choice

The remarkable renaissance of Downtown Kansas City took center stage before 1,000 guests on Friday, Jan. 8, when the Downtown Council presented its Annual Luncheon at the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center.

This annual gathering of business and civic leaders from Downtown and the metropolitan area attracted a record crowd to celebrate the accomplishments of Downtown KC, and to set a course for the future.

The Kansas City Star reported on the luncheon in is Jan. 8 edition:

“The Kansas City public ‘is being very wise’ to continue backing public investment in downtown revitalization, a crowd of about 1,000 heard Friday at the annual luncheon of the Downtown Council.

“Jon Copaken, past chairman of the organization devoted to downtown improvements, said critics of public incentives shouldn’t try to slow down redevelopment momentum but rather ‘keep investing before prematurely packing up and leaving.’

“Downtown, which accounts for 25 percent of the city’s tax base, is getting more than $1 billion in new investment, partly sparked by public incentives, including construction of the new streetcar line from the River Market to Union Station.

““It’s the starter line, not the finish line,” Mayor Sly James said of the streetcar. He noted that 2,082 new residential units have opened Downtown or are under construction this year, 2,249 more units are planned, and access to free transportation on the streetcar plus the addition of “smart city” technology are infusing downtown with a new spirit.

“But the recovery of Downtown also is about new commercial life, several speakers said, and the event included a showcase of dozens of companies and nonprofits that operate Downtown,” The Star reported, and continued:

“Jason Tolliver, a downtown expert with Cushman & Wakefield, put the Kansas City revival in perspective with other downtown growth around the country. He said it falls in line with changes charted since 2007, when urban-core growth began exceeding suburban growth. The movement back to city centers crosses all industries and professions, he said.

“Topping the reasons companies cite for relocating to downtowns is that it helps attract and retain young, talented workers who seek walkable “live-work-play” environments with access to public transportation.

““Commercial tenants also want a new, exciting environment” with “facilitated permitting” from city halls and a clean, safe neighborhood, Tolliver said.”

In regard to his last point, the luncheon also gave kudos to the staff of safety, maintenance and landscape (Community Improvement District Ambassadors funded by property owners in the Central Business District and the River Market.

Highlights of the 2016 Annual Luncheon, included:

  • Setting the stage with Mayor Sly James on “Downtown KC: The Smart City Choice, including a preview of the coming KC Streetcar.
  • Keynote remarks by Jason Tolliver, who relies on Americas Research from Cushman & Wakefield to statistically place Kansas City in the national picture of high growth potential urban marketplaces
  • Keynote response by a panel discussion of Downtown business leaders featuring David Byrd, YMCA of Greater Kansas City; Leonard Graham, Taliaferro & Browne; Matt McGraw, DSI; Anne St. Peter, Global Prairie; and keynoter Tolliver
  • LaunchKC update and spotlight, featuring an introduction to the 10 tech entrepreneurs who earned $50,000 grants in 2015 through the first, annual LaunchKC grants competition for startup business
  • Presentation of the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award – the Downtown Council’s highest honor – to Henry Bloch, co-founder and honorary chairman of the board of H&R Block Inc.
  • Presentation of the annual Urban Hero awards to the Crossroads Academy and Dean Johnson and Tysie McDowell-Ray; Leonard Graham of Taliaferro & Browne; Harry Murphy of Harry’s Country Club; and Jay Tomlinson of Helix Architecture + Design
  • Introduction of Downtown Council officers, including Doug Stockman, principal, el dorado inc., the 2015/16 chairman of the DTC board of directors

For more information about the Downtown Council, visit DowntownKC.orgCome see why Forbes magazine considers Downtown KC to be one of the top 10 downtowns in America.

Downtown Council honors Urban Heroes at Tom’s Town Distillery

The Downtown Council honored its Urban Heroes for 2015 in a special reception on Wednesday at the Tom's Town Distillery. Honorees including (from left) Jay Tomlinson, Harry Murphy, Leonard Graham, Tysie McDowell-Ray and Dean Johnson. The award winners will be recognized today at the DTC's Annual Luncheon at the KC Convention Center.

The Downtown Council honored its Urban Heroes for 2015 in a special reception on Wednesday at the Tom’s Town Distillery. Honorees included (from left) Jay Tomlinson, Harry Murphy, Leonard Graham, Tysie McDowell-Ray and Dean Johnson. The honorees also will be recognized today at the DTC’s Annual Luncheon at the KC Convention Center.

Downtown Council members and stakeholders gathered at the new Tom’s Town Distillery on Wednesday evening to honor this year’s Urban Heroes. They heroes will also be recognized today at the DTC’s Annual Luncheon at the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center.

A video salute to each of the Urban Heroes was a focal point of both congratulatory events.

“This year’s honorees epitomize what is best about Downtown – the qualities that have prompted Forbes Magazine to recognize Downtown KC as one of the 10 best downtowns in America for each of the last five years,” said Bill Dietrich, president and CEO of the DTC.

For the last 11 years, the Downtown Council has recognized individuals and small businesses – Urban Heroes – who are passionate about making Downtown Kansas City a healthier, more vibrant place to live, work, play and build businesses. The Urban Hero award is designed to honor those who work tirelessly to improve the quality of life in Downtown.

On Wednesday, the DTC honored these Urban Heroes:

  • Crossroads Academy and its co-founders, Executive Director Dean Johnson and Principal Tysie McDowell-Ray. These educators have not only led children and teachers back to the heart of Downtown, but also led the school to the top of the charts this year as the highest ranked charter school in the state of Missouri.
  • Harry Murphy, founder and owner of Harry’s Country Club, has spent the last 12 years working with his adult children to build his restaurant and bar, while championing and serving the River Market neighborhood that serves as his Harry’s home field advantage.
  • Jay Tomlinson, a founder of Helix Architecture + Design in the Crossroads Arts District, is the innovator who this year matched his professional passion and commitment to the urban core with his personal decision to live, walk and play full-time in Downtown.

The Urban Heroes will be recognized today at the Annual Luncheon that runs from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Convention Center. For more information on the luncheon, visit

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