Black & Veatch unveils Cleantech Accelerator powered by LaunchKC

Hyleme George, Director of the IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator Program for Black & Veatch, reveals plans for its new Cleanteach Accelerator, powered by LaunchKC, on Wednesday.

Engineering and construction company Black & Veatch cemented its place in the Kansas City startup ecosystem Wednesday by introducing its IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator, powered by LaunchKC at a kickoff announcement event at Boulevard Beer Hall.

Black & Veatch, the largest engineering company in the Kansas City area, is a global leader in engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for energy, water and telecommunications. It’s IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator marks one of its boldest moves into the entrepreneurial arena of engineering services. The company recently created a segment of the company known as the Growth Accelerator, leveraging Black & Veatch’s core strengths to explore new and emerging markets.

Black & Veatch’s IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator, powered by LaunchKC will seek partnership with startups focused on renewable and distributed energy, mobility, agricultural technology, machine learning and AI, and other technologies or processes adding value to engineering services. The program will include equity awards, a 75-day period of collaboration with Black & Veatch and program supporters, and a demo day in November. The application is scheduled to open next week, and will be located on the IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator website.

“Partnering with LaunchKC is a natural extension of our effort to constantly challenge convention and advance the way we deliver value for clients,” said Hyleme George, Director of the IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator Program. “LaunchKC’s reputation for identifying attractive and innovative startups will ultimately result in access to a new and exciting pool of talent and great ideas.”

“The bottom line of the new platform is to attract scalable companies to the city to create more jobs and opportunities while growing our economy,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president, business and job development for the EDC.

Businesses who choose to participate in the Black & Veatch IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator, powered by LaunchKC will gain valuable training and insight to grow their business through collaboration with a top global infrastructure provider, as well as exposure and networking opportunities with an experienced network of investors, supporters and clients in Kansas City and around the world.

“The City of Kansas City, Mo. continues to build on its track record of smart city success. The City pioneered a range of public-private partnerships from 2015 through today to deliver critical infrastructure and data-driven policy evolutions. This allows us to explore new business models and engage entrepreneurs and firms across our ecosystem,” said Bob Bennett, chief innovation officer for the City of KCMO. “The commitment to the Cleantech vertical accelerator extends those efforts. The City and its partners are proud to support the development of new technologies in sustainability and data-driven systems management.”

Solomon explained that industry-focused business accelerators provide a more complete bundle of benefits for entrepreneurs, including seed investment, connections, mentorship, and educational components. The new LaunchKC programs will feature public pitch days to showcase each cohort of entrepreneurs. The events are designed to accelerate their growth.

“The accelerator platform will provide investors pathways to take equity stakes in early-stage businesses after grants have been awarded,” he said.

“The industry-focused business accelerator platform will continue to reward entrepreneurs with grants to help them in growing their businesses,” said Mike Hurd, marketing officer for the Downtown Council (DTC) and LaunchKC, “but will add more pathways to assist them in elevating their chances of success.”

LaunchKC, the 5-year-old grants competition for tech startups nationwide, will work in partnership with Black & Veatch to provide competition management, marketing and event services. LaunchKC is a joint venture of the Downtown Council of Kansas City and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City.

The nonprofit LaunchKC competition awarded $2 million in grants to 38 tech startup businesses over four years. Today, 34 of the grant winners – or 90 percent – are still in business, posting milestones (as of year-end 2018) that include:

  • 167 full-time employees; up 10-fold since 2015
  • $11.7 million in cumulative sales; up from $199,000 in 2015
  • $48 million in cumulative investment – up from $2 million in year one

LaunchKC is funded by the Missouri Technology Corporation, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and local corporate and philanthropic organizations, including the Kansas City Power & Light District, JE Dunn Construction, Google Fiber, Husch Blackwell, KCP&L, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the William T. Kemper Foundation, Lathrop Gage, Lead Bank, Missouri Department of Economic Development and Port KC.

LaunchKC elevates grants program to accelerator platform

Drew Solomon, right, prepares to reveal the nine 2018 LaunchKC grant winners, during a ceremony at No Other Pub in October,

LaunchKC opens the next chapter of its evolution this week.

Over the past four years, LaunchKC has awarded $2 million to attract and retain 38 tech startup businesses in Kansas City. Beginning this week, LaunchKC will grow from a 5-year-old grants-based program into a tech accelerator platform that will feature advantages and opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs and the tech ecosystem of Kansas City.

“The bottom line of the new platform is to attract scalable companies to the city to create more jobs and opportunities while growing our economy,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president, business and job development for the Economic Development Corp. (EDC) of Kansas City, Mo.

LaunchKC is a joint venture of the Downtown Council of Kansas City and the EDC.

Solomon explained that industry-focused business accelerators provide a more complete bundle of benefits for entrepreneurs, including seed investment, connections, mentorship and educational components. The new LaunchKC programs will feature public pitch days to showcase each cohort of entrepreneurs. The events are designed to introduce their polished business pitches, and open the door to accelerating their growth.

LaunchKC is working to support three KC-based industry-focused accelerators in 2019, including a second year with Fountain City Fintech (financial technology) with nbkc bank, a health tech accelerator that is currently in the works, and a CleanTech accelerator that will be announced on Wednesday.

To learn more about the LaunchKC strategy, check out today’s story in Startland

Santos Ramirez to lead operations for the CIDs

The 2019 Leadership Team for the Downtown and River Market CIDs includes (from left) Marvin Williams, maintenance supervisor; Mark Rowlands, director of contracts; Sean O’Byrne, executive director; Frank Jackson, safety supervisor; Arthur Chatman (top), landscape/maintenance supervisor; Justin Tatum, communications manager; Ronell Bailey, safety supervisor/special event coordinator; Sheila Tatum, maintenance supervisor; Santos Ramirez, director of operations; and Daniel Moon, safety supervisor.

As the River Market CID begins its new fiscal year, the district is positioned for a strong and effective 2019 thanks to its new leadership team. Every member of the supervisory group has risen through the CID ranks to assume new positions of authority.

“Every member of the leadership team has earned his or her place through years of service and outstanding achievement,” said Sean O’Byrne, executive director of the CIDs.

Members of the CID leadership team will be profiled in a new, monthly series of CID blog points. Today’s piece on Santos Ramirez is the first in that series.

Santos Ramirez – Director of Operations

This 16-year veteran of the Community Improvement Districts was selected in 2018 to lead day-to-day operations of the Downtown and River Market CIDs.

In addition to the many responsibilities of his new role, Santos is focused on updating the CID fleet and mobile kiosk; adjusting work shifts to accommodate busy times in the Central Business District and River Market; and building better lines of communications with managers of Downtown residential properties. He also wants to advance the Racheal Project, designed to help the homeless maintain jobs and help them find long-term housing solutions.

Santos has big plans for 2019. He is working with program developers EB Systems to incorporate work orders into the smart device app that the Ambassadors use daily to make CID services more efficient. New vehicles will be purchased soon to help the team tackle a growing number of duties covering nearly 200 city blocks. And, Santos plans to upgrade the CIDs aging two-way radio system to take advantage of technological advances.

Santos got his CID start in 2003 as a Maintenance Ambassador before moving quickly to the Security team and later to the Supervisory group. Santos is a native Kansas Citian, and attended J.C. Harmon High School.  Santos, his wife Christina, and family, including three sons (two who attend Rockhurst High School and the youngest who attends Our Lady of Hope) live in the historic Westside neighborhood.

 

Next month – Profiles on the other members of the CID leadership group coming on Wednesday, April 17.

 

BIG 12 week has arrived, and Downtown is ready!

The countdown has begun for the next Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament on Wednesday through Saturday in the heart of Downtown KC.

The BIG week has arrived in Downtown KC.
The Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament returns to Downtown Kansas City for the 17th time this week, and preparations are under way throughout the neighborhoods. Games begin on Wednesday evening and conclude with the championship match at 5 p.m. Saturday.
This blog post is designed to bring you up-to-date on a series of street closures that began as early as Monday. According to The Kansas City StarThe best advice is to think ahead, and be prepared for delays as you traverse the streets and neighborhoods of Downtown KC.
Here’s what to expect during this festive week ahead:
  • Grand Boulevard is closed between 13th Street and Truman Road through 6 a.m. Sunday.
  • 14th Street is closed between Walnut Street and Grand Boulevard through 6 a.m. Sunday. There will be valet access to 14th between Main and Walnut during the closure.
  • Truman Road is limited to one lane between Oak and Walnut streets now through 6 a.m. Sunday.
  • Beginning at 10 a.m. today, 14th Street will be closed between Main and Walnut streets. It will remain closed through midnight Sunday.
  • Beginning at 10 a.m. today, Walnut Street will close between 13th Street and Truman Road. It will remain closed through midnight on Sunday.
  • Residents and guests of Two Light apartments at Truman Road and Grand Boulevard will have access to the building’s garage throughout the event.

 

Drivers also should expect closures on Saturday morning for the Kansas City Big 12 Run, which will begin at 8 a.m. and conclude about 11 a.m. KCMO Police will allow traffic to cross the race route when it’s safe for runners. Here are the streets that will be impacted by the run:

Here are the streets impacted by the run:

  • Grand Boulevard, between 8th and 12th streets, and between Truman and Pershing Road
  • Eighth Street, between Grand Boulevard and Holmes Street
  • Holmes Street, between Eighth and 18th streets and between 30th and 31st streets
  • Truman Road, between Holmes Street and Woodland Avenue and between Grand Boulevard and Oak Street
  • Woodland Avenue, between Truman Road and 18th Street
  • 18th Street, between Woodland Avenue and Vine Street and between Holmes Street and Grand Boulevard
  • Vine Street, between 18th Street and 17th Terrace
  • 17th Terrace, between Vine Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/The Paseo
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/The Paseo, between 17th Terrace and 31st Street
  • 31st Street, between between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/The Paseo and Holmes
  • 30th Street, between Holmes and McGee streets
  • McGee, between Holmes Street and Gillham Road
  • Gillham Road, between McGee Street and Pershing Road
  • Oak Street, between Truman Road and 9th Street
  • Ninth Street, between Oak Street and Grand Boulevard

Parking Suggestions – Check out the Downtown Council’s Downtown Parking Map and Kansas City’s Click And Park for parking reservations or download the Parkmobile parking app to pay for metered parking with your mobile phone.

The KC Streetcar will be operating for free (as usual) and RideKC will operate the MAX buses every 8 to 10 minutes through the tournament. The Main Street Max will temporarily reroute during the event. For more information about the Main and Troost MAX routes, visit ridekc.org or call 816-221-0660.

Taxi lanes will be available on the south lane of 13th Street between Oak Street and Grand Boulevard. B-Cycle stations are also spread throughout downtown Kansas City and the River Market.

Plan ahead this week, and enjoy every minutes of one the busiest weeks of the year in your Downtown KC.

Loews CEO calls for decking South Loop at DTC luncheon

Jonathan Tisch, CEO & Chairman of Loews Hotels, shares plans for the Loews Kansas City Hotel with Jeff Jones, President & CEO, during the Keynote Conversation with the Downtown Council Annual Luncheon audience on Thursday.

Story courtesy of Kevin Collison, CitySceneKC.com

“Loews Hotel Chairman Jonathan Tisch strongly backed an ambitious plan to cap part of the South Loop where it slices through Downtown at the Annual Luncheon of the Downtown Council on Thursday.

“When I think about a big idea, it’s right outside this convention center and that is a cap over the highway,” Tisch told the audience in the Kay Barnes Ballroom at Bartle Hall. “That is a project that needs to happen.”

Tisch and Jeffrey J. Jones II, President & CEO of H&R Block, participated in a “keynote conversation” at the Downtown Council event. More than 900 people attended, and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also addressed the audience.

Tisch also said Kansas City will have to step up its marketing game to capitalize on its investment in the 800-room Loews Convention Center Hotel now under construction and the 1,600 additional hotel rooms recently completed or in the pipeline.

He described Visit KC, the area’s primary tourism and convention business generator, as being “underfunded.”

A rendering of how a park above the South Loop might look. (HNTB)

“There has to be a commitment to understanding the competitive nature of this business and making sure that Visit KC has the resources available to get the kinds of groups that want to be in Kansas City, that view this as a great destination,” Tisch said.

“There have to be more resources for VisitKC. It’s an important, essential partner of how this city has to grow in this industry.”

In a recent interview with CityScene KC, Jason Fulvi, the new CEO and president of Visit KC, also said his agency’s budget needed to be increased significantly.

During his presentation, Tisch also revealed a virtual reality video tour of the $322.7 million hotel now under construction at 17th and Wyandotte. It’s slated to open in spring 2020.

The governor repeated the themes of his recent State of the State speech at which he said rebuilding Missouri’s infrastructure and improving workforce development would be his primary goals.

Supporters of Downtown revitalization were pleased Parson attended the gathering. His predecessor, Eric Greitens, was considered anti-city after he vetoed state funding for the proposed UMKC Downtown Conservatory, essentially killing the endeavor.

Gov. Mike Parson congratulates Mayor Kay Barnes on her selection as the Kirk Award winner during the DTC Annual Luncheon on Thursday.

Parson also saluted former Mayor Kay Barnes, who received the Downtown Council’s J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award this year. The award is named after the late leader of DST Realty, and honors leaders who have helped revive Downtown.

“Fourteen years ago, I was at Kay’s house,” Parson said. “She was talking about her vision for Kansas City and telling me as a young legislator how important Downtown was and her vision of where this town was headed. Fourteen years later, those visions are coming true.”

Under Barnes leadership, several of the most important initiatives that helped redevelop downtown were launched including the Power & Light District, new H&R Block headquarters and the Sprint Center.

The former mayor praised Phil Kirk, noting he had been the best man at her first wedding.

“Keep up the good work,” she told the audience. “We live in a great city so let’s continue to grow and be even stronger in the future.”

Also honored at the event were four individuals who received the Downtown Council Urban Hero Awards: Chris Goode, founder and CEO of Ruby Jean’s Juicery; Christopher Harris, founder of the Harris Park Midtown Sports & Activity Center; Cheryl Kimmi, executive director of KC Creates, and Kite Singleton, an long-time rail-transit advocate.

This years Urban Heroes were from left: Christopher Harris, Cheryl Kimmi, Kite Singleton and Chris Goode.

The proposal to build a cap with a park above the South Loop advocated by Tisch has been receiving strong attention over the past year.

Last March, a study by HNTB commissioned by the Downtown Council estimated a four-block section of the freeway could be decked and landscaped for $139 million, significantly less than the previous $200 million estimate.

Last summer, officials said they’d approach the Missouri Department of Transportation to seek funding assistance and had scaled back the proposal to three blocks.

As recently as two weeks ago, City Manager Troy Schulte cited the ambitious proposal during a luncheon meeting.

Tisch observed the city has benefited from good leadership in recent years and hoped the city would continue that trend in the upcoming mayoral election.

“We all have to be careful of who we elect to office,” he said. “When I think about the leadership that Mayor James and his predecessors have salvaged to get Kansas City where it is today, that is dynamic. Enlightened elected officials make a difference.”’

Stay abreast of Downtown news, by registering for the free, weekly CityScene KC email review here.

For more coverage of the Downtown Council Annual Luncheon, follow this link to the Kansas City Business Journal

Annual Luncheon to elevate momentum of Downtown KC

Downtown Kansas City’s ascension into becoming the region’s leading destination for visitors, tourists, conventioneers and businesses will be the main course of the Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon on Thursday at the Kansas City Convention Center.

The annual event Destination Downtown KC is expected to attract more than 1,000 business, civic and philanthropic leaders who will learn first-hand and celebrate Downtown’s progress, accomplishments and fiscal health.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson

Gov. Mike Parson will address the Downtown Council (DTC) audience on Thursday, his first appearance at a major Kansas City business gathering since taking office on June 1, as well as since delivering his first State of the State address on Jan. 16.

The Governor will speak immediately following a State of Downtown report and video delivered by William Dietrich, DTC president & CEO. The State of Downtown represents a statistical portrait of the health and trajectory of Downtown Kansas City, coupled with video images and testimonials from Downtown stakeholders.

Headlining the annual event will be a Keynote Conversation with Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co., and Jeffrey J. Jones II, president and CEO of Kansas City-based H&R Block. They will discuss opportunities and challenges ahead to maintain and accelerate the growth of Downtown KC.

Loews Kansas City Hotel – the $325 million convention hotel currently under construction at 1534 Baltimore – is due to open in spring 2020. It will be located a short walk from the H&R Block World Headquarters at 13th & Main. The H&R Block move to Downtown in 2006 has long been considered a critical turning point in the early stages of Downtown’s renaissance.

Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co., will join Jeffrey J. Jones II, president and CEO of H&R Block, in a Keynote Conversation at the Downtown Council Annual Luncheon on Thursday.

The Downtown Council’s annual event – this year, Destination Downtown KC – will illustrate how Downtown’s remarkable renaissance is attracting residents, conferences,  visitors, employers and workers 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 one of eight cities worldwide on its listing of 28 Best Trips Around the World that appears in its current 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 800-room Loews hotel.

Destination Downtown KC will celebrate progress and accomplishments; present awards; explore the trajectory of Downtown Kansas City for the long-term; and, enjoy the largest urban networking event of the year. The luncheon is set for 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Kay Barnes Ballroom at the Kansas City Convention Center.

Former Mayor Kay Barnes

Additional luncheon highlights

  • Presentation of the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award in Recognition of Downtown Stewardship & Community Vision to Kay Barnes. The former mayor will be the 17th recipient of the Kirk Award, presented annually to leaders whose vision, guidance and commitment have helped set Downtown on a path for revitalization.
  • Presentation 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 outside of the Kay Barnes Ballroom. This year’s heroes include:
  • Presentation of the inaugural Harvey Fried Award for outstanding service by a Community Improvement District Ambassador to Daniel Moon, a Downtown CID Safety Ambassador.
  • 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 Paul Neidlein, Midwest Regional President, JE Dunn Construction; Jeffrey J. Jones II, H&R Block; and Brenda Tinnen, Senior Vice President/General Manager, Sprint Center.

The Downtown Council appreciates the support of the luncheon’s Presenting Sponsor, JE Dunn Construction; our Platinum Sponsors, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Park University and Sprint Center. Click here to learn about our other corporate sponsors.

Luncheon planning chairs include Jerry Riffel, Attorney, Lathrop Gage, and 2019 chair the Downtown Council Board of Directors; Julie Pierce, Vice President / Director of Kansas City Operations, Henderson Engineers; and Nate Orr, Partner, Spencer Fane, and immediate past chair of the DTC Board of Directors.

To reserve your seats, visit https://www.downtownkc.org/2019-luncheon/  or contact Ann Holliday, ann@downtownkc.org, or Ashley Broockerd, abroockerd@evenergy.com.

 

Gov. Parson to address Downtown Council Annual Luncheon

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will deliver remarks at the Downtown Council Annual Luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Gov. Mike Parson is coming to Kansas City next week to address Downtown business, civic and philanthropic leaders at the Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 24 at the Kansas City Convention Center.

On the heels of his first State of the State address yesterday in Jefferson City, the Governor’s office confirmed with the Downtown Council (DTC) this morning that Parson will make remarks in the luncheon program that begins at noon Thursday.

The annual event is expected to attract more than 1,000 business, civic and philanthropic leaders who will learn first-hand and celebrate Downtown’s progress, accomplishments and fiscal health.

The Governor will deliver his remarks immediately following a State of Downtown report and video delivered by William Dietrich, DTC president & CEO. The State of Downtown represents a statistical portrait of the health and trajectory of Downtown Kansas City, coupled with video images and testimonials from Downtown stakeholders.

“We are delighted to welcome Gov. Parson to the Downtown Council Annual Luncheon,” Dietrich said. “Our members and stakeholders are eager to learn more about his core legislative priorities of workforce development and infrastructure, and the critical roles they play in the future of Kansas City and the state of Missouri.”

The Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon – this year, Destination Downtown KC – will illustrate how Downtown’s remarkable renaissance is attracting residents, conferences, visitors, employers and workers to a thriving arts, cultural and business scene.

The annual event will 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.-1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24 in the Kay Barnes Ballroom at the Convention Center.

“Downtown’s emerging role as a leading destination was underscored this week, when National Geographic Traveler selected Kansas City, Mo. as one of eight cities worldwide on its listing of 28 Best Trips Around the World that appears in its current 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 800-room Loews Kansas City Hotel at 1534 Baltimore. The 800-room Loews hotel is expected to open in spring 2020.

Additional luncheon highlights

  • Keynote Conversation between Jonathan M. Tisch, chairman and CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co., and Jeffrey J. Jones II, president and CEO of Kansas City-based H&R Block. They will discuss opportunities and challenges ahead to maintain and accelerate the growth of Downtown KC.
  • Presentation of the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award in Recognition of Downtown Stewardship & Community Vision to Kay Barnes. The former mayor – considered the architect of the revival of Downtown – will be the 17th recipient of the Kirk Award, presented annually to leaders whose vision, guidance and commitment have helped set Downtown on a path for revitalization.
  • Presentation 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.
  • 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 Paul Neidlein, Midwest Regional President, JE Dunn Construction; Jeffrey J. Jones II, H&R Block; and Brenda Tinnen, Senior Vice President/General Manager, Sprint Center.

To reserve your seats, visit https://dtcluncheon.eventbrite.com or contact Ann Holliday, ann@downtownkc.org, or Ashley Broockerd, abroockerd@evenergy.com.

Keynote to feature Loews Hotels, H&R Block CEOs

Downtown Kansas City’s progress in becoming the region’s leading destination for visitors, tourists and conventioneers will be the main course of the Downtown Council’s Annual Luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 24 at the Kansas City Convention Center.

Headlining the annual event will be a Keynote Conversation with Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co., and Jeffrey J. Jones II, president and CEO of Kansas City-based H&R Block. They will discuss opportunities and challenges ahead to maintain and accelerate the growth of Downtown KC.

Loews Kansas City Hotel – the $325 million convention hotel currently under construction at 1534 Baltimore – is due to open in spring 2020. It will be located a short walk from the H&R Block World Headquarters at 13th & Main. The H&R Block move to Downtown in 2006 has long been considered a critical turning point in the early stages of Downtown’s renaissance.

Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of New York-based Loews Hotels & Co., will join Jeffrey J. Jones, president and CEO of H&R Block, in a Keynote Conversation at the Downtown Council Annual Luncheon on Jan. 24.

The Downtown Council’s annual event – this year, Destination Downtown KC – will illustrate how Downtown’s remarkable renaissance is attracting residents, conferences,  visitors, employers and workers 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 one of eight cities worldwide on its listing of 28 Best Trips Around the World that appears in its current 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 800-room Loews hotel.

Destination Downtown KC is expected to attract more than 1,000 business, civic and philanthropic leaders to celebrate progress and accomplishments; present awards; explore the trajectory of Downtown Kansas City for the long-term; and, enjoy the largest urban networking event of the year. The luncheon is set for 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24 in the Kay Barnes Ballroom at the Kansas City Convention Center.

Additional luncheon highlights

  • Presentation of the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award in Recognition of Downtown Stewardship & Community Vision to Kay Barnes. The former mayor will be the 17th recipient of the Kirk Award, presented annually to leaders whose vision, guidance and commitment have helped set Downtown on a path for revitalization.
  • Presentation 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. This year’s heroes include:
  • 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 Paul Neidlein, Midwest Regional President, JE Dunn Construction; Jeffrey J. Jones II, H&R Block; and Brenda Tinnen, Senior Vice President/General Manager, Sprint Center.

We appreciate the support of our Presenting Sponsor, JE Dunn Construction; our Platinum Sponsors, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Park University and Sprint Center. Click here to learn about our other corporate sponsors.

Luncheon planning chairs include Jerry Riffel, Attorney, Lathrop Gage, and 2019 chair the Downtown Council Board of Directors; Julie Pierce, Vice President / Director of Kansas City Operations, Henderson Engineers; and Nate Orr, Partner, Spencer Fane, and immediate past chair of the DTC Board of Directors.

To reserve your seats, visit https://www.downtownkc.org/2019-luncheon/  or contact Ann Holliday, ann@downtownkc.org, or Ashley Broockerd, abroockerd@evenergy.com.

 

Crossroads bar nabs national attention for its holiday spirit(s)

The Miracle at Rockhill, on the second floor of The Rockhill Grille in the Crossroads, tops the list of holiday pop-up bars that recently received national attention in The Daily Beast.

A Downtown Kansas City holiday pop-up bar is featured in a national story featuring “Bars that really get into the holiday spirit.”

The Daily Beast pointed its national spotlight last week on festive pop-up bars, which “have officially taken over America.” The Miracle at Rockhill on the second floor of The Rockhill Grille, 2000 Grand, topped the list of The Daily Beast’s story on the best, brightest, and most enthusiastic spots.

The Daily Beast reported:

“From tinsel and twinkling garlands to life-size reindeer and towering nutcrackers, the last few years have seen an influx of holiday themed bars—and to be honest every year they keep getting better and better.

Whether you’re into festive cocktails with a hint of the beach, or want to go full candy cane and Santa Claus, there’s a holiday bar just for you. But there are only a few weeks left to get your fill of holiday cheer before the season comes to a close, so slip on your favorite ugly sweater and visit one of these bedecked bars tonight.

Miracle at The Rockhill Grille, Kansas City, Missouri

Back for its fifth year in a row, more than 80 bars around the country have signed up for a festive Miracle makeover, which includes signature drinks and seasonal glassware. For the first time, The Rockhill Grille in Kansas City, Missouri, is participating in the Miracle program, and the bar team has injected plenty of merriment into the experience. Along with the standard drinks menu, including the Christmapolitan and the Snowball Old-Fashioned that are featured at all of the participating Miracle locations, the bar is also serving a roster of its own recipes using products from local distiller, J. Rieger & Co. The pop-up will run through December 31. Find a list of all of this year’s Miracle locations here.

Erica Verges

Mele Kalikimaka at SOS Tiki, Atlanta, Georgia

At first blush, tiki drinks and the holiday spirit may not seem to go together at all, but for a second year in a row SOS Tiki’s Mele Kalikimaka is proving that it’s actually a match made in heaven. The name of the pop up is, of course, a Hawaiian phrase meaning “Merry Christmas.” (It’s also the title of a Bing Crosby tune popularized in the 1950s.) SOS Tiki, which is pictured above, has 10 Christmas-y cocktails to choose from, including a frozen, rum-spiked Eggnog, and the Jack Frost that combines rums, vanilla, coconut, pineapple, and lemon.

Craft & Commerce and False Idol, San Diego, California

Celebrating the holidays in balmy San Diego means you can have all the holiday cheer you want without having to bundle up. Local bar Craft & Commerce has turned itself into Whoville Winter Wonderland and the nearby False Idol is temporarily The Grinch’s Lair. That means after you’ve enjoyed a Reindeer Games cocktail (apple brandy, aquavit, chile liqueur, apple cider) or any of the other eight holiday-themed cocktails in Whoville, you can then drink a Holiday Mouth Feels (Angostura Bitters, pot still rum, lemon, falernum, orgeat) with the Grinch. Be sure to stop in before January 1, which is the last day for both pop ups.

Santa Baby, Chicago, Illinois

If you’re obsessed with tinsel, taken by wreaths, and blown away by a perfectly bedazzled tree, this immersive Chicago Christmas bar is where you need to celebrate the holidays. Not only will Santa Baby be decked out in over-the-top decorations, but it will also feature multiple bars slinging drinks that Kris Kringle would certainly enjoy. If you’re going with a group, try the oversized Jingle Juice, which blends a base of spiced rum, Grand Marnier and amaretto with a bright, bubbly blend of pineapple, Sprite, citrus and cranberry. And don’t forget to try the Atomic Yule Log (Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, cheddar, Sriracha dust) or a few Lumps of Coal (puffed rice, marshmallow, chocolate cookie dust).

Donn’s Depot, Austin, Texas

For more than two decades, Donn’s Depot in Austin has gotten gussied up for the holidays—and each year the decorations have gotten more intricate. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, more than 40 staff members work together to transform the bar and music venue into what it calls a “magical winter wonderland.” Snowflake ornaments hang from the ceiling and nutcrackers, mini-trees, and rows of stockings cover just about every possible surface. Visitors can sip on boozy and non-alcoholic holiday cocktails, including the Little Drummer Boy (tequila, allspice, pear, lemon), Mazel Tov (rum, chocolate, gelt), and warming hot chocolate.

Winter Chalet at Industry Kitchen, New York

Through the end of January, when you walk into the South Street Seaport’s Industry Kitchen you’ll be greeted by a canopy of twinkling lights, life-size reindeer and a swath of holiday greenery that transforms the space into a cozy getaway. But the wintry chalet experience is not complete without a festive cocktail in hand. Luckily, you’ll have plenty of options when deciding what to pair with your Gingernut Pizza—a pie made with a ginger crust, Eggnog frosting and candy canes. Go for The Flurry, a simple sour that mixes gin, St-Germain and lemon, or gather a group of friends and order the crowd-friendly Frozen Peppermint Slide (Baileys, candy canes, peppermint bark).

Sleyenda at Leyenda, Brooklyn, New York

Last year, Leyenda’s co-owners and bartenders extraordinaire, Julie Reiner and Ivy Mix, debuted their holiday pop-up bar Sleyenda—and this year, it’s back! Celebrating strong women the world over, the award-winning watering hole will donate $1 from each holiday drink sold to different charities, including the Global Fund for Women, New York Women’s Foundation, Outsmart NYC, and the Me Too Movement. That means no matter what Christmas or Hanukkah-themed drink you choose, from the Coquito Ho Ho Ho (reposado tequila, Oloroso sherry, coconut, Braulio, cinnamon) to the Chutzpah Spritzah (Aperol, Campari, gin, Manischewitz, Amaro Angostura, brut rosé), you can be sure you’re contributing to a good cause while spreading a bit of holiday cheer.”

The Miracle at Rockhill is open nightly through New Year’s Eve. Ho, ho, ho…

 

Rebuttal – ‘Denverization’ is not the problem on Troost

A rendering shows UC-B’s proposed development at Linwood Boulevard and Troost Avenue. COURTESY OF DRAW ARCHITECTURE + URBAN DESIGN LLC

By GIB KERR, special to The Kansas City Star, Dec. 12, 2018

I grew up here in Kansas City, just a few blocks from Troost Avenue. For my entire life, Troost has been an ugly dividing line — both physically and psychologically — between black and white. Politicians, ministers and civic leaders have forever implored employers and developers to invest along the Troost corridor.

For decades, middle-class residents have been abandoning Troost and the urban core for the greener pastures of the suburbs. The population along Troost plummeted. Businesses, churches and schools closed in staggering numbers. The area became a desolate urban wasteland.

Over the last couple years, however, several pioneering developers have made the bold decision to risk their capital and build new apartments along the Troost corridor. We are witnessing some of the first new construction on Troost in our lifetime.

Most exciting of all (to me, at least) is that a new generation is not only willing to move there, but they’re excited to be part of a 21st-century urban environment where black and white Kansas Citians (along with Hispanics, Asians and maybe even millennials who grew up in Johnson County) can all live together without regard to the racial hang-ups that seemed so big to previous generations.

Maybe Kansas City can show America how to heal the wounds that have divided us for too long. These new developments are not just building a bridge across Troost. They are weaving a new urban quilt that earlier generations could never have imagined.

Granted, we have a long, long way to go. But this seems to be a very promising beginning.

So why does The Kansas City Star’s editorial board see only the manure and not the pony in the barn? Its recent editorial rebuking the “Denverization of Kansas City” completely misses the mark.

Yes, we need more affordable housing. But first we need to restore the urban population that we have lost over the last 50 years.

“Gentrification” is the dirty new buzzword among those for whom the perfect is the enemy of the good. In order for our urban core to thrive, we need to increase population density. We need to replace the thousands of residents who moved away, even if some of those new residents are (God forbid) “hipsters” who come from more affluent backgrounds.

I’m pretty sure that the residents moving into new apartment projects along the Troost corridor are not displacing anyone. They are moving into new housing units mostly built on vacant lots.

The economically distressed areas of the city’s East Side are full of thousands of abandoned houses, which are now attracting investors to renovate them — and in the process delivering more affordable housing options.

Jason Segedy, director of planning and urban development for the city of Akron, Ohio, notes that the problem with economically distressed areas is not inequality. The problem is poverty. Too many residents are equally poor.

By introducing a more diverse socioeconomic population, a rising tide will lift all boats. Higher population leads to healthier businesses, schools, churches and a stronger community overall. Remember, we closed more than 20 schools in the Kansas City Public Schools district over the past decade. Imagine what a few thousand new residents could do for our schools.

My observation is that both the developers and their residents along this new urban frontier are keenly sensitive to the cultural legacy of Kansas City’s East Side, which must not only be respected but celebrated. Rather than disparaging the economic progress along Troost, we should encourage its continuation and make Kansas City a model for American urban renewal.

Gib Kerr is a commercial real estate broker focusing on investment sales, with an emphasis on development transactions in Downtown Kansas CityHe served as co-chair of the sell-out Downtown Office Summit meeting for the Downtown Council in October at Crown Center.

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 https://www.downtownkc.org/2019-luncheon/  or contact Ann Holliday, ann@downtownkc.org, or Ashley Broockerd, abroockerd@evenergy.com.

 

Construction to proceed on Downtown YMCA / Community Center

The Downtown YMCA/Kirk Family Community Center will celebrate the beginning of construction of the former Lyric Theatre building on Friday.

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City will host a Construction Kickoff Celebration for the new Downtown YMCA/Kirk Family Community Center this Friday.

Donors, volunteers, members and the community are invited to gather at a special celebration at 11:15 a.m. Friday on the front steps of the former Lyric Theatre building at 1029 Central St.

The event will include a ceremony to commemorate the redevelopment of the 92-year-old building and illustrate bringing healthy living, youth and community programs to Downtown Kansas City. The new Y will bring important programs to the families and commuters in the heart of Downtown for the first time, including a medical clinic, swim lessons, healthy living classes for children and adults, community events, and opportunities for people of all ages to improve quality of life.

“The new Y builds on the success of Kansas City’s Downtown revitalization, and will bring much-needed community programs to this diverse and growing community,” said David Byrd, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City. “This is a new chapter in history for our Y and for Kansas City as we transform the historic Lyric Theatre building into a community center that will benefit generations for years to come. We are so grateful to all of our donors and partners for their support to make this project possible.”

The $35-million renovation and reconstruction project is expected to be completed by spring of 2021. It’s funded by $16.9 million from the 11th Street Corridor Tax Increment Financing District, additional funding from the Missouri Development Finance Board, as well as charitable gifts from foundations and individual donors.

The Y will be named the Kirk Family Community Center. The Kirks are longtime YMCA of Greater Kansas City donors and supporters of the new Downtown Y. The family includes the late Phil Kirk, the former chairman of DST Realty, now part of SS&C Technologies. He played a key role in Kansas City’s Downtown revitalization and was instrumental in bringing the new Y to the former Lyric Theatre.

The Downtown Council honors Kirk’s strength and leadership each year by awarding its Philip J. Kirk Jr. Award to a community leader in recognition of community vision and Downtown stewardship. The Kirk Award will be presented to former Mayor Kay Barnes at the next DTC Annual Luncheon on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019.

Other donors to the Downtown Y/Kirk Family Community Center include the Sunderland Foundation; Tom and Jean McDonnell; Illig Family Foundation; William T. Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank, Trustee; The Kirk Foundation Trust; SS&C Technologies; Victor Speas Foundation, US Trust, Bank of America Corporation; Gary Dickinson Family Charitable Foundation; Kansas City Southern; Mabee Foundation; Dunn Family Foundation; UMB Trusts & Foundations: Arvin Gottlieb Charitable Foundation; Jim and Annabelle Nutter Family; Sherman Foundation; KCP&L; Frank and Nancy Kirk; Mark One Electric; Tom and Jill McGee; Natalie Kirk Welch and J.C. Welch; Allen and Libby Blair; Charles and Judy Kahn; and Ron and Nancy Jones.

Features of the 62,000-square-foot Downtown YMCA/Kirk Family Community Center:

  • Preservation of the facade and lobby of the historic building including the original marble floors, ceiling tiles and more to become the new Y entrance.
  • A 42,000-square-foot section of new construction built on the north side of the lobby featuring a contemporary design. Behind the building, there will be a small green space for events and youth sports.
  • Dramatic two-story windows will be inserted into the new limestone walls along Central bringing natural light into the space and creating a contemporary, eye-catching look to the building’s exterior. The limestone will come from the same quarry that provided the limestone for the original Lyric building.\

Amenities inside the new Downtown YMCA/Kirk Family Community Center:

  • Three community rooms to give members and the community the opportunity to host meetings, celebrations of family and friends, and more. One of the community rooms will feature a teaching kitchen for healthy eating, nutrition and cooking classes.
  • A Kids Zone constructed near the entrance that will provide a safe and fun place for kids to learn and play.
  • An indoor family pool and lap pool to bring year-round life-saving swim lessons, exercise and recreational opportunities to families downtown for the first time.
  • An enclosed wood-floor gymnasium that can be used for basketball, volleyball, and other youth and adult sports.
  • A large health and wellness area offers a space for guests to improve their health through cardiovascular exercise and strength training featuring the latest state-of-the-art equipment.
  • Three studios for group exercise.
  • A suspended indoor walking and jogging track that will offer views of the lower levels of the center.

Truman Medical Center to offer a medical clinic at the new Downtown Y

The YMCA and Truman Medical Center will team up to offer a medical clinic at the Downtown Y. The two organizations first partnered to open TMC’s University Health Clinic adjoining the Linwood YMCA/James B. Nutter, Sr. Community Center in February 2018.
The Linwood Y partnership has already proven that working together toward a common vision and mission can improve community health at a time when chronic disease is rising and access to quality health care remains a challenge for many.
The Downtown clinic will make health care more accessible to Y members, as well as those in the surrounding area.
“It is part of our mission to get out of the four walls of the hospital and bring health care where it’s needed,” said Charlie Shields, president and CEO of Truman Medical Center. “We are excited about the construction of this new University Health clinic, because it’s in the right place, at the right time. The power of our combined services will make a great impact on the area’s health and wellness.”
TMC’s University Health Clinic is planned for the lower levels of the building. TMC also will partner with Cerner to bring advanced technology to the patient experience at the clinic.
“Bringing this Y and medical clinic to Downtown is truly a game changer and an important milestone for the Kansas City community,” said CiCi Rojas, chief volunteer officer for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.
“We look forward to the completion of this project so that the Y may impact more lives for the better,” Rojas said. “There are still opportunities to give. The new Y will allow us to meet the changing needs of the community as more young professionals, families and empty-nesters call Downtown home, and will serve as a destination for the entire metro.”
Design and construction partners include BNIM Architects, JE Dunn Construction, Structural Engineering Associates, Henderson Engineers, Antella, Taliaferro & Browne, New Horizons, Land3 Studio, Larkin and FSC.
Development partners include Broadway Square Partners, the Downtown Council and MC Realty.
Financing partners include Sun Trust Bank, Industrial Development Authority of the City of Kansas City Missouri, and Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority.
To read more about the Downtown Y/Kirk Community Center announcement, visit CityScene KC.