Sit back, relax and celebrate 816 Day on Thursday, 8/16

Downtown Kansas City will celebrate 816Day – a “holiday” inspired by Kansas City’s area code to celebrate civic pride and everything that’s great about KC next Thursday, Aug. 16. Yep, 8/16 is 816Day.

“The goal for 816Day is to connect people with our local businesses, service industries and artistic & cultural organizations,” said Jared Campbell, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and a leading organizer of the event.

Locals and visitors are invited to celebrate and appreciate the best of what local businesses and organizations have to offer during 816Day branded events – oftentimes, happy hours or food/drinks specials on Aug. 16. Early examples of participating organizations include:

  • KC Streetcar will participate in several 816Day events next Thursday, including a local sketch artist drawing portraits of riders – along with the streetcar and Downtown scenes – from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • John’s Big Deck, 928 Wyandotte, will be a featured 816Day party location from 5-11 p.m. with a DJ, food and drink specials, and local goodies and giveaways, including concert tickets.
  • The City Market will feature a free ’90s themed 816 Day concert featuring ThunderJacket from 5:30-730 p.m., along with an 816Day party at Brown & Loe, featuring beer, wine, water and a signature 816 Day cocktail specials.

City Market businesses are also being asked to set up a presence during the concert to help promote themselves and Kansas City.

Campbell also issued an invitation for Downtown restaurants, bars, coffee shops, retailers and destinations to participate in 816Day by providing KC-themed specials on local goods and services, live music, great food, nightlife and entertainment:

What?: How your business can take part in 816DAY?

  • Restaurants, Bars & Entertainment Venues
    • Create an event or party at your business.
    • Already have an event scheduled? Great! Brand it as part of 816Day.
      • Live music, DJ,/ Karaoke / Bar Games: Cornhole, Large Jenga / Trivia / Contests & Giveaway
    • Offer unique food & beverage specials.
    • Already have a food and drink special planned for that day? Perfect! Brand it as part of 816Day.
      • Reduced Admission or Free Event
      • Feature locally made or produced products? KC themed food special
      • Create KC themed cocktails
  • Retail & Other Service Industry Businesses
    • Offer specials/sales on goods and services
    • Already have a sale on goods and services planned for that day? Super! Brand it in part of 816Day
      • Feature KC apparel
      • Feature KC made products
      • Decorate your business with a KC/816 theme

For questions or more information, contact info@dnakcmo.org.

816Day is presented in cooperation by the DNA , Do816.com, the Downtown Council of Kansas City, the Crossroads Community Association, KC Streetcar, John’s Big Deck, the City Market, and the KC Power & Light District.

Western Auto sign to light up Downtown once again

The iconic Western Auto sign – erected in 1952 – will once again light up the Downtown sky. A lighting ceremony for the newly renovated sign is set for 8:45 p.m. today (Friday).

The iconic Western Auto sign is will light up the Downtown Kansas City sky once again, beginning tonight (Friday).

The top of that wedge-shaped building at 21st Street and Grand Boulevard used to come alive each night with light and color as the Western Auto sign blazed above Kansas City, according to The Kansas City Star.

The 65-year-old sign – which has been dark for years – will be illuminated again beginning at 8:45 p.m. today (Friday). The words “Western Auto” will be in red while white lights will form a repeating circular arrow around them.

You can thank the members of the Western Auto Lofts Condominium Association, who live in the building. They footed the bill to repair and restore the iconic sign, according to The Starwhich reported:

  • The sign is 73 feet high and 70 feet across. The letters are 10 feet tall.
  • The arrow is 150 feet long and is made of 30 tons of steel. It included about 2,500 incandescent bulbs.
  • The sign also incorporates about 1,000 feet of red and green neon tubing. It required five miles of wiring.

“The association is thrilled to give this gift back to the residents of Kansas City and can’t wait to be a part of the skyline once more,” said an announcement on the association’s Facebook page.

To read the complete story, visit The Kansas City Star.

NY Times shines global spotlight on Downtown KC

The KC Streetcar: Credit Anna Petrow for The New York Times

The Perfect Way to Explore Modern Kansas City? A Streetcar, Believe It or Not

The contemporary trolley, introduced in 2016, takes visitors to an arts district, an entertainment district and a happy state of mind.

By Richard Rubin, The New York Times

In 2002, when Sylvester “Sly” James moved his law office to downtown Kansas City, Mo., he made a wager with a colleague. “I bet him I could walk across Main Street naked at 6 p.m. and nobody would see it,” he recalled. “And the proof that I was right is that no video of that has ever shown up on YouTube.” Downtown, he said, “was freakin’ desolate.”

A decade later, Chris Hernandez remembered, he saw an item on the local news about a two-car accident downtown one evening at 7. “I took it as a sign that things were turning around,” he said. “There were actually two cars there to hit each other!”

As it turns out, Mr. Hernandez was onto something: Things were, in fact, starting to turn around. 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 revived its downtown, which now skews closer to “bustling” than “desolate” many nights.

Mr. Hernandez is the city’s director of communications; Mr. James is its mayor. Both can rattle off countless examples of nearly miraculous urban revitalization: thriving businesses in storefronts that stood vacant for years; gleaming new high-rise apartment blocks that are largely (some say entirely) rented out even before they’re completed; vibrant arts and culinary scenes. But you can see what is arguably the single best embodiment of the phenomenon for yourself at regular intervals as you stroll along — or even stand still on — downtown’s Main Street.

If at this point your mind absolutely must drift to 1940s musical lyrics, I recommend nudging it away from “everything’s up to date in Kansas City” and toward “clang clang clang went the trolley” (even though, technically, that one is set in St. Louis; same state, anyway).

Pizzas at Il Lazzarone, a restaurant at the River Market West streetcar stop. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

Yes: Kansas City has a trolley. And not one of those old-timey trolleys that doesn’t go much of anywhere and goes there slowly. The one in Kansas City is sleek. Modern. Has air-conditioning and Wi-Fi.It runs a real route — 2.2 miles from end to end, then back again — through the heart of downtown.

At peak times, like rush hour, one comes along every 10 minutes; off-peak, it’s more like every 12 to 18 minutes. (Every stop has digital kiosks announcing how soon the next one will be along.) It starts running at 6 a.m. and doesn’t stop until midnight on weeknights, 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. (This being the Midwest, on Sundays it starts late — 7 a.m. — and shuts down early, at 11 p.m.)

Oh: And it’s free.

And not, technically, a trolley; they take great care here to remind you (cheerfully) that it’s a streetcar. That may seem like a distinction without a difference, but it reflects the way the city and its denizens view it. A trolley, in this day and age, is a self-conscious quaintness, almost an amusement-park ride; a streetcar, on the other hand — as Mr. Hernandez explained — is more of a “pedestrian accelerator.”

And, as it turns out, an attraction, too.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

In my experience, the whole “Midwestern nice” thing can be overstated; but not when it comes to Kansas City. Step off the KC Streetcar (as it is officially known) and look around as if you don’t know where you are going and a passer-by will stop and ask where you’re trying to get to. Sport that expression while you’re still riding it and someone sitting across the aisle from you will do the same thing. Ask them how they like the streetcar and they will tell you, sincerely and in a fair bit of detail.And they do like it. They ride it. The city — which has a population just under a half-million — projected one million riders in the streetcar’s first year; it got twice as many by day 364. A year later that figure exceeded four million.

No one would have predicted such a phenomenon as recently as the beginning of this decade.Back then, Mr. James recalled, “things were slow here. People were depressed. They didn’t believe the city could do things.”

But then Kansas City won a lottery of sorts: In the spring of 2011 — just as Mr. James was starting his first term as mayor — Google announced that it would be inaugurating its broadband internet and television service, Google Fiber, there. “That was a big boost,” Mr. James recalled. “Google was putting us on the map — we could leverage that.”

They did. The streetcar — which made its first run on May 6, 2016 — wasn’t by any means the only element of downtown’s revitalization, but it was perhaps the boldest, and certainly the most dynamic. “It’s been a tremendous catalytic thing,” Mr. James said. “It’s created much more flow—more profits for businesses downtown, more foot traffic.” In the streetcar’s first year of operation, revenue from sales taxes along its route — an area known as the Transportation Development District, or T.D.D. — rose 54 percent, as opposed to 16 percent citywide.

Birdie’s, a boutique in the Crossroads Arts District. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

If this seems like a boon for those businesses, you could say they earned it: “They decided it would be free,” the mayor explains — paid for by a special assessment on business owners and residential landlords along the T.D.D. (The construction boom in new high rises that are rented out before they’re even completed would seem to indicate that landlords are O.K. with the surtax, too.) “The funds,” Mr. James said, “are more than sufficient to cover the costs. It’s worked out very well.”

Unlike most successful ventures, few individuals have claimed credit for Kansas City’s streetcar; most, when asked, will give you an answer like Mr. Hernandez’s: “It was a very grass-roots effort,” he said. “How to create the streetcar, where it should go. Businesses and residents were involved at every step — where to have stops, their exact placement, even what they should look like.”

The route they all devised does a good job of introducing downtown Kansas City to both tourists and locals who had never really gotten acquainted with it before — and, perhaps coincidentally, showcasing the area’s revival.

It starts and ends at the point where decades of visitors arrived at and departed from the city: Union Station, an imposing 1914 classical structure that, despite its grandeur and the fact that it once hosted more than a half million travelers a year, was actually closed for a decade and a half in the 1980s and 90s; today it’s a museum as well as a functioning rail depot, and the anchor of a neighborhood that includes the Crown Center,an indoor shopping and entertainment complex, and the National World War I Memorial and Museum.

Farmers sell fresh meats and produce at City Market at River Market. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

Heading north, it stops next at the Crossroads Arts District, a neighborhood of old warehouses and factories that have been reclaimed as live/work spaces and is now home to a lively arts scene. Then comes the Power & Light District — named for an Art Deco 1931 skyscraper that was for decades both the home of the local electric utility company and the tallest building west of the Mississippi — which is the city’s newest entertainment district; it features the Sprint Center (a sports and concert arena), Kansas City Live! (a block-square outdoor atrium surrounded by pubs and restaurants and containing a performance stage and massive Jumbotron), most of those new residential high rises and, naturally, the world headquarters of H & R Block.

The next stop is Metro Center, home to government buildings, business offices, hotels, cafes and restaurants; then the Library stop, named for the city’s Central Library, which occupies a 1906 bank building that features 13-foot-high bronze doors, a roof garden with a life-size chess set, and a basement vault that has been converted to a movie theater; then the North Loop, which doesn’t have much of note yet except a neat older Western Union building and a neat newer office building known as “the flashcube” because, well, it looks like a flashcube; and finally the River Market, which includes old warehouses that have been converted to lofts, lots of restaurants and an expansive farmer’s market that has been going year-round since 1857.

There are edifices worthy of a good long look all along the route, but none more arresting than what you will spot looking out the window to your left as you shuttle from Crossroads to Power & Light: There, up on a hill, is the Moshe Safdie-designed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2011 and which, depending upon your aesthetic sensibilities, you will find either sublime or terrifying.

The National World War I Memorial and Museum. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

It contains two 1,500-plus-seat theaters, each of which, I am told, has fine acoustics; the building, which sits on more than 18 acres, is said to have been so well-designed that it can and often does host two different performances simultaneously without any aural crossover. In addition to hosting touring companies, the city’s symphony orchestra and opera and ballet companies all call it home. “We have a very strong arts scene here in Kansas City,” Jean Luzader, a volunteer at the Kauffman Center, told me. “People think we have cows running through the streets, you know, but we don’t.”

Streetcars — once almost ubiquitous, later almost extinct — are having a moment: In the past five years, lines have also started operating in Salt Lake City, Tucson, Dallas, Cincinnati and Detroit. (Two others, in Milwaukee and Oklahoma City, are scheduled to open by the end of this year.) Some have been more successful and transformative than others, but few seem to have had the impact of Kansas City’s. It’s the only one that’s free to ride, but what really makes it distinct is the palpable sense that is more than just a way of moving people around: It’s a movement — one that, judging by the crowds riding on weekends, transcends age and ethnicity.

Everyone seems to like each other, too. “When you’re on the streetcar,” Mr. Hernandez said, “you truly get a sense of community. It gets people off their phones and talking to each other again. I see it every time I’m on it. I think people who are from Kansas City are having fun talking to visitors and telling them about places they should check out.”

The Crossroads Arts District. Credit: Anna Petrow for The New York Times

Of course, many of them — locals and visitors — are there to check out the streetcar itself.Riding it around and around will strike a certain type of person as a fine — not to mention economical — way to pass a few hours. Technically, you’re supposed to get off and re-board every time it pulls into Union Station; but this being the Midwest, no one will get too terribly upset if you stay put instead. Just smile.


Richard Rubin is the author of “The Last of the Doughboys” and “Back Over There.”

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article inaccurately described Kansas City’s location in relation to the Mississippi River. It is west of the river, not east.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page TR9 of the New York edition with the headline: It’s Not Named Desire, but They Love It Just the Same. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Voters say YES to KC Streetcar extension to UMKC

The KC Streetcar reached a milestone on Wednesday, as voters approved local funding for 3.5-mile extension from Union Station to the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Voters in the Main Street Rail Transportation Development District (TDD) have overwhelmingly approved the local funding structure to support the KC Streetcar Main Street Extension. The final tally was roughly 75.6 percent yes on Question 1 (sales tax) and 74.7 percent yes on Question 2 (special assessments). Final results are available on the KC Election Board website,

In August 2017, these same voters approved formation of the Kansas City Main Street Rail TDD with a 70 percent yes vote and in October 2017, entire slate of TDD Board of Directors endorsed by Mayor Sly James was elected to oversee the TDD. This was the third in a series of local elections to seek local approval for a KC Streetcar Main Street Extension project.

The Main Street Rail TDD is a separate entity from the Kansas City Streetcar Authority and the City of Kansas City, Missouri. This latest election allows the TDD Board of Directors to impose the TDD’s revenue sources, which will generate local funding to support the Main Street extension of the KC Streetcar.

The TDD’s revenue sources will not be collected until the extension is fully funded, either through Federal grants or other non-TDD sources and will replace and expand the existing downtown TDD used to support the starter-line’s construction and operations. The TDD boundary extends from the Missouri River on the north to 53rd Street on the south; State Line Road on the west to Campbell Street on the east.

“We are grateful for the voter’s support today and will work closely with the KCSA, the City of Kansas City and the KCATA to ensure this projects’ success. We are also grateful for all the hard work, time and energy put in by the volunteers and transit advocates during this election process,” said Jan Marcason, chair of the TDD.

The funding structure is similar to the current downtown TDD structure in which:

  • A sales tax not to exceed 1 percent on retail sales within the TDD boundary.
  • A special assessment on real estate within the TDD boundary, with maximum annual rates as follows:
    • 48¢ for each $100 of assessed value for commercial property
    • 70¢ for each $100 of assessed value for residential property
    • $1.04 for each $100 of assessed value for property owned by the City
  • 40¢ for each $100 of assessed value for real property exempt from property tax, such as religious, educational, charitable, etc. property, but only on market value more than $300,000 and less than $50 Million.

A supplemental special assessment on surface pay parking lots within the TDD boundary (not garages and not free parking lots). The maximum rate for the supplemental special assessment on surface pay parking lots will be $54.75 per space per year. This special assessment primarily applies to parcels in the Downtown area.

“The completion of our local funding mechanism is a critical step necessary to advance this project for federal funding and bring the project to life,” said Tom Gerend, executive director with the Kansas City Streetcar Authority. “This is one step in a long process but the strong support from the public is a great motivator for all of us and reinforces the importance of making this vision a reality.”

The KC Streetcar project team, consisting of the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA), the KC Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), the City of Kansas City, MO (KCMO), and the consultant team led by HDR, Inc., has continued to advance the project planning for the Main Street Extension to UMKC, including work to refine streetcar stop locations, track alignments, and coordinated transit connections.

The KC Streetcar Main Street Extension project is being planned through a data-driven process. In order to build the best streetcar extension for Kansas City, the planning group is looking at operational efficiency, cost, constructability and public input. The Main Street extension would run from Union Station to the vicinity of the University of Missouri-Kansas City at approximately 51st and Main Street.

The project team recently held two public meetings in order to gather community input on stop locations and track alignment. A final recommendation from the project team about stop locations and track alignment, along with projected cost, will be available to the public this summer.

Be prepared: Japanese beetles are back in KC

Japanese beetles have returned to the Kansas City area. Here are tips on how to identify and get rid of the bugs.

Japanese beetles, those colorful, small bugs that carry a big threat, are making their seasonal return to Kansas City this month.

The Downtown Council has gathered some basic information about Japanese beetles – and ways to get rid of them – as a service to property owners and members. This information was drawn from sources including Kansas City Parks & Recreation, K-State Research and Extension and the Old Farmers Almanac.

Japanese beetles can be troublesome on two fronts. The adults feed on a wide variety of plant materials including: rose, grape, crabapple, linden and birch. The grub can be a pest of the lawn, feeding on the roots, according to K-State Research and Extension.

The beetles do not discriminate on what types of plants they feed on. Japanese beetles are ½ inch in length with metallic blue-green heads, copper backs, tan wings, and small white hairs lining each side of the abdomen. Japanese beetles usually feed in small groups. They lay eggs in the soil during June, which develop into tiny white grubs with brown heads and six legs that are up to ¾ inch in length. These grubs will remain under wraps for about 10 months, overwintering and growing in the soil, according to the Old Farmers Almanac.

They emerge from the soil as adult beetles and begin feeding in June. Reports are already surfacing around Kansas City that the beetles have begun their return here. They usually attack plants in groups, which is why damage is so severe.

Although the lifecycle of the adult Japanese beetle is barely 40 days, it can cover a lot of ground. Even if you succeed in controlling your Japanese beetle population, your neighbor’s Japanese beetles might come on over.

Damage from the adults is defoliation of the host plant. The good news is, many well established plants will be able to tolerate minor feeding with no loss in vigor. The feeding tends to be more in mid to late summer, which means the plant has had more time to store food reserves for next year, according to K-State Research and Extension.

They can devour most of the foliage on favored plants like roses. Look for leaves that are “skeletonized” (only have veins remaining). This is a tell-tale sign of Japanese Beetles, reports the Old Farmers Almanac.

Grubs damage grass when overwintering in the soil, as they eat the roots of lawn grasses and garden plants.

japanese-beetle-damage.jpg
Photo Credit: The Ohio State University. Japanese beetles cause leaves to appear skeletonized.

HOW TO GET RID OF JAPANESE BEETLES

Options for controlling Japanese beetles range from doing nothing to hand removal or chemical sprays.

The Old Farmers Almanac points to several of options, including row covers, hand picking, neem oil, use of a dropcloth, insecticides, traps (see next three paragraphs), fruit cocktail and geraniums.

Japanese beetle traps can be helpful in controlling large numbers of beetles, however they also might attract beetles from beyond your yard. Unfortunately, the traps do not effectively suppress adults and might even result in a higher localized population. If you want to try traps, be sure to place traps far away from plants so that the beetles do not land on your favored plants on their way to the traps.

According to Kansas City Parks & Recreation, several kinds of traps are available that use a floral scent and/or sex attractant to lure beetles into a net, jar or bag where the beetles can be contained until disposed of. In heavily-infested areas, traps may catch hundreds or thousands of beetles in the course of the summer.

Unfortunately, this is a small percentage of the beetles in the area and makes no lasting impact on the beetle population or on the plant damage experienced. The use of traps is not recommended. Research conducted in Kentucky and elsewhere found the traps do not control moderate to heavy infestations. The traps may attract more beetles than they catch and actually add more beetles to the yard than would occur otherwise. 

 japanese-beetle-identification-control.jpg
Photo Credit: Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota. Sometimes the easiest way to get rid of Japanese beetles is to pick them off the plants before they do too much damage.

HOW TO PREVENT JAPANESE BEETLES

Unfortunately, there is no magic potion to get rid of this pest. For general preventive maintenance, experts recommend keeping your landscape healthy. Remove diseased and poorly nourished trees as well as any prematurely ripening or diseased fruits, which can attract Japanese beetles.

For more information, check the sources cited in this post, as well as professional lawn / tree care service providers in the Kansas City area.

 

Resurrection opens first new Downtown church in a century

The Rev. Scott Chrostek in the new 450-seat worship space at Resurrection Downtown.

If you’re looking for a symbol of how Downtown Kansas City has revived in recent years, search no further than the new Church of the Resurrection which opens this weekend at 1601 Grand, reported Kevin Collison, in this morning’s CityScene KC.

“When I moved here from Detroit in 2009, the Downtown Council’s slogan was ‘live, work and play,’” observed the Rev. Scott Chrostek, pastor of Resurrection Downtown aka RezDT. “For me, we’re part of the resurgence of Downtown. We started with nine people in 2009 and we now have over 1,000 members with 150 kids.

“It’s a natural progression in the building of the city’s vibrant live, work and play environment.”

He was standing in the 450-seat worship space of the new $10.2 million building, the first completely new church to be built Downtown in more than a century. Most of Downtown’s churches were built during the last quarter of the 19th Century.

But the Leawood-based United Methodist Church of the Resurrection saw a promising demographic as Downtown began to revive with new residential projects. It began services nine years ago in borrowed space at the Grand Avenue Temple.

The new Resurrection Downtown Church at 1601 Grand was designed by Gould Evans.

As the congregation grew, it bought the former Crosstown Station, a bar and music club at 1522 McGee in 2011 and welcomed 675 members from all walks of life and ages, two-thirds of whom lived within five miles of Downtown. Things got so big, the church had to use the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts for its Easter services.

A second location was purchased in 2013 at 15th and Grand to provide office space, classrooms and additional worship space.

And then in 2015, The Kansas City Star’s former employee parking lot, a full city block between Grand and McGee, from 16th to 17th streets became available. The church bought the property and hired Gould Evans architects to design its new 17,520 square-foot building. A.L. Huber was the general contractor and construction manager.

And it has plenty of room to grow with eventual plans to double its size with an addition on its east side that will expand the worship space to 750 seats and add more space for offices, a pre-school and daycare center.

But right now, Chrostek enjoyed how his new church interacts not only with the community who worships there, but the surrounding neighborhood.

To read more, visit CitySceneKC.com – your independent source for news of Downtown Kansas City.

The first official worship services at RezDT are set for Saturday at 5:10 p.m., and Sunday at 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Rehab work on Buck O’Neil Bridge to begin Saturday

Rehabilitation work on the Buck O’Neil Bridge is scheduled to begin on Saturday! And, the southbound lanes of Route 169 across the Buck O’Neil/Broadway Bridge will be CLOSED to all traffic through Dec. 1, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation

Suggested detours include:

  • Southbound traffic on Route 169 and I-29 will be directed to Southbound I-35 and across the Christopher S. Bond Bridge.
  • Traffic entering onto Southbound Route 69 south of I-29 will be directed to Southbound Route 9 and across The Heart of America Bridge.
  • A single lane of Route 169 will remain open south of Route 9 to allow access to the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport.  All traffic using this lane will be forced off of Southbound Route 169 at the Richards Road exit.

The northbound lanes of Route 169 will remain open across the bridge through the entire length of the project.

The Buck O’Neil Bridge is more than 60 years old and sees on average of about 40,000 vehicles each work day. Crews will be working to repair cables, railing and expansion joints on the structure.  The overall project should be completed by December 2018.

For more details, go to http://www.modot.org/kansascity/major_projects/Buck_ONeil_bridge.htm

For more information about MoDOT news, projects or events, visit the website at www.modot.mo.gov/kansascity. For instant updates, follow MoDOT_KC on Twitter, or share posts and comments on our Facebook at www.facebook.com/MoDOT.KansasCity.

KC Streetcar tops 4 million passenger trips in 2 years

 

The KC Streetcar celebrated its second birthday on Sunday by simply doing its job.

Two years earlier, the Downtown KC Streetcar service opened to much fanfare after five years of planning, designing and construction. With four vehicles and 2.2 miles of route, the KC Streetcar completed 4,037,499 trips since opening day in 2016.

“In two short years, Downtown residents, employees, and visitors have embraced the KC Streetcar and have ridden at record numbers. The transformation of Downtown and the excitement its generated is nothing but remarkable,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of KC Streetcar Authority. “We thank Kansas City and greater Downtown, including our partners with the City of Kansas City and the KC Area Transportation Authority for the amazing support and believe the best is yet to come.”

During the first two years of service, the KC Streetcar traveled 257,840 miles and logged 32,550 vehicle hours. The KC Streetcar team (operations and maintenance) has 30 employees who keep the streetcar running 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

In addition to providing free, reliable and efficient public transit, the KC Streetcar also supports local businesses, events and the arts community by supporting programs such as Art in the Loop, National Travel & Tourism Week, Downtown Dazzle, Techweek Kansas City, and more.

The KC Streetcar is not the only thing seeing an increase in numbers.  Downtown Kansas City is also booming. Since the Downtown streetcar project was approved by the voters, there has been more than $2.1 billion dollars invested in the Greater Downtown Kansas City area, with more than $1.1 billion still planned.  This includes residential, commercial, retail and hotel developments.  Other Downtown growth facts include:

  • 25,078 residents
  • 16,630 residential units (this includes multi-family and single-family homes)
  • 90,595 employees
  • 2,221 hotel rooms

“The KC Streetcar has continued to make a positive impact in the City Market,” said Deb Churchill, City Market property manager. “Our tenants saw an increase in sales the first year of service and the momentum has continued. The Streetcar has proven to be instrumental in creating a connectivity with Downtown and the Crossroads that we had been lacking for years.”

The KC Streetcar has made a difference for visitors, employees, businesses and residents.

“I work in the Crossroads Arts District and live in Columbus Park. Every day I walk from home to the City Market streetcar stop and take the streetcar to the Kauffman Center stop.  Having the streetcar has allowed my family to support public transit and become a one-car family,” said AJ Harbison, downtown resident.

Since streetcar service began, there has been at least 20 new businesses open along or near the Main Street route.

“We opened a year ago in the City Market and the KC Streetcar has been instrumental for our business,” said Robin Luther, owner of Hawthorne 109. “The streetcar connects our boutique to people who live and work Downtown with the convenience of having a stop at 5th & Main.”

As response to the demand in ridership, the KC Streetcar Authority ordered two more streetcar vehicles for the Downtown route.  Those vehicles should arrive in 2019.  Additionally, the KC Streetcar Authority, along with the City of Kansas City, the KC Area Transportation Authority and Port KC, are planning for future streetcar extensions north towards Berkley Riverfront as well as south to UMKC.

More information on both of those projects can be found on the KC Streetcar website.

Vote today for reStart – national competition for $65K grant

Ninety seconds of your time will make all the difference to Kansas City’s homeless youth, veterans and families.

reStart has been selected as a finalist – one of eight organizations nationally – for the coveted Opus Foundation’s Gerry Rauenhorst Building Community Award. This year’s winner will be awarded $65,000 to commemorate Opus’ rich history and tradition that began 65 years ago. For their impactful work, the remaining finalists will receive $5,000 each.

reStart, of course, is a juggernaut in Downtown Kansas City. Its mission is to provide housing and services to homeless youth, families, men, and women to end homelessness in Downtown and the larger community.

But reStart needs our help to win the $65K grant – it currently ranks 4th in the balloting. Visit the Opus Foundation website, watch the reStart video, and then click the “vote” button under the reStart name:

http://bit.ly/2qUnTNV

You can vote once on each of your devices — phone, laptop, tablet, home computer, work computer — plus all of your family’s and friends’ devices, as well! Voting continues until 3 p.m. Friday (CDT), so don’t delay!

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KCPD, Public Works team up to improve parking access

 

As Downtown Kansas City’s momentum continues to attract more residents, visitors and businesses, the Parking Services Division of the Public Works Department and the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department have partnered to support Downtown businesses and residents through a parking enforcement upgrade.

Parking meter upgrades are designed to help improve the parking experience in Downtown.

As part of the budget process, the city allocated $145,000 to KCPD to increase Downtown parking enforcement operations.

As a result, starting today (Monday, April 9) KCPD will increase Downtown parking enforcement. Warning tickets will be issued for a short period of time, however, if the parking violation is a safety concern, or impedes the natural flow of traffic, a citation could be issued.

“We know that we can best support our Downtown businesses with adequate levels of parking enforcement to encourage parking turnover. This fits into the City’s efforts to implement parking policies based on community input and best practices,” said Public Works Director Sherri McIntyre.

The City already has online parking garage reservations, mobile payment for metered parking, electric vehicle charging stations, and car-share services.  Other parking improvement efforts include recent parking studies in the River Market and Crossroads Arts District.

The City is implementing recommendations from those studies, including development of technology that would offer real time parking availability with a new smart-phone app. The City also recently rolled out a demo of several smart parking meters downtown with the goal of using community feedback to choose one vendor for permanent installations.

You can find updates on parking policy improvements by visiting kcmo.gov/parking.

For more information on city parking policies, please contact Beth Breitenstein, Public Works Public Information Officer at 816-513-2612. For more information on parking enforcement operations, please contact Sergeant Kari Thompson, KCPD at 816-234-5170

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.

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

‘Downtown KC residents are mainly young, diverse & happy’

The Downtown Council’s State of Downtown Report – an online dashboard that illustrates the progress that Downtown has achieved in quality of life categories such as economy, housing, development and quality of life – was published this week..

Downtown Kansas City seems to be a magnet for millennials, The Kansas City Star reported on Wednesday.

Out of nearly 23,000 people who live in the city center, 41 percent are part of Generation Y, according to a new report from the Downtown Council and MySidewalk, a KC-based software company.

The Star’s article, reported by Sarah Gish, continued…

According to the report, many of these Downtown dwellers have never been married and don’t have kids. The mix is also among the most diverse in the metro area. And most say they’re pretty pleased with their quality of life.

The Downtown Council defines Downtown Kansas City as the area bordered by the Missouri River, 31st Street, the state line and the 18th & Vine Jazz District.

The concentration of millennials — those born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s — fades as you get further into the suburbs, contradicting a recent local housing survey that found that millennials prefer suburban houses to urban lofts.

Thou Mayest, a coffee shop and bar in the evolving East Crossroads, is a popular hangout for Downtown workers and dwellers. Around 41 percent of the area’s population belongs to Generation Y, according to a new report. Photo courtesy of The Kansas City Star

Millennials make up 26 percent of the Kansas City population and 22 percent of the metro population according to the “State of Downtown” report, which was put together from objective data sources such as the U.S. Census.

About 20 percent of downtown dwellers belong to Generation X, and the same percentage are Baby Boomers. The remaining population consists of older “Matures” (about 6 percent) and Generation Z (about 13 percent), those younger than millennials.

The report also found that Downtown Kansas City’s population is almost twice as diverse as surrounding areas. About 53 percent of downtown dwellers are of African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or mixed ancestry, compared to 27 percent in the greater metro area.

Here are a few more facts from the Downtown data:

▪ The median household income is $41,185, and the median home rent is $826.

▪ The average household size is 1.74 people, compared to 2.53 metro-wide.

▪ More than half of downtown residents have never been married.

▪ There are around 81,740 jobs Downtown, more than in the downtowns of peer cities such as Cincinnati, San Antonio and Salt Lake City. More than half of downtown KC employees earn high wages, defined as $3,333 per month or more.

▪ The most common jobs available Downtown include sales (1,309 jobs), management (1,233), office and administration support (1,141) and business/finance (1,008).

▪ Nearly 84 percent of people who live Downtown say they’re satisfied with their quality of life, though it seems many would love to see an urban Target in the neighborhood. Around 62 percent say they’re satisfied with the value received from their tax dollars.

▪ Around 59 percent of residents say they feel safe Downtown. They reported the strongest feelings of safety around Crown Center, Hospital Hill, the River Market and the Crossroads. The Central Business District and southeast portions of Greater Downtown Kansas City were rated as feeling less safe.

The Downtown Council, working in collaboration with mySidewalk, published the State of Downtown report last Friday in conjunction with the DTC’s Annual Luncheon. The online platform is built to report objective data that captures progress and trends, as well as distinguishes Downtown KC locally, regionally and nationally.

“What is great about these reports is that once designed, they automatically update as new data becomes available,” said Bill Dietrich, President & CEO of the DTC. “Plus, you can continuously add new data sources for richer reports.”

Even though the online dashboard has been available for just one week, it ranks as one of mySidewalk’s top 10 most viewed dashboards among its established list of partners with more than 800 views.

To learn more about the State of Downtown, go to www.downtownkc.org/data