KC Streetcar marks its 5 millionth ride in 28 months

The KC Streetcar recorded its 5 millionth ride last weekend in its first 28 months of services to Downtown KC.

The KC Streetcar logged its 5 millionth ride last weekend, as Downtown Kansas City was flying high with activities and events. This milestone was reached in less than 2 ½ years of service, since the streetcar became operational in May 2016.

In its 28 months of operations, the KC Streetcar has traveled 305,128 miles with a daily ridership average of 5,806. Each streetcar averaged 76,282 miles and 34,673 trips per vehicle. The summer months tend to be the busiest for streetcar ridership, with July 2018 being the highest ridership month to date with 262,593 total rides, that’s an increase in 31,000 rides from the previous July, according to Donna Mandelbaum, communications director for the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA).

The highest ridership day to date was July 6, 2018, with 19,181 total rides.

Ridership is important but so is safety and reliability. The KC Streetcar has an average on-time performance of nearly 95 percent and an employee safety record of 863 total days injury free. The KCSA monitors and tracks daily ridership on board the KC Streetcar.

Streetcar ridership, otherwise known as “Unlinked Passenger Trips”, is the national standard used by the Federal Transit Administration for calculating usage on public transportation systems across the county.

KC Streetcar ridership is calculated by Automated Passenger Counters located over each door of each streetcar vehicle. Passengers are counted each time they board vehicles no matter how many vehicles they use to travel from their origin to their destination.

More information about KC Streetcar ridership can be found http://kcstreetcar.org/ridership.

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. Later this year, streetcar shelters will be installed at the North Loop stops at 7th and Main Street as a direct response to ridership in that area.

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 the Main Street Extension to UMKC.

 

Construction to begin on Downtown portion of Prospect MAX

Future Prospect Avenue MAX stations will feature an interactive smart kiosk, real-time bus arrival information, shelter protection from the elements and enhanced lighting for improved safety and greater visibility.

Construction is set to begin next week on the Downtown portion of the Prospect MAX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, the Kansas City Regional Transit Authority announced today.

The $55.8 million project will bring enhanced transit service along Kansas City’s 10-mile Prospect Avenue corridor from Downtown to 75th Street. The Downtown portion of the project includes construction of transit facilities at 12th Street and Grand Boulevard and at Petticoat Lane & Main Street.

Work is expected to begin Monday, Aug. 27 at 12th & Grand and on Monday, Sept. 10 at Petticoat & Main. Construction at both locations is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year.

Downtown bus stops will be temporarily relocated during construction:

  • Eastbound 12th at Grand boarding will move to 12th at McGee Street
  • Northbound Grand at 12th boarding will move south, closer to 13th Street
  • Westbound 11th at Petticoat boarding will move east, closer to Walnut Street

No disruption to bus routes is expected. Pedestrians are encouraged to follow the signs showing safe walking paths around construction to the temporary bus stops.

Once complete, the Downtown transit facilities will offer:

  • Improved pedestrian sidewalks
  • Level boarding MAX platforms for quicker boarding
  • Snow-ice melt system for platforms
  • Real-time arrivals on interactive kiosks
  • Bike parking
  • Modified bike lane on Grand to improve safety for cyclists
  • Ticket vending machine to speed boarding at 12th & Grand
  • More compact shelter design to allow more space for pedestrians at Petticoat and Main

Reducing bicycle-bus conflicts at 12th & Grand is a priority for the project. A “floating bus stop” will be installed with bicycle traffic flowing behind the bus shelter. It will be the first time this type of design will be implemented in Kansas City.

“KCATA and the City of Kansas City, MO, worked diligently to develop a design that is safer for all users,” KCATA President and CEO Robbie Makinen said. “It’s an improvement for transit users, pedestrians and cyclists. We’re excited to be making these much-needed improvements to Downtown.

“We hope it becomes a model for future bicycle-transit collaboration.”

MAX is RideKC’s brand for Bus Rapid Transit. KCATA operates two MAX BRT lines: Main MAX (opened 2005) and Troost MAX (opened 2011). Prospect MAX is projected to be complete in fall 2019.

Downtown welcomes Crossroads Preparatory Academy High School

Crossroads Preparatory Academy Principal Kirsten Brown (left) and Dean Johnson (right), Crossroads Charter Schools Executive Director, address the audience of Downtown stakeholders on Monday evening, as they prepare to cut the ribbon on the permanent home for the senior high school.

The Crossroads Charter Schools celebrated the opening its newest facility on Monday with a ribbon-cutting and tours of the permanent home of Crossroads Preparatory Academy at 816 Broadway.

Located in the heart of the Kansas City’s Garment District, the Historic Thayer Building is now home to nearly 200, 7th through 10th graders. It is expected to grow to serve 600, 7th to 12th graders by 2025.

“The passion the Crossroads Preparatory Academy (CPA) staff and scholars bring to this historic building is both exciting and contagious,” said Kirsten Brown, CPA principal. “

Teachers, parents and community members are eager to collaboratively transform the secondary educational experience and outcomes for the scholars of Kansas City through the work that will be done at CPA.”

Crossroads announced it would locate CPA in the Historic Thayer Building in February of this year. Since then, phase one of the building renovation has been completed, including unique learning spaces for 7th and 8th graders on one level and 9th and 10th graders on another. Future phases of the building renovation will include spaces for visual and performing arts, STEM labs, “maker spaces” and other common spaces within the building and construction of a gymnasium on the vacant land at 9th and Washington Streets.

“We partnered with MC Realty, BNIM Architects and Turner Construction on this project,” said Dean Johnson, executive director of Crossroads Charter Schools. “Through that partnership we’ve been able to achieve our goal of creating a space where all of our students could embrace and live out our core values of high expectations, authentic learning, creative culture and educational equity.”

With the opening of the permanent home for CPA, Johnson said Crossroads is also seeking other partnerships that further its core values.

One of those is the Crossroads Community Collaborative, an innovative community partnership that prepares students for real-world experiences. The Collaborative will supply talent to local businesses and organizations by providing integrated learning opportunities and equipping students with employable skills.

“Far too often skills in schools are taught in isolation and students are graduating without having the authentic experiences that demonstrate the connection between what they learn in the classroom to what they need in real life,” said Tysie McDowell-Ray, chief academic officer at Crossroads Charter Schools. “This Collaborative provides a solution to this problem and enhances the workforce by allowing our students to give back to their communities by solving real problems and completing real projects that meet industry needs.”

There are five different Partner Levels through which organizations can join the Collaborative, including Industry Mentor, Career Host and Project Supervisor. For more information about the Collaborative or to sign up email jgreason@crossroadsschoolskc.org.

About Crossroads Charter Schools

Crossroads Charter Schools is a network of three schools, which offers a dynamic K-12 education in the heart of Downtown Kansas City: Crossroads Academy – Central Street (K-6); Crossroads Academy – Quality Hill (K-5): and Crossroads Preparatory Academy (7-12). Currently serving nearly 800 students, Crossroads Charter Schools offer a unique model that emphasizes community engagement and 21st Century Learning. More information about Crossroads Charter Schools is available at crossroadsschoolskc.org.

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

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.

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

 

 

Grand opening ceremony welcomes Atlas to Downtown

City Manager Troy Schulte, right, was among the first to tour the Atlas residential building during a grand opening ceremony last week. The property features 16 unique living units in the Crossroads.Downtown Council members and stakeholders gathered last week to celebrate the grand opening of Atlas, the latest residential property in Downtown KC, and to welcome prospective tenants and guests.

Atlas Lofts, 1509 Walnut, is a fully restored boutique property artfully blending old world charm and modern amenities. It features 16 superbly appointed, one-of-a-kind units. Nestled on the northern edge of the creative hub of the Crossroads Arts District, Atlas is one block away from the KC Streetcar, a neighbor to Sprint Center, and in easy walking distance to the heart of Downtown.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the official opening of Atlas, the latest residential property in Downtown. Participants included principals Jason Swords, Sunflower Development; Jeff Krum. Boulevard Brewing; Jay Tomlinson; Helix Architecture + Design; City Manager Troy Schulte, Crossroads champion Suzie Aron; and Councilwoman Jolie Justus.

More than 60 guests turned out for the Downtown Council’s grand opening ceremonies that included remarks from Jeff Crum, CEO of Boulevard Brewing Co. and a principal in the Atlas project, along with City Manager Troy Schulte, and City Councilwoman Jolie Justus.

The Downtown Council played host to a grand opening celebration of the restored Atlas building at 1509 Walnut last week.

Designed by a noted Kansas City architect in Romanesque Revival style, Atlas was constructed in 1902. It first housed the Grand Avenue Storage Company, then Atlas Storage and Transfer, followed by the Berlau Paper Company, before falling into a period of neglect and decline.

Today, the magnificent structure—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—has finally found its true calling. Every unit in Atlas is unique, each possessing its own exclusive features and a variety of today’s hottest amenities.

A partnership by principals from Sunflower Development, Helix Architecture+Design and Boulevard Brewing came together in 2015 to acquire the property and charted a bold new course, affecting a complete restoration in keeping with the rigorous standards established by the Department of the Interior.

For more information about living and leasing at Atlas, visit atlas-kc.comgo to leasing@atlas-kc.com or call 816-533-5609.

Woof! Mission accomplished at River Market dog park

The River Market Off Leash Area is open at 5th & Locust from sunrise to sunset daily.

Downtown KC’s newest dog-friendly space – the River Market Off Leash Area (RMOLA) at 5th & Locust – is inviting local pups (and their faithful owners) to take off the leash and run free!

The new RMOLA is a product of the River Market Community Improvement District (RMCID) and the River Market Community Association (RMCA). They have advocated for the new fence, off-leash area in the River Market. The RMCID manages and maintains the OLA on property which is leased from the Missouri Department of Transportation.

“The River Market OLA provides a place where people and their well-behaved dogs can socialize and exercise in a clean, safe environment, without endangering or disturbing people, property or wildlife,” said Mark Rowlands, director of the RMCID and chairman of RMCA.

The OLA is open from sunrise to sunset. Admission is free.

“Thank you to all the generous supporters who contributed and helped make this much needed amenity happen.,” Rowlands said. “The fence is up, dog stations are stocked, and benches and trash receptacles installed. Come down and enjoy your RMOLA today.”

And, be sure to join the RMOLA Facebook page and post your favorite photos of your pooch(es) socializing and blowing off some steam.

Open letter – on First Friday – by the Mayor

An open letter on the arts and ArtsKC by Mayor Sly James.

Last fall, I wrote An Open Letter to America addressing the many assets Kansas City has to offer. It came on the heels of our Kansas City Royals playoff run, but it wasn’t about baseball. Instead, the letter was intended to draw attention to our elevated profile across the U.S. and to highlight all the ways in which Kansas City is winning.

The Kansas City Arts Community is a large part of our rising profile – and rightfully so. Our Arts are incredibly vibrant and we are being recognized as a leader in many disciplines including fashion, theater, jazz, song and dance – just to name a few! In fact, we are one of only a handful of cities across the country that have all four of the major arts – opera, repertory theater, symphony & ballet. As we continue to build our reputation as a world-class city, the Arts are truly making us shine.

This Friday (today) our regional arts council, ArtsKC , will launch their annual digital giving campaign – #timetogive. This important campaign is essential to the vibrancy and vitality of Kansas City’s world-renowned arts scene.  By contributing to the ArtsKC Fund, you are funding grants to artists, arts organizations, and arts programs from all over the region.

Accessibility to the arts should be open to everyone and ArtsKC does that by funding grants that support transportation and education programming in diverse and underserved communities, and by working with organizations to provide free events throughout our five-county region.

I love this City and I find more reasons to appreciate & celebrate it every day. As we continue to see our name landing on Top 10 lists, our Arts will continue to propel us straight to the top. I hope you’ll consider making a contribution – yes, right now – consider it a significant investment in your City.

Sincerely,

Mayor Sly James, Kansas City, Missouri