Christmas tree at Crown Center rates of one of nation’s finest

The Mayor’s Christmas Tree at Crown Center is receiving media accolades as being one of the finest public Christmas trees in the nation.

The Mayor’s Christmas Tree at Crown Center is receiving national attention this season, as one of the finest public holiday trees in the land.

USAToday.com with 36.8 million unique monthly visitors (UVM) ranks the Crown Center holiday tree as one of 10 travel-worthy trees across the USA:

“Christmas trees draw communities and travelers together,” Tim O’Connor, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association, told USA Today. Towering and elaborately decorated public trees allow visitors to join in local holiday traditions and gatherings. “They really symbolize Christmas so well, and attract tens of thousands of people.”

He shares some favorites with USA Today, including the Mayor’s Christmas Tree in Kansas City:

“One of the nation’s largest Christmas trees shines above Kansas City every holiday season,” USA Today reported. “A 100-foot Oregon Douglas fir lords over the city’s Crown Center, which welcomes Christmas with an ice-skating rink, a gingerbread village and holiday train. At the end of each season, wood from the tree is made into ornaments. Proceeds from sales benefit a holiday charity fund for needy city residents.”

More media kudos for the Crown Center beauty have been reported at least three more national media outlets, including:

  • CountryLiving.com (11.5 million UVM) – “The Most Iconic Christmas Tree in Every State”
  • Yahoo.com (10 million UVM) – Syndication of Country Living’s “The Most Iconic Christmas Tree in Every State”
  • BellaNYC.com (14.9 million UVM) – “Spread the Festive Cheer by Visiting These Must-See Spectacular Christmas Trees”

The Mayor’s Christmas Tree at Crown Center will be on public view through year-end. And, it is a sight to behold.

 

Natl Geographic Traveler names KC one of the world’s ‘best trips’

Courtesy, The Kansas City Star

“One may wonder what Kansas City has in common with Dakar, Senegal, or Perth, Australia.

It seems they are among must-see destinations for travelers in 2019. That’s according to National Geographic Traveler magazine, which published the list last week in the December-January issue.

Why go now? To “revel in the revival,” the magazine says.

“Most visitors to the Midwestern city come for the barbecue and all that jazz but soon find themselves caught up in an urban renaissance,” according to the piece.

It goes on to tout the “reinvention of the historic Savoy Hotel and Grill as the 21cMuseum Hotel Kansas City and the free downtown streetcar.

The article also encourages visitors to check out the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It touts the “retro-cool retailers and clubs” of the industrial West Bottoms.

“To me, West Bottoms speaks to the history of Kansas City: the stockyards and trains and commerce moving through the middle of the country,” Chris Goode, CEO and founder of Ruby Jean’s Juicery, told the magazine. “But no matter where you go in Kansas City, it will feel like home. “The city just has soul.”

National Geographic Traveler editor-in-chief George Stone said the Best Trips issue “features 28 destinations and experiences that can inspire us, change our perspectives and connect us with cultures, places and ideas that matter in the world.”

National Geographic travel editors and explorers selected their top destinations in four categories: cities, nature, culture and adventure.

Kansas City is the only American destination on the cities list, which includes Dakar; Perth; Salvador, Brazil; Toronto, Canada; Matera, Italy; and Mexico City. (The magazine specified that it is referring to Kansas City, Mo.)”

Click here to read the complete story.

Holidays Come Alive beginning Saturday at Union Station

The holiday season officially returns to Downtown this weekend, as the Holidays Come Alive at Union Station beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The event is a day-long, free celebration packed with festive entertainment and family activities. It will conclude with a spectacular holiday lighting ceremony at 6:30 p.m. featuring Kansas City’s largest indoor Christmas tree and a breathtaking performance by Quixotic. All events will be held inside Union Station so there’s no need to bundle up the kids!

“The holidays at Union Station are more than lights,” said George Guastello, president and CEO of Union Station. “What Union Station does for the holidays is what it’s done for over 100 years; Union Station creates memories. We do that by creating holiday experiences you can’t find anywhere else.”

But, never fear, there will be lots of lights at Union Station. There are 25,000 lights on the gorgeous indoor Grand Hall Tree alone! Yards and yards of garland, mammoth wreaths, 70 Christmas trees and more will all be lit inside the Station on Saturday night.

The holiday will really come to life beginning at 6:30 p.m. Saturday with a ceremony that leads into a magical performance designed by the creative genius of Kansas City’s own Quixotic. Inside Grand Plaza, aerialists will fly through the air while magical reindeer, standing eight feet tall, will roam through the crowd leading them on a magical trip to the North Pole. Throughout the performance the interior will be lit in waves, ending with the Union Station ablaze in its holiday glory.

The exterior of the Station will also come alive in a dazzling holiday light show every evening on the half hour. This choreographed display will not only entertain, but also add to the festive illumination of the Downtown skyline.

In addition, there will be plenty of family photo opportunities (think holiday cards!) with larger-than life holiday props and décor, and concessions sold throughout the day. Kiss Under the Clock, a Union Station holiday tradition, returns this year from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. with Kelly Urich from 94.9 KCMO Radio and holiday favorite,

National Lampoon’s, Christmas Vacation, will be running on the Regnier Extreme Screen throughout the day for only $3 per person. 

DAY OF ACTIVITIES – Saturday

All located in Grand Plaza, unless otherwise notated.

10:00 am – 4:00 pm:  Hands on Activities: Maker Studio & Strawberry Swing Holiday Activity

10:00 am – 4:00 pm:  Mesner Puppets Holiday Activity

10:00 am – 8:00 pm:  Letters to Santa (in Model Rail)

1:00 – 4:30 pm:  Balloon Artist & Sister Act Face Painters

6:00  – 6:30 pm:  Candy Cane Stop with 94.9 
7:00  – 8:30 PM Free Mini Train Rides

7:00 – 9:00 pm:  Holiday Model Rail

Stage Performances

*All located in Grand Plaza, unless otherwise notated.

10 – 10:45 am:  Mrs. Claus Holiday Stories

11:00 – 11:45 am:  KC Ballet 2 Performance

11:30 am – 12:30 pm:  Salvation Army Band

12:30 – 1:15 pm:  Quite Frankly the Band

2:00 – 2:45 pm:  Dan Riggs Big Band

3:15 – 3:30 pm:  Starlight Stars

4:00 – 4:45 pm:  Miller Marley Youth Ballet

5:00 – 6:00 pm:  HARMONIUM

6:30 – 7:00 pm:  Holiday Lighting Ceremony Featuring Quixotic

7:00 – 7:30 pm:  HARMONIUM

Event parking rate of $10 applies.

For a complete list of family friendly events that last all season long, visit www.unionstation.org/holidays

Office Summit program illustrates opportunities in Downtown

A slide of potential Downtown office development sites was presented by Gib Kerr of Cushman & Wakefield and Mike Klamm of CBRE.

Courtesy of Kevin Collison, CityScene KC

Lack of a big chunk of premier, new office space likely cost Downtown Kansas City a major Starbucks operation with 900 jobs last summer, and how to address that challenge was the focus recently of the second annual Downtown Office Summit.

Mayor Sly James kicked off the Oct. 17th summit – organized by the Downtown Council – by citing the accomplishments of recent years in revitalizing Downtown.

“We’re building cities for the future, for our kids,” he told the sold-out audience of more than 250 people at the BNIM offices in Crown Center. “One key is our ability to attract talent. People go where they want to live and Kansas City is moving up that chart at an extremely rapid pace. We are a city on the rise and people are taking notice.”

But while Downtown has benefited greatly from a boom in apartment, hotel, entertainment and restaurant investment in recent years, office development continues to lag. The last big new office building to go up here was the H&R Block building in 2006 and it was done for its namesake tenant.

Craig Slawson (left) of Epoch Development and Vincent Bryant of 3D Development were among the Office Summit developers’ panelists to present to a full house audience at BNIM last month.

“Starbucks representatives were “blown away by how cool (Downtown) Kansas City was and what’s happening here” and was runner-up in the firm’s extensive national search, according to Tim Cowden, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council.

But Starbucks needed 100,000 square feet of Class A space relatively quickly, and it would take 18 to 24 months to build it in Downtown KC. Starbucks went to Atlanta instead, where there’s already “four- to five cranes in the air.”

Members of the Office Summit development panel said Downtown is ripe for new office construction, pointing to a steady decline in vacancy rates, but differed on just how soon and how big the next wave of activity will be.

Vince Bryant, whose 3D Development firm partnered with Copaken Brooks on the most recent big office project, the renovation of the 10-story Corrigan Station building, believes Downtown should be adding 700,000 square feet of office space annually just to keep up with the residential boom.

Instead, about 700,000 square feet has been done in the past four to five years. Bryant is currently pursuing the redevelopment of the historic Kansas City Star building, a 275,000 square-foot project.

“There hasn’t been a new spec office building built Downtown since 1987 and that’s something we ought to figure out how to change,” Bryant said. “I view the Downtown market as having its historical stock drying up, most buildings have been renovated. The next phase is new construction.”

 

The growth of co-working office space downtown was highlighted, another 100,000 square feet is anticipated.

The biggest new downtown office project in the works currently is being planned by Platform Ventures on a site across from Barney Allis Plaza at 13th and Wyandotte. An earlier concept called for 70,000 square feet, but Terry Anderson of Platform said it could grow up to 120,000 square feet.

“We’re very optimistic,” Anderson said.

The kind of big skyscrapers that were built however in the 1980s and 1990s, such as One Kansas City Place and the Town Pavilion, are problematic.

Tim Schaeffer, president of AREA Real Estate Advisors, said lenders are much more strict now, and demand 40 to 50 percent of buildings be pre-leased before providing financing.

“I don’t believe the confidence is there yet for lenders to say ‘let’s do this,’” Schaeffer said.

Developers estimated it would take rents of $34-$35 per square foot to spur new construction. Currently, rates at Corrigan Station, one of Downtown’s premier  addresses, are in the $25- to $30 range, Bryant said.

Development attorney Jerry Riffel, another panelist, said it will require some boldness to change the Downtown office status quo.

“Somebody is going to have to jump out,” he said. “We’ve got something to sell and good locations, we need to talk about being proactive.”

Bryant suggested a proposed River Market office site controlled by the Kansas City Area Development Authority at Third and Grand could have been ideal for Starbucks—if development of a parking garage had been underway.

“Third and Grand would have been a perfect location for them,” he said.

“If that garage project was a year ahead of schedule, they might have waited 12 or 18 months knowing it was the ideal building they wanted.”

The Downtown office vacancy rate has been declining in recent years.

 

Schaeffer observed that Downtown Kansas City always has been a more affordable place for firms on either Coast, but until recently didn’t have the quality of life to close the deal.

“Now we have a cool city where young people want to stay and live, our city is entirely different from what I could have envisioned 10 years ago,” he said.

As to where a sizable new office project might occur next, Schaeffer believes property controlled mostly by Copaken Brooks west of Broadway between Southwest Boulevard and I-670 would be attractive because its eligible for hefty federal tax breaks.

Anderson was skeptical about the prospects for high-rise construction within the Downtown Loop, saying a more modest, 50,000 to 75,000 square foot project could occur in the Crossroads or East Village areas.

But Riffel was bullish on going big.

“The next high-rise is more likely to be in the Power & Light District,” he said. “I think there will be one.”

And panelist Stacy Paine, CEO of Crown Center Redevelopment, said vacant property her firm recently offered for development along 27th Street between Grand and Main is ripe for something larger.

“It’s right along the streetcar and walkable from new apartments and Crown Center,” she said. “I think it will be bigger than 50,000 or 60,000 square feet.”

Bryant added, “We’re all rooting for new construction and new office because that pulls the price point up to $34-$35.”

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

Armistice Commemoration to light up WWI Memorial – Nov. 2-11

Commemorate the Armistice

Firing on the First World War’s Western Front ended on Nov. 11, 1918. This year marks 100 years since the stillness fell across the battlefields of Europe on the “the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.”

To commemorate the end of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson officially recognized Nov. 11 as Armistice Day – a day of somber remembrance recognized around the world, with many stopping for a moment of silence at the 11th hour of this day to honor those who brought about the end of the “Great War.”

The National WWI Museum and Memorial will capture the world’s attention with activities to commemorate the end of the war, beginning Nov. 1 through the centennial of the World War I Armistice on Nov. 11.

Highlights will include Peace and Remembrance, a spectacular illumination of America’s official World War I Memorial, beginning at 7 p.m. today (Friday, Nov. 2). The lighting display will continue for nine consecutive evenings leading up to Armistice Day on Sunday, Nov. 11 to recognize the 9 million soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War.

Comprised of nearly 55 million pixels to cover the Memorial with red poppies – a traditional symbol for commemorating military personnel who died inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Field.”

From Friday, Nov. 9 through Sunday, Nov. 11, admission to the Museum and Memorial is free for veterans and active-duty military personnel; general admission for the public is half-price.

On Sunday, Nov. 11, the Museum and Memorial hosts a multi-national Armistice Commemoration Ceremony beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the Museum’s Memorial Courtyard. Free to the public, this special ceremony features moving readings of letters from soldiers, poetry, musical performances and more.

The United States World War One Centennial Commission is the presenting sponsor of the Museum and Memorial’s Armistice Commemoration activities with Pioneer Services serving as the premier sponsor and Jackson County Executive and Legislature, the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund of Kansas City, Mo., and Wells Fargo providing additional support.

Click here for a complete list of Armistice Commemoration Activities.

About the National WWI Museum and Memorial

The National WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s leading institution dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community. The Museum and Memorial holds the most comprehensive collection of World War I objects and documents in the world and is the second-oldest public museum dedicated to preserving the objects, history and experiences of the war. To learn more, visit theworldwar.org.

NY Times spotlights Union Station – ‘Rescued from the Edge’

Union Station, Downtown Kansas City

The New York Times has shined its spotlight on seven Midwestern rail depots, including Kansas City’s iconic Union Station. The story, “Grimy, Glorious, Gone. The Divergent Path of 7 Train Stations,” appeared in The Times on Saturday. 

The New York Times: “We traveled to seven rail depots in the nation’s middle. The stations, some remade and others crumbling, reflect the trajectories of their towns.” The feature shined a spotlight on depots in Gary, Ind.; Ashtabula, Ohio; Cincinnati; Perry, Ark.; Creston, Iowa; Joplin, Mo.; and, of course, Union Station in Kansas City.

The Union Station portion of the story appears below:

“KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If ever there was a model of a decaying station brought back to vibrancy, it would be in Kansas City.

Singers film music videos in Union Station’s Grand Plaza. Travelers board Amtrak trains bound for Los Angeles or St. Louis. Schoolchildren arrive by the busload to tour its science museum. And the building, the country’s largest train station outside New York when it opened, has been at the center of a renaissance in Kansas City’s formerly barren downtown.

“Just a decade ago, the station was on the verge of bankruptcy and closure. Its renovation in the 1990s, funded by taxpayers in both Kansas and Missouri, was seen as an architectural success, but a financial failure. The nonprofit group that ran the property was millions of dollars in debt and unable to pay its utility bills.

“‘It was the single best economic development tool in the history of Kansas City and the worst business model on the face of the earth,’  said George Guastello, the chief executive who brought in new tenants and saved Union Station from closing.”

Guastello responded to the article by writing, “Thanks to the visionary leadership and support from so many in Kansas City, our Union Station was saved and remade into what is today, an internationally-recognized and awarded masterpiece focused on Science Education, Preservation of History and Celebration of Community. Even better, we’ve only just begun to realize our full potential. ”

To read more about the other six train stations, check out Grimy, Glorious, Gone. in The New York Times.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

Voters + Streetcar Authority fuel streetcar expansion plans

The KC Streetcar is not only a hot topic with riders along its Downtown route seven days a week, but also at the ballot box in Kansas City, Missouri, these days – including a special election this week.

VOTE #1 – Streetcar taxing district

Voters approved the creation of a new taxing district that could eventually lead to expansion of the Downtown starter system south 51st and Brookside and the UMKC Volker campus. The Kansas City Election Board certified the election results on Friday, which confirmed a vote of 2,458 in favor of and 1,048 again the formation of an expanded streetcar district.

Eligible voters included only those who live within the boundaries of the new taxing district (roughly from the Missouri River south to 53rd Street and from State Line east to Campbell Street). Even though 30,000 people were eligible to vote, only 3,642 cast their notarized ballots, according to The Kansas City Star on Aug. 5.

“This was critical, because if this didn’t pass, the whole thing was stopped in its tracks,” said David Johnson, a member of the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA) board and chair of the Kansas City Regional Transit Alliance.

This election marked the first of three steps necessary to eventually build the expanded rail system some 3.75 miles from Union Station to 51st and Brookside.

“This vote establishes the transportation development district TDD boundaries to help pay for streetcar expansion,” according to Star reporter Lynn Horsley. “Two more elections are required: to elect a streetcar district board and to approve the specific local sales and property taxes needed to help fund the expansion, which is estimated to cost about $227 million.”

 

Election results prompts action by Streetcar Authority

Spurred by the resounding vote to form a TDD to fund a southern streetcar line to UMKC, the Streetcar Authority and their partners are wasting no time jump-starting the necessary engineering and planning work to make the project a reality.

On Monday, the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA), in coordination with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) and the City of Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO) issued notice to proceed to begin planning work on the Streetcar Southern Extension project. A team led by HDR Engineering will provide the planning and engineering services with support from Burns & McDonnell, HNTB, Trekk Design Group, Hg Consult, Parson + Associates, VSM Engineering and Architectural & Historical Research.

This phase of planning, estimated at approximately $1 million, is jointly funded by the KCSA and KCATA. The planning and engineering work is estimated to take nine months.

“We are thrilled to be working hand-in-hand with our partners with the KCATA and KCMO, to detail specific plans for a southern streetcar extension and related bus improvements connecting Downtown to University of Missouri, Kansas City’s campus,” said Tom Gerend, executive director, KCSA on Monday. “This effort is a critical step towards advancing the region’s transit vision and completing the due diligence that will be required to make this vision a reality.”

As for the voters, the next vote is set for Oct. 10, when voters within the TDD boundaries will select directors. Then, a mail-in election to approve sales taxes and property tax assessments for the TDD is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 3.

If the project clears all the elections, the streetcar could begin transporting passengers in 2022, at the earliest.

To learn more about the taxing district and the mail-in election, see The Star and The Kansas City Business Journal and visit the KC Streetcar website.

VOTE # 2 – Special Election on Tuesday (Aug. 8)

KCMO voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to weigh in on three separate questions, which sparked this special election through initiative petitions. Two of the questions are related to the streetcar system extension.

Click here to see a sample ballot for the special election.

According to the Kansas City Business Journal:

  • “Question 1 would require a citywide vote on matters related to a streetcar expansion. Johnson said the measure effectively would negate the City Council’s involvement in the process.
  • “Question 2 is a proposal from transit activist Clay Chastain to build out a citywide transit network. The wording includes a caveat for the city to build what it can afford.”

The KCRTA announced on Aug. 2 its support of Question 2, along with its opposition to Question 1.

The KCTA believes the Chastain proposal “includes a scope of work that can be scaled to available resources, assuming federal funds are made available, through a ‘build what you can’ caveat that would allow progress to continue in reasonable phases.”

“The transit appliance sees Chastain’s plan as a good antidote to Question 1…,” according to The Star on Aug. 3. ”

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8