Loews CEO calls for decking South Loop at DTC luncheon

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

Story courtesy of Kevin Collison, CitySceneKC.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annual Luncheon to elevate momentum of Downtown KC

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

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

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Downtown’s emerging role as a leading destination was underscored this week, when National Geographic Traveler selected Kansas City, Mo. as one of eight cities worldwide on its listing of 28 Best Trips Around the World that appears in its current edition.

“Most visitors to this Midwest outpost come for the barbecue and that jazz, but soon find themselves caught up in an urban renaissance,” the magazine reported.

The Destination theme also serves as a platform to showcase an urban hotel boom that is currently unfolding in Downtown, including a 200 percent increase in hotels (from eight in 2015 to 24 by 2020) and an 85 percent increase in rooms (from 3,414 to 6,415), including the 800-room Loews hotel.

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

Former Mayor Kay Barnes

Additional luncheon highlights

  • Presentation of the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award in Recognition of Downtown Stewardship & Community Vision to Kay Barnes. The former mayor will be the 17th recipient of the Kirk Award, presented annually to leaders whose vision, guidance and commitment have helped set Downtown on a path for revitalization.
  • Presentation of the 2018 Urban Hero Awards honoring individuals who impact Downtown on the grassroots level. The Urban Heroes also will be honored during a reception on Wednesday evening outside of the Kay Barnes Ballroom. This year’s heroes include:
  • Presentation of the inaugural Harvey Fried Award for outstanding service by a Community Improvement District Ambassador to Daniel Moon, a Downtown CID Safety Ambassador.
  • Immediately before the luncheon, guests will participate in the Spirit of Downtown KC Exhibit. More than 50 booth spaces will highlight new developments, creative businesses and the arts of Downtown.

The Annual Luncheon will feature three honorary co-chairs, including Paul Neidlein, Midwest Regional President, JE Dunn Construction; Jeffrey J. Jones II, H&R Block; and Brenda Tinnen, Senior Vice President/General Manager, Sprint Center.

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

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

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

 

Chiefs rally set for Saturday evening in Downtown KC

Union Station is bathed in Chiefs Red to celebrate our hometown heroes and cheer them on with a rally Saturday evening and for the AFC Championship game on Sunday.

Kansas City Chiefs fans are invited to meet in Downtown this evening (Saturday) – on the eve of the AFC Championship game – to rally in support of our hometown Chiefs!

Fans are asked to gather at Union Station by 5 p.m. to hop a ride on the ceremonial Rolling with the Chiefs edition of the KC Streetcar on to a pep rally at the Kansas City Power & Light District

Festivities will begin at 5 p.m. (today) Saturday will include giveaways, contests and appearances by KC Wolf, Chiefs Cheerleaders and Chiefs Rumble.

The party is FREE and ALL AGES are welcome. The first 200 guests will receive an official Chiefs Kingdom flag. Sports Radio 810 will register guests for tickets to Sunday’s game and autographed memorabilia giveaways. Heartland Coca-Cola will give away a pair of field passes for Sunday’s game.

The KC Streetcar at Union Station around 5:30 p.m. where the Chiefs Rumble will perform at the East Transit Plaza location. They will then head onto the Chiefs Streetcar, where they will perform and entertain riders to the Power & Light District.

The Chiefs Rumble will then parade from the Power & Light District stop to the KC Live! Block for the KC Kingdom Pre-Party at KC Live!
Sports Radio 810’s Steven St. John will kick off the rally at 6:30 p.m. on the KC Live! Stage and feature hype videos, as well as performances by the Chiefs Cheerleaders, KC Wolf and Chiefs Rumble.

To cap off the celebration, a KC Kingdom bar crawl is planned for eight bars and restaurants in the Power & Light District– check out Ticketfly.com for tickets and more information.
Dress for the bitter cold, and come prepared to cheer on the Chiefs!

Keynote to feature Loews Hotels, H&R Block CEOs

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

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

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

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

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

Downtown’s emerging role as a leading destination was underscored this week, when National Geographic Traveler selected Kansas City, Mo. as one of eight cities worldwide on its listing of 28 Best Trips Around the World that appears in its current edition.

“Most visitors to this Midwest outpost come for the barbecue and that jazz, but soon find themselves caught up in an urban renaissance,” the magazine reported.

The Destination theme also serves as a platform to showcase an urban hotel boom that is currently unfolding in Downtown, including a 200 percent increase in hotels (from eight in 2015 to 24 by 2020) and an 85 percent increase in rooms (from 3,414 to 6,415), including the 800-room Loews hotel.

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

Additional luncheon highlights

  • Presentation of the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award in Recognition of Downtown Stewardship & Community Vision to Kay Barnes. The former mayor will be the 17th recipient of the Kirk Award, presented annually to leaders whose vision, guidance and commitment have helped set Downtown on a path for revitalization.
  • Presentation of the 2018 Urban Hero Awards honoring individuals who impact Downtown on the grassroots level. The Urban Heroes also will be honored during a reception on Wednesday evening, Jan. 23. This year’s heroes include:
  • Annual State of Downtown update by William Dietrich, president & CEO of the Downtown Council.
  • Immediately before the luncheon, guests will participate in the Spirit of Downtown KC Exhibit. More than 50 booth spaces will highlight new developments, creative businesses and the arts of Downtown.

The Annual Luncheon will feature three honorary co-chairs, including Paul Neidlein, Midwest Regional President, JE Dunn Construction; Jeffrey J. Jones II, H&R Block; and Brenda Tinnen, Senior Vice President/General Manager, Sprint Center.

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

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

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

 

KC Streetcar to ‘Roll with the Chiefs’ beginning Friday

One of the KC Streetcars will be wrapped in Kansas City Chiefs colors and images today in preparation for a Red Friday debut on, well, Friday. Go Chiefs!

One of the KC Streetcars will be wrapped in Kansas City Chiefs colors and images in preparation for a Red Friday debut on, well, today. Go Chiefs!

The KC Streetcar is doing something it has never done before – turning over a streetcar to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Beginning Friday, all of Kansas City is invited to Roll with the Chiefs on a specially branded Chiefs KC Streetcar. The Kansas City Chiefs and the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA), together with Hy-Vee and Sprint, wrapped one streetcar in Chiefs branding to kick off Red Friday and the Chiefs playoff run, which begins Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts.

In addition to the Chiefs Streetcar, the Chiefs and the KCSA are throwing a Red Friday celebration.

Rolling with the Chiefs will include Chiefs representatives, KC Wolf, Chiefs Cheerleaders, Chiefs Ambassadors and the Chiefs Rumble for Kansas City’s first-ever Rolling with the Chiefs party. The celebration will start on board the Chiefs Streetcar at 5 p.m. Friday and continue for one loop around Downtown.

The Chiefs crew will then head back to the Power & Light District Streetcar stop at 14th & Main Street where the Red Friday celebration continues as well as at BRGR Kitchen + Bar. There will be giveaways and prizes for those in attendance, including four tickets and pregame sideline passes for Saturday’s AFC Divisional Game at Arrowhead Stadium courtesy of Hy-Vee, presenting partner of the playoffs.

Getting off work early this Red Friday? Join the Streetcar team and 810 Sports Radio as they broadcast live from on board the Chiefs Streetcar starting at 3 p.m. Friday. You can track the exact location of the Chiefs Streetcar, otherwise known as Streetcar 804, using the free KCity Post tracker for or the RideKC Transit App for smart phones.

For KC Streetcar inquiries, contact Donna Mandelbaum with the KC Streetcar Authority at 816.627.2526 (office), 816.877.3219 (cell) or by email at dmandelbaum@kcstreetcar.org. The KC Streetcar is also online at www.kcstreetcar.org and on Twitter (@kcstreetcar), Facebook (@kcstreetcar) and Instagram.

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.