Crowd packs South Loop Link event to help shape $200M park’s features

Potential concepts for a four-block public park over a portion of Interstate 670 include a green mobility hub with easy access to multimodal transportation, playgrounds, dog parks, arts and amphitheater programming, and other opportunities for social engagement. (Downtown Council of Kansas City)

  –  Staff Writer, Kansas City Business Journal

Kansas City officials leading the charge to build a $200 million urban green space atop four blocks of Interstate 670 will start figuring out its specific mix of public amenities over the next several months.

They got a start when more than 200 people visited the Kirk Family YMCA during a Tuesday open house on the South Loop Link, the first chance for residents to weigh in on what they’d like to see in the 4.6-acre park, which will cap I-670 between Wyandotte Street and Grand Boulevard. Organizers presented 20 possible features — among them food trucks, a performance pavilion, dog park, reading room and interactive public art — from which event attendees could signal favorites by placing colored stickers.

“As we move beyond the engineering and the environmental (review) and the base design of the underlying structure, these ideas are going to start coming to life and being fit in to see how you create this dynamic, diverse space that will compel people to be active and be engaged in a new space for the city,” said Jon Stephens, CEO of the Port Authority of Kansas City, which is advancing the South Loop Link along with the city of Kansas City and the Downtown Council of Kansas City.

A conceptual timeline presented for the South Loop Link shows the park’s final design work starting in late September and running for a year. Early construction activities could start in late October, with the park itself getting built between September 2024 and May 2026. City leaders have emphasized a desire to open the park before the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The timeline is contingent on coming government and funding approvals.

To date, about $46.6 million has been committed to the South Loop Link, or roughly enough to build one of the park’s four blocks.

The project received a $28.6 million earmark through the $1.7 trillion federal omnibus package passed in December. Private companies so far have committed $18 million — a $10 million pledge H&R Block Inc. announced last month; $5 million from Loews Hotels & Co.; and the $3 million balance from downtown companies with existing and coming investments nearby, including JE Dunn Construction, Kansas City Southern, the Kansas City Power & Light District, The Cordish Cos. and the Merriman family.

Project backers recently enlisted Kinetic, a local fundraising consultant, to help grow that private number, through a $75 million corporate and philanthropic fundraising goal over time. Other funding could come through state and federal programs.

Last year, the South Loop Link came up short in applying for a $60 million grant from the federal National Infrastructure Project Assistance program. But the project was among a handful of unsuccessful applications chosen to receive additional technical assistance, through federal resources that could result in greater success for a new submission later this year.