Luncheon makes the case for Downtown – the Smart City Choice

The remarkable renaissance of Downtown Kansas City took center stage before 1,000 guests on Friday, Jan. 8, when the Downtown Council presented its Annual Luncheon at the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center.

This annual gathering of business and civic leaders from Downtown and the metropolitan area attracted a record crowd to celebrate the accomplishments of Downtown KC, and to set a course for the future.

The Kansas City Star reported on the luncheon in is Jan. 8 edition:

“The Kansas City public ‘is being very wise’ to continue backing public investment in downtown revitalization, a crowd of about 1,000 heard Friday at the annual luncheon of the Downtown Council.

“Jon Copaken, past chairman of the organization devoted to downtown improvements, said critics of public incentives shouldn’t try to slow down redevelopment momentum but rather ‘keep investing before prematurely packing up and leaving.’

“Downtown, which accounts for 25 percent of the city’s tax base, is getting more than $1 billion in new investment, partly sparked by public incentives, including construction of the new streetcar line from the River Market to Union Station.

““It’s the starter line, not the finish line,” Mayor Sly James said of the streetcar. He noted that 2,082 new residential units have opened Downtown or are under construction this year, 2,249 more units are planned, and access to free transportation on the streetcar plus the addition of “smart city” technology are infusing downtown with a new spirit.

“But the recovery of Downtown also is about new commercial life, several speakers said, and the event included a showcase of dozens of companies and nonprofits that operate Downtown,” The Star reported, and continued:

“Jason Tolliver, a downtown expert with Cushman & Wakefield, put the Kansas City revival in perspective with other downtown growth around the country. He said it falls in line with changes charted since 2007, when urban-core growth began exceeding suburban growth. The movement back to city centers crosses all industries and professions, he said.

“Topping the reasons companies cite for relocating to downtowns is that it helps attract and retain young, talented workers who seek walkable “live-work-play” environments with access to public transportation.

““Commercial tenants also want a new, exciting environment” with “facilitated permitting” from city halls and a clean, safe neighborhood, Tolliver said.”

In regard to his last point, the luncheon also gave kudos to the staff of safety, maintenance and landscape (Community Improvement District Ambassadors funded by property owners in the Central Business District and the River Market.

Highlights of the 2016 Annual Luncheon, included:

  • Setting the stage with Mayor Sly James on “Downtown KC: The Smart City Choice, including a preview of the coming KC Streetcar.
  • Keynote remarks by Jason Tolliver, who relies on Americas Research from Cushman & Wakefield to statistically place Kansas City in the national picture of high growth potential urban marketplaces
  • Keynote response by a panel discussion of Downtown business leaders featuring David Byrd, YMCA of Greater Kansas City; Leonard Graham, Taliaferro & Browne; Matt McGraw, DSI; Anne St. Peter, Global Prairie; and keynoter Tolliver
  • LaunchKC update and spotlight, featuring an introduction to the 10 tech entrepreneurs who earned $50,000 grants in 2015 through the first, annual LaunchKC grants competition for startup business
  • Presentation of the J. Philip Kirk Jr. Award – the Downtown Council’s highest honor – to Henry Bloch, co-founder and honorary chairman of the board of H&R Block Inc.
  • Presentation of the annual Urban Hero awards to the Crossroads Academy and Dean Johnson and Tysie McDowell-Ray; Leonard Graham of Taliaferro & Browne; Harry Murphy of Harry’s Country Club; and Jay Tomlinson of Helix Architecture + Design
  • Introduction of Downtown Council officers, including Doug Stockman, principal, el dorado inc., the 2015/16 chairman of the DTC board of directors

For more information about the Downtown Council, visit DowntownKC.orgCome see why Forbes magazine considers Downtown KC to be one of the top 10 downtowns in America.