“Imagine”… could there be a more inspiring way to contemplate tomorrow? It invites us to think, to visualize, and dream. It opens a door to step forward from what we know today, in search of an even better tomorrow. Led by the Downtown Council, community and business leaders banded together to imagine the future of Downtown Kansas City. The process attracted both long-time stakeholders and emerging voices across greater Downtown to work together.
The resulting Imagine Downtown KC 2030 Strategic Plan is designed to serve as the primary vision-setting and policy blueprint for shaping a stronger, better, more resilient communities with an unflinching commitment to creating an equitable, inclusive, and vibrant Downtown Kansas City.
The Imagine Downtown KC 2030 plan is designed to serve as the primary vision-setting and policy blueprint for shaping a stronger, better, more resilient community with an unflinching commitment to creating an equitable, inclusive, and vibrant Downtown Kansas City.
The Imagine Downtown KC Plan was created in alignment with existing community plans from civic organizations, the city, and Downtown neighborhoods. As we turn to implementation, we will continue to work in concert with these partners.
Developing the Plan involved extensive community engagement with Downtown neighborhoods. This included deliberate and proactive outreach to engage voices from all neighborhoods, particularly residents and community leaders who have not typically been involved in community planning and whose neighborhoods have historically received little investment. A primary goal of the Plan engagement program and resulting Plan is to develop connections between the neighborhoods of greater Downtown with mutual collaboration and shared prosperity.
- One-on-One Interviews2020 Virtual one-on-one interviews
- Neighborhood Meetings1818 meetings & community presentations
- Imagine Downtown KC Podcasts1010 podcasts hosted by Kemet Coleman
- Focus Group Meetings66 virtual focus group meetings
- Steering Committee Meetings450-member community-based committee
- Community Conversations219 leaders from the east & west neighborhoods
- Online Community Workshops2More than 300 people participants
From the inception of the planning process, community members described Downtown as a place that must be equitable, inclusive, and vibrant in order to thrive in the coming years and decades. These highest-level principles guided the community engagement process and activities, as well as the development of the goals and strategies. They were used to foster innovation and creativity, test ideas, and ensure that the Plan recommendations are ambitious and aligned with the values of the Kansas City community.
An Equitable Downtown
- Reflects the diversity of KC in its residents, employees, institutions, and organizations
- Ensures that economic development resources benefit every neighborhood
- Combats systemic racism
An Inclusive Downtown
- Invests in historically disenfranchised communities
- Proactively engages all neighborhoods in determining the future of Downtown
- Provides opportunities for people of all abilities to participate in everything Downtown offers
A Vibrant Downtown
- Preserves its history and culture while welcoming new ideas and opportunities
- Concentrates on delivering an excellent experience for all
- Focuses equally on supporting quality design, arts and culture, and a strong economy
Garnered from the insights and ideas generated by the community, the Imagine Downtown KC Vision Framework organizes the recommendations and establishes a blueprint for how Downtown Kansas City will grow and evolve over the next few decades and beyond. Each of the framework components, highlighted in the diagram below work together to advance the future of Downtown KC.
The following Vision Elements describe how Downtown Kansas City will look, feel, and function in the coming years. They express the community’s hopes and aspirations at this critical time in history and describe the characteristics of Downtown that the community envisions.
- Downtown Kansas City is thriving and prosperous and its economic momentum is sustained in an inclusive way.
- Downtown has a diverse and affordable range of housing, culture, entertainment, employment, and shopping options for all residents of the greater Downtown neighborhoods.
- Downtown is an important regional center that is comfortable, navigable, and accessible because it is walkable, bikeable, and transit oriented.
- Downtown provides an experience that showcases KC pride, love, history, arts, culture, and distinct urban identity.
- Downtown remains strong and adaptable to social, economic, and environmental challenges.
The Plan goals describe what the community strives to achieve for Downtown Kansas City by 2030. They directly address and build upon the challenges, assets, opportunities, and priorities deﬁned by community members during the planning process. The Plan provides detailed strategies and recommendations to achieve the goals as well as outlines catalytic project opportunities to support the goals and bring about a tangible change in Downtown.
These Transformative Strategies that will bring the Plan to life. These strategies will shape decision-making, prioritization and investment and will guide the work of the Downtown Council, City and their many partners and collaborators. The recommendations in this chapter are all based on extensive community and stakeholder engagement, as well as best practices from across the country and world.
Each Downtown neighborhood has a unique history, character, and sense of place that should be celebrated, protected, and enhanced. Collective actions should foster a shared sense of collaboration and inclusion.
Downtown has a wide range of housing options for all incomes. To keep Downtown healthy and diverse, the Downtown Council, the City, and partner organizations need to continue to preserve existing affordable housing and create additional rental and owner-occupied affordable housing.
Downtown leadership must help catalyze job growth, education and skills training, and entrepreneurship opportunities to create a diversified economic base that provides opportunities for all in Kansas City.
A green and walkable Downtown is necessary to attract and retain residents, workers, and visitors, and high-quality, well maintained, and programmed parks are needed by residents of all ages for play and relaxation.
Kansas City has made great strides in creating a robust mobility network. Despite this progress, Downtown still feels car-centric, and the bus, bike, and pedestrian networks are incomplete and do not always conveniently connect.
Wellness, health, and sustainability are important priorities in new development, corporate culture, and everyday life. Downtown is an excellent laboratory to pilot new approaches to sustainability and wellness. Residents and companies will be looking for locations that demonstrate these values when making location decisions.
The Catalytic Projects are investments that will tangibly advance the Vision and Goals of the Imagine Downtown KC 2030 Strategic Plan. Some of the projects have specific locations identified, while other are concepts of ideas that will be realized based on site context, synergies, and opportunity.
Catalytic Projects Map
The Catalytic Projects will have a profound impact on Downtown Kansas City. They are investments that will tangibly implement and advance the Vision and Goals of the Plan. Some of the projects have specific locations identified, while others are concepts or ideas that will be realized based on site context, synergies, and opportunity.
Improving physical East-West Connections is critical to success and will have positive impacts on the resiliency, trajectory, and economic opportunities of neighborhoods surrounding the center of Downtown Kansas City.
Downtown has two growing innovation districts – the Crossroads Arts District and the University of Missouri Kansas City Health Sciences District. In addition, a new Innovation hub – the proposed Keystone Innovation District – would further elevate Kansas City’s entrepreneurial reputation and increase local opportunities.
Parks, Open Spaces & Plazas
There are significant unmet needs for new public realm amenities and offerings to adequately serve all of Downtown’s neighborhood residents. Downtown’s existing parks, plazas, and open spaces need to be reviewed, evaluated, and compared with the community’s existing and anticipated future needs.
The KC Streetcar should be supported with the goal that both the north and south expansions are achieved with the same economic benefits as the original line. There are opportunities with the extensions that should be explored, such as incorporating buses, biking, and walking, and elevating the importance of east-west connections.
Reimagining the I-169/ I-70/I-670 corridors (i.e., the North and South loops and the related vision for Highway 9,) could be the most important projects to reimagine and reposition Downtown economically for the next 50 years.
Cities that have developed Downtown ballparks have experienced substantial secondary economic development. These unique assets have a multiplier effect in an urban context, and Kansas City has an opportunity to build a state-of-the-art urban ballpark in Downtown with new and enthusiastic owners who value the urban experience.
Great cities are experienced on foot. Downtown Kansas City has the potential to become a terrific walkable city. Its vibrant and distinct neighborhoods, its architecture, the fountains, the murals, the human scale – are all important elements of a wonderful pedestrian experience.
Arts, Cultural, & Historic Destinations
The history and culture embodied in Downtown neighborhoods contribute to the kind of placemaking and unique urban experiences that draw people to live, work, play, and invest in our urban core. The vibrancy of each of these neighborhoods is fragile, and they will need attention and support to preserve important assets and reach their economic potential.
Interested in more information about the Imagine Downtown KC Plan? Learn more about the plan and how to get involved by connecting with us below.
How will Downtown Kansas City look and feel 10 years from now? What does the future hold for communities in the urban core and adjacent neighborhoods? The Imagine Downtown KC podcast aims to enlighten and inspire listeners to dream BIG about the possibilities for the future of Downtown.