Downtown Kansas City Never Better

Key metrics show resilience of Downtown KC renaissance

By Bill Dietrich, President & CEO at Downtown Council of Kansas City

Since the waning days of the pandemic academic and media outlets have been writing about a “threatening” “urban doom loop” – questioning if downtowns can rebound and prosper from the challenges of the past three years.

Let’s take a look at our Greater Downtown. We continuously conduct research into the status of our Greater Downtown employee, visitor, and residential market segments. What trends are we identifying and how do we align development strategies to continue the Greater Downtown KC’s renaissance?

At our recent Downtown Office Summit, we shared research developed by one of our data providers,, a national provider of anonymous location data from mobile device use. We gathered real-time user data to measure Greater Downtown KC’s recovery and compare the numbers of residents, employees, and visitors with those from 2019.

The story it tells is that our Greater Downtown is experiencing a higher percentage of employees returning to the office than most downtowns nationally, as well as when compared to suburban and single-use office districts. We are ahead of the curve.

“We believe that businesses and employees want to be in an environment where there are numerous amenities and ample opportunities for social connection within walking distance of their office,” said Tommy Wilson, Director of Business Recruitment and Research. A diversity of amenities makes for a resilient Greater Downtown. Arts, culture, entertainment, sports, streetcars, vibrant restaurants, and walkability make a recipe for a resilient environment and have enhanced the speed of our recovery and competitive position.

DTKC Office Summit - Slide 1

According to Placer data, 74% of Downtown employees were back in the office in the 3rd Quarter of 2023 compared to that same time frame in 2019 – a significant increase from 2021 and 2022. We see the highest visits to the office occurring on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

DTKC Office Summit - Slide 2

When comparing our employee recovery to 26 other downtowns throughout the country, we are at the top – coming in 5th – again with 74% of our employees back in the office.

DTKC Office Summit - Slide 3

We believe that motivated by the exciting amenities we offer, Downtown is experiencing a higher percentage of employees returning to the office than these suburban single-use office districts.

DTKC Office Summit - Slide 4

Let’s take a quick look at our visitor recovery. Data empirically demonstrates that Greater Downtown KC has recovered 96% of the number of visits from 2019 with 32.4 million visits as of October 1st, 2023.

DTKC Office Summit - Slide 5

Greater Downtown KC is coming in 3rd in visitor recovery when compared to other downtowns throughout the country. Currently, only Downtown Nashville is experiencing more than 100% visitor recovery from 2019.

DTKC Office Summit - Slide 6

And finally, let’s look at residents…despite all the doom and gloom stories written about city living during the pandemic, Downtown Kansas City’s population increased 13% – adding nearly 4,000 residents from January 2020 to January 2023. Today, we’re home to more than 32,000 residents – a 139% increase in population since 2000. As we distance ourselves from the pandemic Downtown endures as the fastest-growing residential neighborhood of both Kansas City and the entire region.

We Have More Work To Do

The unveiling of this transformation, which continues today, created a dynamic mixed-use collection of urban neighborhoods that could face and overcome the challenges of the past three years. We have more work to do – and challenges, as well as opportunities, remain – but our recovery is not something far off in the distance but it’s here and underway.  The data is telling a story of significant recovery – returning employees, residential growth, and a thriving visitor market.

We are excitedly looking forward to 2024, more than ever it is critical that the DTC remains focused and committed to leading initiatives critical to our continued efforts at creating a sustainable, diverse, and resilient heart of KC.

PS – Thanks to our colleague Tommy Wilson, our resident expert on downtown metrics and research.