The Evolution Continues: 2024 DTC Annual Luncheon Recap

On a beautiful spring day in Downtown Kansas City, over 1,000 downtown residents, office workers, property owners, non-profits, and advocates gathered in the Kay Barnes Grand Ballroom at Bartle Hall to enjoy the 2024 Downtown KC Annual Luncheon.  What has become one of the “can’t miss” civic non-profit events on the social calendar lived up to expectations again this year.

The theme of the luncheon this year was, “The Evolution of Downtown, Celebrating Kansas City”.  The theme was selected to allow the Downtown Council the ability to leverage the luncheon to celebrate the remarkable transformation of Downtown KC over the last 20-plus years while also highlighting the bright future that lies ahead.

The keynote speaker was Jeff Speck, city planner and best-selling author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time.  Based on his work in city planning and urban design, Jeff shared what makes downtowns unique and how cities can continue to make them more vibrant, walkable, and attractive destinations.  Jeff referenced his two TED Talks during his presentation which can be found here and here.

After his remarks, Jeff was joined on stage by the Honorable Kay Barnes, Ian Ross, Founder and Principal at SomeraRoad, and Kelvin Simmons, Developer and Principal at Nexus Group. Jason Parson, President & CEO of Parson + Associates, moderated the panel discussion. The group offered up engaging comments ranging from how downtown revitalization started in the early 2000s to how development is bringing back to life two historic neighborhoods in downtown with the West Bottoms and 18th and Vine.

Other speakers included Mayor Quinton Lucas and Bill Dietrich, President & CEO of the Downtown Council, giving remarks on the State of Downtown, in which he offered up statistics showing Downtown Kansas City’s incredible rebound post-Covid-19 pandemic and highlighting some of the different catalytic projects prioritized in the Imagine Downtown KC 2030 Strategic Plan.  We were fortunate to have Missouri Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe in town on the day of the luncheon.  He attended and shared some remarks from the stage.  Dr. Kimberly Beatty, Downtown Council Board Chair and Chancellor of Metropolitan Community College, shared her thoughts on her term so far and also presented one of the awards given out at the luncheon.

Dr. Beatty presented the J Phillip Kirk Jr. Award in recognition of community vision and downtown stewardship to Slyvester “Sly” James, 54th mayor of the City of Kansas City, Mo (2011-2019), attorney, mediator, and author.  The Harvey Fried Award, in recognition of the Community Improvement District Ambassador of the Year, was presented to Security Supervisor Frank Jackson.  Last but not least, the Downtown Council awarded Urban Hero Awards to four community champions who have worked tirelessly to make the neighborhoods of Greater Downtown KC a more vibrant place to live, work, play and build businesses.  The honorees were:

  • Hi Tides Coffee (Michele and Johnny Dawbarn)
  • Vine Street Brewing (Kemet Coleman, Woodie Bonds, Jr., Elliott Ivory, Annie McGinnis)
  • Allan Gray (The Zhou B Arts Center)
  • Teresa Bolton (KC Public Library Central Branch)

Please visit to view all the videos from the luncheon including the Urban Hero Awards, the Kirk Award, a general recap video, and a video of Jeff Speck’s remarks.