Kansas City’s progress, with a little self-deprecation

Kansas City’s progress, with a little self-deprecation

The Kansas City Star, a paper best known to many Americans for having schooled Ernest Hemingway, recently published a report on Kansas City’s improvements to its downtown compared with 13 other U.S. cities. The results proved that while “Kansas City deserves a pat on the back for everything that’s been accomplished downtown this decade” its progress didn’t quite compare with that of cities such as Denver, Louisville, Oklahoma City and others.

While almost pitifully self-deprecating (sample sentence: “Sure, our downtown stands out in a few big ways — we’ve added more lofts and condos per year than any of our peers, for example. Mostly, though, downtown Kansas City’s progress has trailed the pack.”), the Star’s report by Jeffrey Spivak is a brave example of self-assessment that honestly questions the quality of life in the city’s downtown.

It seems that Kansas City has been most successful in turning downtown into a residential neighborhood through the construction of residential units:

“Downtown Kansas City has evolved into a residential neighborhood more successfully than just about any of its peers. It has added an average of almost 500 new housing units a year this decade. As a result, Kansas City’s downtown population has jumped by more than 4,000 people, ranking Kansas City No. 3 among peer downtowns in average annual population gain. Downtowns in Columbus, Ohio, Milwaukee and Nashville barely gained 1,000 residents.”

However, it has not been able to create a viable nightlife or business scene there. “That snapshot, though, shows Kansas City’s downtown progress below average in more than half of the comparisons with its peers — measures such as new bars, new hotels and office vacancy.”

The report goes on to highlight some examples of progress in other cities:

•Charlotte: opened a new arena and entertainment district — and built light rail.

•Cincinnati: expanded its convention center — and constructed new football and baseball stadiums.

•Denver: added a slew of office towers — and lured a Hyatt convention hotel.

•St. Louis: converted historic buildings into lofts — and added a casino to its riverfront.

While it sounds like the report is focusing too much on large projects and not on the small businesses that collectively add up to create a dynamic city, KC is lacking is a tourism base that would merit a stadium or convention hotel’s creation.

I’m curious to hear if anyone out there has comments on how KC could improve itself?

Diana Lind is the former executive director and editor in chief of Next City.

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