Elements of Urbanism: Kansas City

September 1, 2010 37 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Kansas City boasts over 100,000 office workers, 16,000 residents, and $4 Billion in investment in their downtown. Check out the current state of Kansas City.

Tale of the Tape:

Kansas City Population 2009: 482,299 (City); 2,053,928 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1853)

Jacksonville Pop. 2009: 813,518 (City); 1,328,144 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Kansas City (456,622)

City Land Area

Kansas City: 313.50 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2009)

Kansas City: +12.61%
Jacksonville: +18.29%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Kansas City: 1,361,744 (ranked 29 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Kansas City: 2,330.1
Jacksonville: 2,149.2

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2008

Kansas City: +40,754
Jacksonville: +72,312

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Kansas City: Bartle Hall Convention Center (19--) - 388,800 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to Convention Center:

Kansas City: Crowne Plaza, Marriott Downtown,  
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Kansas City: One Kansas City Place - 623 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet


Fortune 500 companies 2009 (City limits only):

Kansas City: H&R Block (493)
Jacksonville: CSX (259), Winn-Dixie (306), Fidelity National Financial (366)


Urban infill obstacles:

Kansas City: Downtown is surrounded by a complete loop of expressways.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Kansas City: Power & Light District
Jacksonville: East Bay Street


Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Kansas City: 86 out of 100, according to walkscore.com, downtown Kansas City as keyword
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

Visual Information

Green = Jacksonville's city limits (current urban core) before consolidation in 1968
Red = Jacksonville's current consolidated city-county limits

Jacksonville's current (Red) and original (Green) city limit boundaries over Kansas City's land area (Blue).

About Kansas City

Downtown Kansas City

As of 2007, Downtown has 16,292 permanent residents and 11,500 housing units. In 2000, the population may have been as low as 10,000 people with 7,330 units. There are currently 2,649 housing units planned for construction in Downtown. In 2005, Downtown Kansas City had a density of approximately 5,617 inhabitants per square mile in its 2.9-square-mile area. According to Local Market reports, Downtown houses approximately 20,000,000 square feet of office space. However, the vacancy of this space is at about 17%. There are also about 12,800,000 square feet of Class A&B office space in Downtown, with a vacancy rate of 15.9%. There are over 100,000 employees working in the Downtown area. Downtown has a total of 3,606 hotel rooms or 13.5% of the total amount of hotel rooms in the metropolitan area. The average occupancy of these rooms is about 56.5%. Currently about 2,800,000 square feet of office space are under construction in Downtown Kansas City.  Current investments into downtown redevelopment have exceeded $4 billion.

Garment District

The Kansas City Garment District is located in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri to the east of Quality Hill, across Broadway Boulevard. In the 1930s several large clothing manufacturers clustered here, making Kansas City's garment district second only to New York City's in size. Today, this heritage is commemorated by an oversize needle and thread monument. Its old industrial buildings have since been redeveloped into loft apartments, office, and restaurants. Henry Perry, father of Kansas City-style barbecue got his start in 1908 from a stand in an alley in the neighborhood.

The Sprint Center, an 18,500-seat arena, is a project that was announced shortly after the Power & Light District. In 2004, the proposed arena was effectively passed by the voters of all the affected counties, who voted to fund the arena by means of a tax on car rentals and hotels.

This project raised some controversy. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a St. Louis company whose owner is known for supporting an NBA team for St. Louis, lobbied against the tax and tried to sway public opinion against the arena. Some city officials, as well as those who did not desire to pay the increased tax, also fought against the project. One of the most prominent of these individuals was Sandra McFadden-Weaver, a member of the City Council of Kansas City, Missouri. Despite the outcry from a few dissenters, the arena vote passed decidedly.

Construction began late in 2004. Before this, however, and even before the vote, the city sent out a request for local and national architectural firms to bid on the project. Some of these firms included HOK Sports, Ellerbe Beckett, 360 Architecture, Rafael Architects Inc. and the world-renowned Frank Gehry. The first four of those firms, however, collaborated to form the "Downtown Arena Design Team", and won the contract over Gehry's bid. As a reason for their choice, the city stated both that those companies had completed a variety of sports-related projects done many projects related to sports, and that all were local companies.

Since construction began, many local minority leaders have protested the construction company and contractors for not putting enough minorities in the construction and contracting teams. The contractors, however, assert that they have complied with state and federal requirements and continue to meet the requests of local citizens.

As of August 2007, the arena does not have an NBA or NHL tenant, though the Nashville Predators have been purchased by a group led by William "Boots" Delbaggio, who has an agreement with the arena to operate any NHL team that plays there. An NHL expansion franchise is also a rumored possibility.

Power & Light District

The Kansas City Power & Light District or Power & Light District is a shopping and entertainment district in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, United States, developed by the Cordish Company of Baltimore, Maryland and designed by 360 Architecture. The district comprises nine blocks on the south side of the downtown loop. It is located between Baltimore Avenue to the west, Grand Boulevard to the east, 12th Street to the north, and Interstate 670 to the south. The $850 million "mixed-use" district is one of the largest development projects in the Midwestern United States. The Power & Light District is one of only a few places in the United States where possession and consumption of open containers of alcoholic beverages are allowed on the street, although they remain prohibited on the street throughout the rest of Kansas City.

Cosentino's Downtown Market

Cosentino's Downtown Market arrives in style

I just got back from Cosentino's Downtown Market and can safely report that it is a very good grocery store. It's noticeably bigger than the Cosentino's in Brookside and designed in the style of urban grocers in Chicago, with enough salad-bar offerings and prepared food to serve an army. More than that, though, this is the grocery store downtown needed.

Walking in, the first thing you notice is that you're standing in a large open area devoted to ready-to-eat foods. There's sushi from Kaiyo, a pasta station, a truly impressive salad bar that stretches well beyond the advertised 20 feet, and a bakery case filled with goodies from local makers like Coca Dolce, and homemade gelato.

This is by design, owner John Cosentino told me. "We knew our crowd would be more urban, quicker on the go. People that don't eat in as much. They can come in and get something here in minutes that's just as delicious as something made at home." Store manager Mark Lenz later added, "We anticipate a lot of our day business will be office workers ... our floral section is expanded and at the front of the store, so you can get your secretary or boss something over lunch."

As much as office workers will use Cosentino's Downtown Market, the real reason downtown needed Cosentino's is for the back two-thirds of the store. It contains a normal grocery selection, with shelves full of toiletries and condiments and a dozen types of peanut butter. Lenz explained that the shelf layout was modeled after the Brookside Cosentino's. "It doesn't look like it when you enter the store, but they're [the two Cosentino's markets] very similar. I like to tell people we have $40 vinegars, and just a shelf below there's the $2 vinegar ... at every opportunity we've tried to include local suppliers and in the produce area. It's unbelievable what you can find."

On the south side of the store is a full liquor selection. In addition to having more wines, Lenz said he purposely stocked a lot of single-can beers like Chimay and Young's Double Chocolate Stout. "I understand there's beer geeks just as there are wine geeks. I'm not one of them but I know what they look for, and we try to have that."

The space also benefits from smaller touches like a second-floor dining area, with flatscreens and couches, and murals painted by Buck Arnhold on the ceilings. "My grandfather was a church artist, and this store is dedicated to him," Cosentino said. "We've tried to have the murals symbolize his paintings."  

Forgetting murals and couches, Cosentino's Downtown Market is just a grocery store, which is what makes it so great. Walking through the aisles by myself, I could have been in any grocery store -- but I was in the heart of of downtown. A full shelf of toilet paper may not sound like much, but if residents can do all their grocery shopping downtown, who's to say they won't do the rest of their chores in the area, too?

Right before I left, I told Lenz how nice and spiffy the store looked and how all they needed now are customers. "We're here," he said. "Now I hope they come in." -- Owen Morris

Bartle Hall Convention Center

Bartle Hall Convention Center is Kansas City's largest multifaceted structures dedicated to meetings and conventions, sports and entertainment. It offers 388,800 square feet of column-free exhibit space on one floor, 211,000 square feet of tenant finishes, a 200,000-square-foot conference center, another 55,000 square feet of additional space on two levels, 45 meeting rooms, a 2,400-seat fine arts theater, and an arena that can seat over 10,700 people, along with a 46,450 ballroom that was scheduled for an April 2007 opening, all connected to major downtown hotels and underground parking by glass-enclosed skywalks and below-ground walkways. A unique Convention Center feature is the expansive Barney Allis Plaza, a public square ideal for outdoor receptions, festivals and concerts.

River Market

The River Market (formerly known as Westport Landing, the City Market, and River Quay) is a riverfront neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri that comprises the first and oldest incorporated district in Kansas City.

River Market stretches north of the downtown Interstate 70 loop to the Missouri River, and is bordered by the Broadway Bridge on the west and the Heart of America Bridge on the east. The area encompasses the location in which Kansas City was first founded. The market name comes from its large open air farmers' market, the southern section of which was the public square in the mid 19th century.

It derives its "Westport Landing" name because it was the dock on the Missouri River for the exchange of goods going to the community of Westport three miles to the south on higher ground that was operated by John Calvin McCoy. McCoy was to lead a group of settlers to created the "Town of Kansas" in the neighborhood in 1850 which in turn became the "City of Kansas" in 1853.

The Quay name was applied to the neighborhood in the 1970s by developer Marion A. Trozzolo to capitalize on the neighborhood's early French connections as a fur trading post operated by François Chouteau of the powerful Chouteau clan starting in 1821. Trozzolo's vision was to make this neighborhood a destination for restaurants and bohemian shops. A mob war developed and three establishments burned or were blown up and several mobsters were killed. The war was part of an overall mob war that ultimately resulted in the mob being pushed out of influence of the Las Vegas casinos that was highlighted in the movie Casino.

River Market today

The large riverfront warehouses have become increasingly developed into residential lofts, restaurants, bars, shops, cafes, and ethnic markets. Several major firms have recently relocated into the district, including Populous, one of the world's leading sports architecture firms.

City Market is a large farmer's market with fresh area produce and goods that operates Wednesdays and weekends.

The Steamboat Arabia Museum displays thousands of artifacts from a steamboat and its cargo that sunk nearby in 1856 and was recovered in 1987-88. The museum is among Kansas City's popular tourist attractions.

The current manager of the actual market on behalf of the City of Kansas City is Copaken, White & Blitt.

Downtown Neighborhood Association Kansas City is the official neighborhood association for the River Market neighborhood.

Crossroads Art District

The Crossroads Arts District is a historic neighborhood near downtown Kansas City, Missouri, USA, centered at approximately 19th Street and Baltimore Avenue, between Downtown's Central Business District and Crown Center. It is the city's main art gallery district and center for the visual arts. Dozens of galleries are located in its renovated warehouses and industrial buildings. It is also home to numerous restaurants (including one operated by Lidia Bastianich), housewares shops, architects, designers, an advertising agency, and other visual artists. The district also has several live music venues as well.

Numerous buildings in the neighborhood are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the TWA Corporate Headquarters' Building and the Western Auto Building.

The Kansas City Star's offices and printing facility are in Crossroads, as are The Pitch's.

360 Architecture and Barkley Inc. have their headquarters in Crossroads.

First Fridays
Art galleries generally open new shows on the first Friday of each month from 6 to 9 pm. This has become one of the region's most popular regular events as thousands of people flock to the Crossroads for gallery "open houses" amidst the Crossroads's unique atmosphere.

There are more than 60 galleries in the Crossroad's district, making it one of the five largest arts districts in the US.[citation needed]

Crossroads Music Festival

First held in late August 2005, the Crossroads Music Festival is an annual event organized by Spice of Life Productions, which features local music artists. The 2005 event was held at Grinder's Sculpture Park, located at 18th Street and Locust Street. In addition to concert performances, offerings include short films by local independent filmmakers and booths offering apparel by local designers, local independent print media, and carnival games.

Tax Abatements

In 2007, one of Kansas City's development agencies began a program to allow property tax abatements for art-related business who would otherwise be priced out of the neighborhood by fast-rising property values. Neighborhood leaders lobbied for the program to prevent the "Soho Effect" of gentrification. Tax abatements had previously been granted to developers to attract new residents to the neighborhood with high-end condominiums and lofts adjacent to the galleries.

Crown Center

Crown Center is a commercial complex and neighborhood located near Downtown Kansas City, Missouri located between Gillham Road and Grand Boulevard to the east and west, and between Pershing Boulevard and Union Hill to the north and south. The shopping center is anchored by Halls, a department store which is owned and operated by Hallmark Cards. The neighborhood contains numerous residences, retail establishments, entertainment venues, and restaurants (including the American Restaurant, one of only three Mobil four-star restaurants in Missouri). It is also home to Kansas City's two largest hotels, the global headquarters of Hallmark Cards, and the headquarters of Shook, Hardy & Bacon and Lathrop & Gage, two of Kansas City's largest law firms.

Today, the shopping and entertainment complex features three levels of shops and restaurants, a set of grand open air fountains, live theatres, movie theatres, an ice skating rink and overstreet walkways leading throughout the complex and to Kansas City's Union Station. One of the most notable stores is the Halls department store designed by Paul László. The complex also includes a 45-story Hyatt Regency Crown Center hotel (which was Missouri's tallest building when built), a Westin hotel, and two upscale residential apartment skyscrapers. Kansas City's three largest law firms maintain their headquarters in other skyscrapers in the neighborhood. The neighborhood's grounds are replete with parks, fountains, green spaces and unique sculptures.

Hallmark Cards' global headquarters campus is located on an 85-acre section on the eastern side of Crown Center.

Union Station

The Beaux-Arts station opened on October 30, 1914 as the second-largest train station in the country. The building encompasses 850,000 square feet, the ceiling in the Grand Hall is 95 feet high, there are three chandeliers weighing 3,500 pounds each, and the Grand Hall clock has a six-foot diameter face. Due to its central location, Kansas City was a hub for both passenger and freight rail traffic. The scale of the building reflected this status.

Union Station made headlines on June 17, 1933, as four unarmed FBI agents were gunned down by gang members attempting to free captured fugitive Frank Nash. Nash was also killed in the gun battle. The “Kansas City Massacre” highlighted the lawlessness of Kansas City under the Pendergast Machine and resulted in the arming of all FBI agents.

In 1945, annual passenger traffic peaked at 678,363. As train travel declined beginning in the 1950s, the city had less and less need for a large train station. By 1973, only 32,842 passengers passed through the facility, all passenger train service was now run by Amtrak, and the building was beginning to deteriorate. The city government of Kansas City wished to preserve and redevelop the building. To facilitate this, they made a development deal with Trizec, a Canadian redevelopment firm. Included in the deal was an agreement that Trizec would redevelop the station. Between 1979 and 1986, Trizec constructed two office buildings on surrounding property, but did not redevelop the station. In 1985, Amtrak moved all passenger operations to a smaller facility. By this time, the station was essentially closed. In 1988, the city filed suit against Trizec for the failure to develop the station; the case was settled in 1994. For most of this time period, the building continued to decay.


In 1996, residents in five counties throughout the metropolitan area in both Kansas and Missouri approved the so-called "bi-state tax", a 1/8th of a cent sales tax, part of which helped to fund just under half of the $250 million restoration of Union Station. Renovation began in 1997 and was completed in 1999. The remaining money was raised through private donations and federal funding.

Today Union Station receives no public funding. Current operating costs are funded by general admission and theater ticketing, grants, corporate and private donations, commercial space leases and facility rental. Union Station is a nonprofit 501c3 organization. Union Station is now home to Science City, a family-friendly interactive science center with more than 50 hands-on exhibits; the H&R Block City Stage Theater, a live-action venue with productions for young and old alike; the Reginer Extreme Screen, the largest 3-D movie screen in the region at five and half stories tall; two restaurants, including Pierponts, an upscale steak and seafood restaurant, and the Harvey House Diner at Union Cafe, a '50s-style tribute to the restaurants once owned and operated by Fred Harvey; shops, including Rocky Mountain Chocolate; the Gottlieb Planetarium, the largest planetarium in the area; and various temporary museum exhibits including the internationally acclaimed Dead Sea Scrolls in the spring of 2007, Bodies Revealed from February 29 - September 1, 2008, and Dialog in the Dark. The Irish Museum and Cultural Center has been located in the station since March 17, 2007.

Current Amtrak service

In 2002, Amtrak restored passenger train service to the station. There are currently two trains daily to and from St. Louis, one train daily to Chicago and one train daily to the southwest (ultimately to Los Angeles).

Liberty Memorial

The Liberty Memorial, located in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, is a memorial to the fallen soldiers of World War I and houses the The National World War I Museum, as designated by the United States Congress in 2004. Groundbreaking commenced November 1, 1921, and the city held a site dedication. The memorial was completed and dedicated on November 11, 1926.

On September 21, 2006, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne declared Liberty Memorial a National Historic Landmark.

Country Club Plaza

The Country Club Plaza (often referred to as the Plaza) is an upscale shopping district and residential neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. It was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile. The 55 acre site is about four miles south of downtown, between 45th and 51st streets to the north and south and between Broadway and Madison Street to the east and west. The Kansas state line is one mile to the west. Established in 1923 by J. C. Nichols and designed architecturally after Seville, Spain, the Plaza comprises high-end retail establishments, restaurants, and entertainment venues, as well as offices. The neighborhoods surrounding the Plaza consist of apartment buildings and upscale houses, especially those of the Country Club District built along Ward Parkway on the Plaza's southern and southwestern side. The Country Club Plaza is named in the Project for Public Spaces' list 60 of the World's Great Places.

Article and photographs by Ennis Davis