pretty green polo shirt Misperceptions Kansas Citians Have About KC Kansas City
The Plaza? Keep patronizing what is there. My wife and I go to one restaurant there and Barnes Noble and enjoy both of those I think this place is great. Last summer we went there and there’s this guy playing music on the corner by himself. He has a drum kit and an organ and a mike to sing in to. And he was good! These cute teenage girls came along and started requesting that he play certain songs. He did and he sang along with them and they were a good musical unit! One girl had an Adele voice and I think that girl may become famous one day I do. She was good, real good. We loved the ambiance of the place it had a great vibe to it lots of exercise to be had walking around on the Plaza.
If and when we move to Waldo, Overland Park or Mission, I look forward to continued shopping and bopping down there it’s my favorite KC place. Kansas City is going great guns everyone contain yourself and don’t get into the road rage stuff just be mellow. Don’t strike out in anger, and do not forget about God Almighty.
Plenty of people in Johnson County are sheltered (and I currently live in Johnson County). So are plenty of people in Lee’s Summit, Liberty, Parkville, Platte City, Harrisonville, Raymore, Excelsior Springs, and any suburb or far flung exurb, regardless of what side of the state line. When I lived in Lee’s Summit, I had neighbors who were aghast at the idea of driving downtown to an event at the Sprint Center, which was mindblowing to me. When I pointed out that driving in as far as the Plaza, parking in a free garage, and taking a Max bus would work,too,if they preferred, that was also met with similar horrifying levels of trepidation, what with using public transportation being so apparently intimidating and all. Again, this was bizarre to me, and again, I literally grew up on a farm and can’t say I find the idea of hopping a Max bus at the Plaza to be “scary.” It’s very strange to me that this would be a foreign concept to a lifelong Lee’s Summit resident. But, my point is, being a caricature of a sheltered suburbanite isn’t limited to the stereotypical JoCo resident, and lots of us are completely comfortable in the city, and not just the “Downtown/River Market/Crossroads/Plaza.” My family and I spend every Sunday with our church community just off 39th and Troost, my husband’s workplace is located at Prospect and Agnes, and despite being a mostly lifelong resident of Johnson County, not counting military orders to other places, he’s also taught in urban schools in Strawberry Hill KCK, and the old Northeast neighborhoods. Not exactly glossy, pretty urban KC, all around.
Minor cartographic nit: Your hubby’s workplace couldn’t be located at “Prospect and Agnes,” for those two streets run parallel to each other, four blocks apart. (I was born and raised on Bellefontaine, the next street to Agnes’ east.)
But given that your church is at 39th and Troost, I’ll wager that your hubby does work in my old stomping ground of Oak Park Southwest. (39th and Troost itself is in Mannheim, though.)
Having gotten this nit out of the way, I will simply say that you’re the first person I’ve encountered on this board who seems to have actually spent lots of time east of Troost (lovekcmo says s/he has friends in my old neck of the woods, but I wonder whether s/he’s ever bothered to actually dialogue with them), has bothered to actually interact with the area residents, and doesn’t let fear govern their actions. I suspect most of the people conversing here would ps on themselves were they to find themselves at the major intersection nearest my own East Germantown home here in Philadelphia.
I’ll get to the OP’s comments in my next reply.
I need to preface what follows by noting the following:
Unlike just about everyone else actively participating in this discussion save kcmo, but like a few others who post on the Kansas City forum, I do not live in Kansas City now, but I was born and raised there, and I have pointed out what I see as parallels between my forever and adopted hometowns in essays I’ve written in Philadelphia magazine, where I am now the Home and Real Estate Editor. I may refer to some of those parallels or similarities below.
But as I tell all my friends and acquaintances up this way, I wouldn’t trade growing up in Kansas City for growing up anywhere else in the country. On my two most recent visits, I was pleasantly surprised by how lively and sophisticated the city has become. (You can find online a long feature I wrote for Next City about the Power Light District, “The $295 Million Mall Taxpayers Bought Kansas City,” the outgrowth of my 2014 visit.) Most of the people I know who’ve visited both it and St. Louis like Kansas City better, fwiw.
Hello, everyone. This is my first post, but I’ve been lurking for a long time. I’ve lived in several cities throughout the middle of the country, and have lived in KC for the last 5 years. Being a “city enthusiast,” I’ve always paid attention to the goings on where I’ve lived in terms of how the city I’m living in functions. I think KC has a lot of great attributes. At the same time, there are some things I would prefer to be different. Every city I’ve lived in seems to have some collective misconceptions about itself. Here’s five that I feel KC has. I’m not trying to trash talk KC at all. I chose to move here, and I choose to stay here. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, though. I hope this doesn’t offend anyone. They’re just my thoughts. I’m curious what your thoughts are.
1. KC is a small town. I say this is a misconception people have not because people literally think KC is small, but because people seem to fear KC being big. I think there seems to be a somewhat common antipathy to growth in KC. People fight development here more than the other places I’ve lived. People fight investing in growth here more than other places I’ve lived. And they seem to do it because of fears of traffic (which I discuss below), crowds, density etc and just change in general. My suspicion is that a lot of people have moved here from smaller towns, and thus KC already seems crowded and complex to them. In Dallas, a large majority is willing to spend tax and other public dollars on growth. KC not so much. And it feels like that all goes back to a pervasive sense of being small town and not needing all that big city stuff. KC is not a small town. It’s a city. Let it act like a city.
I refer to the really big city (5th biggest city and metro in the US) I live in as “a small town masquerading as a big city” because of the everyone knows everyone else quality of its various communities (media, finance, law, education, LGBTQ.) and neighborhoods (East Passyunk, Washington Square West, Mayfair, Germantown.). There seems to be more than a little of this quality about KC too.
But as you note, KC is anything but crowded. I do think that, thanks in large part to the presence of two very real divides the state line and Troost Avenue it is more complex than any arrival from the sticks would have experienced. Anyone who grows up in a multistate metropolis (St. Louis, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago to a lesser extent) should recognize many of the dynamics at work in KC, but the fact that KC is truly unique among all of these in being almost evenly split between its two states makes the dynamic a little more intense and the arguments, when they do take place, more vivid and the city’s history adds to the vividness: the reason everyone refers to the economic development “border war” is because we all learn about the actual one in history classes growing up.
Traffic congestion in Kansas City? It is to laugh. (And that’s a shame, for what I’ve read suggests that the people in the Main Street corridor are willing to tax themselves to make the streetcar a useful commuter route rather than a fun plaything. I say let them, and let’s see what it does when it becomes a practical transportation alternative.)
But when I returned to KC in 2014 with a dear friend who lives in Washington in tow (he works in the Washington bureau of The Kansas City Star’s corporate parent), he turned to me, referencing conversations we’ve had about the possibility of my becoming a Kansas Citian once again, and asked, “Do you think you could really live in a city where you had to drive everywhere?”
I replied, “Hmmmmm.” He agreed.
I still have my driver’s license but rely on Philadelphia’s much more extensive and robust public transit network to get where I want to go. Is it as convenient as hopping behind the wheel? Not in most cases, but in many more than you might suspect, it holds its own against driving, partly because there’s so much more traffic here. And as you might gather from my posting handle, I’m a rail transit fan, so I enjoy commuting on the Broad Street Subway every workday.
3. The Plaza is special. The Plaza is really cool. No doubt about it. People from out of town love it too. But I’ve also spoken with people from Des Moines, Omaha and other such places who point out that the Plaza no longer has much that those cities don’t already have. So they have no reason to go there anymore. And most cities I’ve lived in have charming urban commercial districts. Although the Plaza’s architecture is unique, it’s concept is not. In Chicago, for example, there are a dozen or more cool little downtown areas scattered throughout the suburbs that resemble the Plaza. Downtown Naperville comes to mind. Downtown Evanston too. Des Moines has the East Village. Dallas has Midtown and the Village. Minneapolis has Uptown and the Grand Avenue area (in addition to suburban downtowns). The Plaza should be allowed to grow and develop into a neighborhood, and the “save the Plaza” people should realize that limiting growth there only hurts it in the long run. It needs office, residential and retail to continue to thrive. It can’t just be a shopping center anymore.
1. The Plaza is special because of its history it’s the oldest planned shopping center in the United States and its design and architecture most shopping centers that followed in its wake were not arrayed around city streets, nor were they as well integrated with the city surrounding them. And it does have office, residential and retail; they’re just not all in the same buildings, by and large, and indeed there are no residences in the Plaza proper at all. But unless I’m mistaken, there should still be apartments just up the hill from 47th and Broadway, for instance, and all those apartment towers across Brush Creek from the Plaza house residents still, save for the one that became the Raphael Hotel (is it still called that?). The Plaza’s western precincts are largely given to offices, starting around the building at 47th and Pennsylvania I knew as the Skelly Building. The difference between those cool suburban downtowns and I can rattle off several around me in Philadelphia: Ardmore, Wayne, Media, Collingswood, Haddonfield, Doylestown and the Plaza is that like the ones you mention, the former all developed (or redeveloped) organically while the Plaza was and remains planned from the start. (In Ardmore, however, you will find Suburban Square, which has billed itself as the oldest planned shopping center in the country, but I had to point out that the Plaza’s first building went up in 1921 while Suburban Square dates to 1928 30.)
2. Nichols Company went about aggressively upscaling the Plaza. Goodbye, Sears; farewell, Woolworth’s; bye bye, bowling alley and supermarket; hello, Halls, here are your new neighbors: Saks Fifth Avenue, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tiffany Co., Bergdorf Goodman (which acquired Harzfeld’s parent Garfinckel’s). At that time, there really was nothing like the Plaza anywhere near it. I note that all of these stores save Tiffany’s, including hometowner Halls, are gone now, and the stores that have replaced them can be found in a mall near you for the most part (maybe not Kate Spade, but many of the others, yes). To that end, I’d probably join the “save the Plaza” crowd, except I’d make it a “bring back Kansas City’s Rodeo Drive” movement. (And the funny thing is, when Nichols was going about the upgrading, I complained to a Nichols Company executive about the disappearance of “my Plaza.” She reassured me that there were still plenty of options in Nichols owned shopping centers like the Landing, which I hear is pretty much moribund now, but I wasn’t reassured at the time. Now I’d love to see the Plaza I complained about stage a comeback.)
4. KC is growing fast (downtown included). KC is growing. And downtown KC has come back from near death. But unfortunately, it’s nothing special compared to other cities. It’s not as amazing as people around here think. Omaha, Des Moines and OKC are all growing faster in population and jobs than KC. So are MPLS and Denver. KC has a lot to offer compared to most of those cities. I’m not sure what’s holding it back, but something is. KC is better than its current growth. It needs to figure out how to compete better. People definitely shouldn’t be satisfied yet.
The real estate industry people I talk to here point out that Kansas City is growing at a fairly strong clip, especially compared to the coastal metropolises. (California is shooting itself in the foot in many ways, but that’s another matter.) But let’s not overlook the fact that most of the really fast growing ones are smaller by far than the 50 biggest metros in the US. Granted, growth in large Sunbelt metros, including Dallas Fort Worth, remains stronger than in any of the metros in the Plains states, though. However, that doesn’t negate your last three sentences.
5. KC doesn’t need a new airport. I get that KCI has its convenience factor. But as he gateway to our city, it’s an embarrassment. And honestly, most of the time when I fly out of the SW terminal, I end up having to park elsewhere because the ramp is full. So it’s not that convenient. It is an old, dysfunctional, outdated, nearly obsolete airport. Airlines and the Feds are willing to buy us a new airport and we somehow still want to turn it down. Voters in McKinney Texas voted to raise their own taxes to build a $70 million high school football stadium. I question the prudence of that, but it illustrates the way some people think about investing in their communities and the future. We can’t even get people on board with an airport others have agreed to pay for. I realize the comparison is somewhat apples to oranges. But I think it illustrates the different mindsets people in the Dallas area have compared to here.
DFW is the only other airport in the US that was designed around the drive to your gate concept first implemented at KCI. The difference is that the DFW terminals are deeper from pickup/dropoff roads (and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think those are separate at DFW while they’re the same at KCI, another key difference) to gates than KCI’s by a long shot, which means they don’t have the cramped feel of KCI’s concourses, and that in turn allowed for better installation of the post 9/11 security theater apparatus all airports must now have. That more than anything else argues for a new terminal (not, as one other poster has noted, a new airport) at KCI. Having flown into and out of it both pre and post 9/11, I concur that KCI’s design and amenities no longer work in the post 9/11 world.
One other thing not so much a misconception as a misperception. This is one city. I live in JoCo and work near the Plaza. In past lives I lived in downtown Chicago and Minneapolis (among other places). Both sides of the state line have a lot to offer and have their share of problems. Plenty of people in JoCo need to stop being so sheltered and take advantage of what KCMO has to offer (not just the Chiefs and Royals). You’re not going to get shot (sheesh). And people in KCMO need to realize that every city has its suburbs. If they weren’t in KS, they’d be somewhere in Missouri and would be no different than they are in KS. Hug it out, folks. We need to work together.
Here you have history as a stumbling block. It’s true that today’s “border war” is purely economic, but it also shows up in those occasional attempts to obtain funding across the state line for regional assets that are usually located in Kansas City, Mo.; the one such successful effort I can recall is the one that led to the restoration of Union Station (and made Clay Chastain into a pain in the region’s collective butt ever since).
I grew up in 64130 but went to school mostly with kids who lived in 66208. I understand your point.
One form of transportation reinforces urbanity; the other undermines it. That would be my short answer to your first question. Most of KC isn’t “urban” as we understand it here in the Northeast; even our suburbs are denser in Philadelphia. But there are parts of the city that are indeed both very urban and very urbane, even at the style of development common in the city, and I’d like to strengthen them. Knickerbocker Place shouldn’t have half its buildings boarded up. The entire length of Broadway through Valentine should be as lively as Westport. Ditto Main Street from downtown to the Plaza. I hope you see where I’m going with this.