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February 04, 2006

A downtown dream

I traveled to Denver on Jan 21 for the NFC Championship Game. I was amazed at the excitement in the downtown area. It has its sports arenas, but the main artery for tourists is the 16th Street (Plaza-like) centerpiece.

The dream: Visualize for a moment transforming Grand or Main Street from around 8th Street (River Market area) through the Crown Center and Union Station area, on to the Plaza. Imagine a free bus running every few minutes, and no cars. Walking, bicycle rickshaws and carriages are all favorites.

This corridor would encourage development downtown and allow tourists and conventioneers to experience the entire city better.

By mirroring the 16th Street concept, Kansas City could have a carless, free bus route the length of the shopping corridor with connections to the train and other buses.

John Pontius
Kansas City



Lost-You are right. The only way downtown will really come back, is if people start to live there, and that is exactly what is happening. Young professionals are moving downtown in droves. I cited the Cashew before. I bet if you surveyed the people there right now, most of them walked to get there. People are living downtown and the shopping will follow. A full-service grocery will open within a year. As more services come, more people will follow and more services will come and on and on. Why do I care and why should you? A thriving downtown (or central core) benefits the entire area. I know of no city of consequence that does not have a thriving downtown.

Engineer-Different things are important to different people, so I'm not being critical of you, but why settle for mediocrity? Sure, you can drive past dozens of restaurants on the way downtown. If all you want is to eat for nothing more than satisfying hunger that's fine. I look for something more. Every restaurant I cited before is unique and I could name many more. In Johnson Co. I think there are maybe two restaurants that really set themselves apart. It sounds like you have at least some attachment or nostalgia for downtown. Maybe by coming back downtown you can help bring back some life and energy and help the area as a whole.


While I agree that urban revitalization is good, perhaps we are looking at this in the wrong way. I think the future of the downtown area will rely heavily on young professionals who will live there and do most of their entertainment/shopping near their home. So instead of creating all these hot-spots, you need to make it a desireable place to live and the money will follow (see Overland Park).

I find it hard to justify spending 30 minutes in the car to spend 90 minutes and more than a hundred bucks in a restaurant to turn around and spend 30 minutes on the way home. Suburban areas are great for raising families but I think that if you can draw the fresh college graduates to jobs and apartments downtown, they will spend their cash there too.

Though I like the progress, I don't see the point in revitalizing downtown if you are going to price out all the people that currently live there.


Sounds like a number of good eating places, but I have others that are more convenient. With the exception of Bob Jones Shoes (there at least a half dozen pairs from there still in my closet) the places you note are mostly nightime spots. Downtown no longer has the retail establishments that accounted for its life during the daytime. Perhaps this can be changed.


Engineer-Nothing beats the restaurants in and around downtown. Pierpont's in Union Station is excellent. (In fact Union Station has a lot to offer, despite it's flaws). 1924 Main is one of the best restaurants in the city. Vivace in city market area is way cool. Majestic Steakhouse is excellent and also has jazz. The Cashew is a great bar. Bob Jones Shoes is by far the best shoe store in town. I could go on.


I used to go downtown to restaurants, movie houses, clothing stores, etc. Most of the places I patronized are long gone. However, today I can access all of these services at other locations that are more convenient than going down town ever was. I loved the vibrant life and color of the downtown of my youth, but as MM said of the Antebellum South, "look for it no more, for it is gone with the wind".


What'd I'd like to see us do is, via our local government, better harness all the booming redevelopment so that we can realize the benefits of an improved public transit system as well. The MAX line is a good start, but it really is just the tip of the iceberg of possibility.


It's good to hear something positive is happening in KCMO.


Sammy, you're absolutely right. The core of the city is finally making a big comeback. I think far too few suburbanites have a clue as what all is happening downtown and surrounding areas.

Engineer-What would you want to do downtown? If I knew, perhaps I could steer you toward something you would enjoy.


I commend the KCATA for The Max. It's a very good start for that backbone to link the river through to the Plaza and even Brookside. Judging from the number of people I see waiting at the Max stops (or "stations"), I'm guessing that's one of the most successful routes in KC. I'd like to see a story on that in the paper.

The Crossroads, River Market and downtown areas are on a tear for both commercial and residential projects. Midtown and Westport are coming back to life. The Plaza is even growing. I think "urban renewal" is here folks. Now, if some visionaries can figure out how to make use of the Missouri River water front just north of the River Market (such an underutilized asset) and figure out something useful and appealing (and that can pay the bills) in Union Station we'd have the last couple pieces of the puzzle fitted. I'm stoked to see how it all will come together over the 5-10 years.

I see people walking their dogs in the jammies in downtown when I go into work. I didn't see that even 5 years ago.


One big problem with the downtown area at the present is that there is so little reason for the average citizen to go there. Even the proposed Sports Arena and the proposed Performing Arts Center will not provide reasons for many people to go there during daylight hours.


Boulder, CO, and Portland, OR, are two other cities that have spearheaded similar efforts to revititalize their downtowns.

For more on Portland, including the 350-square block "fareless zone" downtown, where you may ride public transit free of charge, see here:


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