Tuesday, June 26th, 2007
One of the cities that has really started to shine in terms of urban development but which has pretty much gone under the national radar is Kansas City. There is a huge amount of development going on in the city, ranging from the Sprint Center arena (a “build it and they will come facility”) to the cutting edge architecture of the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, to the large mixed-use Power and Light District.
This last development is being put together by Cordish about of Baltimore. They’ve done several of these districts across the country. I’ve yet to be impressed by any of them. Everything I’ve seen shows them to be mega-cheeseball generic bar/retail districts. From what I have read of KC’s version, it will be no different. Yet of course it is getting huge city subsidies.
But I digress. There is a lengthy article on the Kansas City Star talking about a very different type of development. This is the Crossroads Arts District. Unlike the P&L District, this one is almost entirely local businesses. It also has primarily redeveloped historic architecture rather than building new. Included are 50 (!) art galleries and 70 bar/retail/entertainment establishments. Of course this district is not receiving the kind of subsidies that Cordish is.
It is refreshing to see that at least one part of Kansas City’s downtown development is being driven by local, unique businesses rather than a collection of generic chains. The latter may be nice for conventioneers who aren’t interested in exploring a place. But they aren’t what make a city great or unique. One Crossroads Arts District with worth 50 Cordish developments as far as making a real urban neighborhood thrive.