More than a year from operation, Kansas City's Streetcar is already driving investment downtown

Kansas City Streetcar
A rendering of Kansas City’s future streetcar. Image via PlanningKC.

In a sign of things to come for downtown Kansas City, MO, a site along the city’s forthcoming streetcar line is being transformed from a parking lot into a mixed-use development. The developer of Crossroads Apartments, who has never built in Kansas City before, told the Kansas City Star that “the streetcar is the big thing that drew us, absolutely.”

The Kansas City Downtown Streetcar Project is comprised of a streetcar loop that will mostly run along Main Street in downtown Kansas City, and will link the city’s main entertainment venues with transit centers and arts districts.

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Startup Places and the companies that call them home

Crossroads District
Baltimore Street in Kansas City, MO’s Crossroads District. Photo by Chris Murphy via Flickr.

This Thursday we’re hosting Tech in the City: Startup Communities in Startup Places, a conversation about DC’s startup companies and the neighborhoods they call home. Follow the conversation on Twitter later this week at #TechintheCity.

Small tech startups are coming together in cities across the country to build communities of innovation and collaboration. Why are these communities taking root in the places they do? And what can cities do to foster these leaders of the new economy?

It may seem counterintuitive for competing companies to move close to one another, but there are reasons for startups to work together. As Brad Feld explains in his book Startup Communities, startups can be more successful, create more jobs, and attract more talent by working together to create an inclusive community of people who gather together to share ideas.

Dozens of cities in the United States are now home to one or more startup communities. These clusters of companies are often grouped around a shared resource like co-working space, a tech accelerator or university. It takes more than that, though, for a startup community to flourish. In city after city these communities are forming in neighborhoods with a common set of characteristics.

I call these neighborhoods Startup Places. Whether in former industrial neighborhoods, a city’s downtown or an historic district put to innovative new use, Startup Places have places to gather, a dynamic mix of people nearby, and affordable commercial spaces. These neighborhood features meet the needs of startup communities by giving startup leaders places to meet fellow entrepreneurs, mingle with new ideas, and find flexible office space affordable enough for a new business. Here’s a closer look at how neighborhoods like these come about.

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Economic growth through transit-oriented development in Kansas City

As Kansas City prepares for a special election on a proposed downtown streetcar line, KCPT and the Mid-America Regional Council‘s Imagine KC series examines the impact of transit-oriented development on Kansas City’s metro. KCPT’s Randy Mason and LOCUS President Chris Leinberger toured some of Kansas City’s streetscape along the proposed line, and discussed the commerce and development streetcar proponents predict will follow.

LOCUS

Smart growth news – May 21, 2012

Missouri lawmakers pass bill supporting land banks
Kansas City Business Journal (MO) – May 17, 2012
The Missouri General Assembly on Wednesday passed land bank legislation that would let Kansas City buy and sell swaths of abandoned land.

Firms shifting from suburbs to downtown
Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN) – May 19, 2012
The allure of the big city is pulling at businesses that previously called suburban office parks home.

City’s urban center has good bones, consultant says
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (WI) – May 19, 2012
[D]owntown Milwaukee “is exceptionally well-positioned” to tap into such long-term trends as baby boom empty nesters and young professionals wanting to live, work and play there, says Segal, a well-known consultant to downtown development groups.

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Smart growth news – May 16, 2012

Subdivisions go urban as housing market changes
USA Today – May 15, 2012
“It’s the kids (ages 18 to 32), the empty nesters (Baby Boomers with no kids at home),” says Chris Leinberger, president of Smart Growth America’s LOCUS (Latin for “place”), a national coalition of real estate developers and investors who support urban developments that encourage walking over driving. “These two generations combined are more than half of the American population.”

Housing’s Future: Renting and Downsizing
Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog – May 15, 2012
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like a rented apartment. That may be the mantra of U.S. households for the next three years, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Demand Institute division of the U.S. Conference Board. Most Americans still hope to own a home, the study found — but that home will be smaller than the MacMansions of the housing boom.

San Jose City Council OKs developer incentives to build downtown apartment high rises
San Jose Mercury News (CA) – May 15, 2012
To bring more workers to San Jose, the City Council in January enticed developers with fee and tax waivers to fill or build office space. Now, the council wants to lure more people to live downtown — even though it means giving residential developers millions in tax breaks and other fees to do so.

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Spotlight on Sustainability: Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri

The following is based on an interview with Tom Gerend, Assistant Director of Transportation, Mid-America Regional Council

While anyone who is involved in regional planning can appreciate the difficulties of trying to work across multiple local jurisdictions, Kansas City faces a unique set of challenges. Kansas City lies on the border of Missouri and Kansas, which means the Kansas City Transit Corridors and Green Impact Zone TIGER (Transportation Invesment Generating Economic Recovery) grant, by the U.S. Department of Transportation, is working across not just city and county lines, but state lines as well. That makes the project complex, but also rich with opportunity because numerous streams of federal revenue can be tapped to focus on one region.

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Smart growth news – June 24, 2011

Poor transit system, sprawl make trips to work difficult
Kansas City Star (Kan.), June 22, 2011
A Washington think tank ranks Kansas City’s transit system among the worst in the country at getting people to jobs. Part of the blame belongs to our spread-out growth pattern, which has pulled an ever-larger share of jobs to the suburbs — beyond the easy reach of buses. “We don’t just have a transit problem, we have a job-sprawl problem,” said Ron McLinden, a public transportation advocate with the Transit Action Network in Kansas City. The recent report by the Brookings Institution ranked the Kansas City area 90th among 100 metro areas based on how well its bus system serves the workforce.

Headquarters come and go – it’s jobs that count
Raleigh News & Observer (N.C.), June 23, 2011
The Triangle: A great place to live and work; not so great for a corporate headquarters. You’d never hear this region’s boosters utter such a line, but it’s hard not to at least think it after a week in which the Triangle received another economic pat on the back and downtown Raleigh lost another headquarters. The accolade came from the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, which ranked the Triangle among the 20 strongest performing metro areas in the U.S. through the first quarter.

Transformation Detroit: Dan Gilbert’s grand plan for downtown tech hub, retail and residential
MLive.com (Mich.), June 23, 2011
These days, it seems like everybody has a plan to revitalize Detroit. But unlike many would-be visionaries, Dan Gilbert has what it takes to get it done: Money. Boatloads of it. The Quicken Loans founder and chairman is in the process of purchasing the 23-story Dime Building near Campus Martius, which would be his fourth major downtown real estate acquisition in the past 10 months, including the First National Building, Chase Tower and the Madison Theatre Building.

Walking expert prescribes ‘road diets,’ traffic circles for cities seeking street makeovers
Associated Press via Washington Post, June 20, 2011
Today, with the health, environmental and quality-of-life benefits of walk-able neighborhoods, they can’t get enough of Burden. Even in car-dependent Southern California, where he spent a few of his roughly 340 days a year on the road this spring, city planners are literally walking the talk alongside him.

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In deciding to leave Kansas City, EPA fails to practice what it preaches

The New York Times adds to the ongoing debate over the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s decision to move one of its regional offices out of Kansas City, Kan., to an office park 20 miles from downtown. The article, published via Greenwire, explains the contradiction in such a move:

“[T]he decision runs counter to the goals of the Obama Administration’s “livable communities” initiative, run by EPA, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program is based on the idea that denser populations and more mass transit lead to less pollution and less need for sprawling suburban developments on the untouched land outside cities.

‘[The lease] is totally inconsistent with what the national office has been saying and doing,’ said Kaid Benfield, director of the smart growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in an interview. ‘EPA has been a government leader in thinking about sustainability and the importance of cities in relation to environmental issues. For some reason, in this particular case, all of that was apparently disregarded.'”

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Tell the EPA: Don't leave downtown Kansas City in favor of costly sprawl!

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to move one of its regional offices out of downtown Kansas City, KS, to an office park nearly 20 miles outside of the city. The EPA employs nearly 600 people at these offices, and leaving downtown will hurt both the environment and the economy of the region.

The EPA’s decision to leave downtown contradicts its own mission, hurts employees, hurts Kansas City and wastes taxpayer dollars.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the EPA to stay in downtown Kansas City.

First and foremost this decision contradicts the mission of the EPA, which aims to reduce air pollution. Many employees will now have a longer commute that must be done by car, meaning higher emissions and more congestion on roads in the region.

Tell EPA and GSA: Leaving downtown Kansas City will raise emissions.

Equally troubling, EPA’s decision wastes valuable taxpayer dollars. The U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – both of which work closely with EPA in the Partnership for Sustainable Communities – have invested millions of dollars in projects meant to support the Kansas City region’s economy through smarter growth strategies. EPA’s decision goes against these efforts and undermines other federal agencies’ work and investments.

Tell EPA and GSA: Leaving downtown Kasnas City undermines federal investments.

The EPA’s offices in Kansas City have been a cornerstone of the city’s economic revitalization, and its decision to leave undermines these efforts. In addition, as gas prices reach all time highs the EPA’s decision will also be a burden on employees and their families. More money spent on gas and car maintenance also means less money to spend in other sectors of the economy, further hurting the Kansas City region.

The EPA’s decision is irresponsible and hurts U.S. taxpayers as well as Kansas City’s environment and economy. Help us hold the Agency accountable for its actions.

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