Yesterday I covered the first four areas where KC can improve and is doing well in keeping up with what people view as being the most important part of their quality of life. Now I'm going to address the next 3 items.
With a few exceptions, Kansas City excels here -- and is getting better. Kansas City has great concert venues. The Sprint Center has been hosting a wide variety of events and concets. The Midland has been recently remodelled and by all reports is beautiful. The Uptown is an awesome venue and is hosting more concerts now as well. The Music Hall and Starlight Theater continue to bring in travelling broadway-style shows -- and Starlight has been hosting a lot of great concerts as well. The recent Music Hall renovations will help them attract shows they were unable to host only a few years ago.
The new performing arts center is rapidly taking shape and will be a beautiful addition to downtown -- on top of hosting a wealth of events from the Kansas City Symphony, Lyric Opera and the KC Ballet. Add this to smaller venues and Jazz Venues like the Gem and the Folly Theater and we have a great array of music choices.
The creative class in Kansas City is also making national headlines with a host of local art galleries in the Crossroads and now venturing out to neighborhoods in midtown and along Troost. For art on a larger scale, the Nelson Atkins Museum continues to be a world class art museum and the Bloch Building addition has been getting rave reviews. Museums like the Steamboat Arabia Museum, Science City, the Negro League Baseball Museum and American Jazz Museum at 18th & Vine, and the newly renovated World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial combine to make KC a haven for wonderful cultural opportunities.
If it's bars, night life and great food your after, the Power & Light District, Westport, Crossroads, Plaza, and Martini Corner offer a diverse range of bars, restaurants, night clubs and fine dining -- including many nationally renowned fine dining restaurants and chefs.
No other place in the metro can compare, and few places in the midwest outside of Chicago can compare to what Kansas City brings to the table. If residents can continue to support the cultural places and restaurants, and the private sector can continue to invest in our museums and cultural centers, KC will continue to provide a lot of things to do for the residents here.
Kansas City has a lot it can work on in this arena. Kansas City ranks very poorly in outdoor activities. Many of its parks are woefully underutilized. Many tennis courts don't have nets on them, there are few biking/running trails, almost no bike lanes on roads, few hiking trails and little neighborhood walkability.
However, we have a nice roadmap from which to work with for making up for this gap. Several years ago, Loose Park was given a large private grant that provide for increased care, maintenance and beautification for Loose Park. In the process, Loose Park has become the crown jewell of the KCMO parks system.
But better yet, the better maintenance of city parks has expanded beyond Loose Park. A couple of years ago,Gillham Park was added to the "increased improvements" list. The park has since gotten an upgrade in new playground equipment that is frequently used. The trees and brush in the southern part of the park were cleared out and much work has been done to improve the running paths and stairs in the park (with more work to come). Picnic tables have also been added to the south part of the park. The result has been a dramatic increase in park usage -- more running, walking, biking, dog walking, frisbee tossing, etc. And the increased usage has caused people to feel more safe -- which has FURTHER increased park usage. More help for Gillham Park is in the works as they will soon be adding more playground equipment and replacing the outdated swimming pool with a new splash park.
The momentum has continued. Last spring, a private resident donated money for the same type of service for Hyde Park (the actual park, not the neighborhood). The funds have been used to rebuild crumbling stairs, repave tennis courts, more frequent mowings, and brush removal. The net result? A park that used to be a safe haven for the homeless, people doing drugs, and even an o ccassional prostitution deal (yeah, I'm still scarred for having stumbled upon that) has become a park used for all sorts of activites -- tennis, mountain bikers, walkers, dog walkers, movies in the park, picnics, etc. The pictures in this section were all take a couple of weeks ago of the new and improved Hyde Park.
If you include the idea of private dollars going to fund improved parks that will encourage people to get out and be active, the possibilities are endless for improvements. Veterinary groups, dog food companies, and animal health companies could fund the building of dog parks. Bicycle groups, or manufactures, could help fund more and improved bike trails in places like Swope Park or the completion of the Brush Creek trail. Companies that market to kids could improve playground equipment in city parks (Build A Bear Workshop and Kaboom! have partnered to do this in many neighborhoods across the country already). We could hit up running shoe or apparell companies for support for more, better and lighting for running trails. Neighborhoods and private citizens could fund smaller neighborhood parks. You get the idea. Promoting this type of private involvement in our parks, and removing red tape for these projects, would be a great solution to improving these park spaces. And the increased park usage would help lower crime rates in these parks too...an added bonus.
Meet the Neighbors
Again, I think Kansas City shines in this area -- but there is always room to grow. Strong neighborhood organizations are essential for KC - -built around parks, churches, community centers, etc. There are many strong neighborhood groups - Hyde Park, Union Hill, Ivanhoe, Westport, Westside, Scarritt, Squire Park etc are great neighborhood groups that are devoted to improving the areas they serve. This is important for people -- especially folks with young families. If we can continue to promote strong neighborhood groups -- particularly in low-income areas, the whole city will improve and benefit. But I will say, that I feel more connected in my neighborhood now than I ever have in any other place I've lived in my entire life. Front porches and unattached (or non-existent) garages are a huge improvement socially in neighborhoods to back patios and attached garages that exist in the suburbs.
Tomorrow, we'll talk about how to help the urban poor.