Kansas City, Missouri City Manager Troy Schulte visited with members of IREM Kansas City on Thursday to share the latest ways he's keeping momentum going in the city. Here's a look at his newest initiatives to curb urban sprawl and create a vibrant core.
When the streetcar opened a few weeks ago, Schulte expected 2,000 riders a day. But the initial numbers blew him out of the water as the streetcar today averages 5,600 daily riders. Now, city leaders are looking to fund an expansion of the streetcar to 51st and Brookside, connecting the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Country Club Plaza to the downtown and River Market Area. And while roughly a third of the 2.2-mile starter line was federally funded, the 3.5 mile expansion will cost about $60 million a mile.
"We'll try to go through the federal funding program but the days when the Fed funded 80 percent of these projects are long gone," he said. "Our goal is to fund about half of the expansion."
Over a two-year process, major airliners have concluded that a renovation of Kansas City International Airport isn't sufficient to address its significant structural issues. While Mayor Sly James may have tabled the airport discussion for the next year, Schulte is pushing for the construction of a new airport.
"We've put that issue on hold but it's not going to go away," he said.
Although Kansas City, Missouri residents are fond of their convenient airport, they only represent 20 percent of KCI's customer base. Because more than 60 percent of KCI's customer base lives in Johnson County, Schulte wants to find a way to bring Johnson County residents in on the decision.
Schulte says airliners like Southwest Airlines would look to add more flights if it had the capacity at KCI to do so. Impressed with Cerner's international growth and economic impact, British Airlines is looking to run non-stop international flights between KCI and London. But KCI's structural liability doesn't allow new wide-bodied international jets to easily land and disembark.
"This will be a big debate that will take place in Kansas City, Missouri but it's an issue that's critical to the metro as a whole," Schulte said. "How we deal with that going forward will be critically important to the city's long-term economic health and wellbeing."
Smart City transportation
The resurgence of downtown has spilled over into Kansas City's east side, an area of town that's been overlooked for far too long. Now, Schulte is looking to bring Smart City technology and excitement to the Prospect Corridor. Kansas City is one of seven finalists vying for a $50 million grant from the federal government and other philanthropists to completely transform Prospect with bus-rapid transit, Wi-Fi, infrastructure to support autonomous vehicles, and other smart city technology.
Adding Northland rooftops
Today, Northland residential construction exceeds that of Overland Park or Olathe. But the city north of the river is on track to outpace residential permitting for both Overland Park and Olathe combined. But Schulte and his team are one step ahead. Over the past years, the city has opened up 13,000 acres for new development in the Twin Creeks area, north of Highway 152 and between I-29 and Hwy 69. This area of the city had been annexed 60 years ago, and finally, sewer lines have been built.
"There's a lot of demand in that area," Schulte said. "But what we're trying to do is focus on transit and higher density than our traditional Northland developments, giving it more of an urban feel."
The market is responding. Menards is adding a new location, and Costco recently announced its intention to add a new Northland location as well.
At full build out, the area could support roughly 125,000 residents.
Targeting Target and other retailers
The City of Kansas City is partnering with the Downtown Council to shop for retailers that could go into the downtown area. Dedicated staff from the Downtown Council are actively engaging with retailers, while the Economic Development Council of Kansas City and VanTrust Real Estate are identifying ways to attract an urban Target to help jump-start the East Village area.
"We're aggressively going after any sort of retail activity we can find," Schulte said. "We recognize that the market is not yet mature enough, but in certain areas of the city like the River Market, we think it could work."
Cordish Companies is slowly filling up its vacancies in the Power and Light District, Schulte said. But in the meantime, the city is encouraging downtown developers to incorporate first- and second-floor retail space. It's also asking developers with parking on the first floor to have the ability to convert that parking into first-floor retail in the future.
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