KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The ambitious $217 million South Loop Project that would put a park over four blocks of I-670 as it passes through downtown Kansas City is getting closer to breaking ground on at least the early stages of the project.
New renderings released at a meeting Tuesday night show some of the most detailed features of the project, even detailing the three distinct segments that will be laid out from west to east.
The western block, closest to the Loews Kansas City Hotel, is designed to stand alone but also potentially be used with the hotel nearby, allowing room for food trucks, and tents for special events. Large numbers of trees covering walking paths and seating will give people a place to find shade while they eat or simply spend time in the park.
The center piece of the plans is a large space designed with children in mind. Nature Play areas complement traditional playground structures that give kids safe places to explore. A nearby building will have cafes, retail options, and park offices. Retail businesses could help generate revenue for security and office space could house park offices.
The two blocks to the east would become one superblock, with the most recent renderings showing Walnut Street being closed to traffic. Instead, a performance pavilion will be where the street once was with a food hall northwest.
A dog park to the east, designers say, brings its own form of security in downtown dog owners who will need to use that space year-round no matter the weather, discouraging unwanted activities there.
“We’re responding to what people want to see in the park,” said Kansas City Assistant City Manager Mario Vasquez. “We’re responding to the conditions the space presents, the various challenges.”
It’s a welcome addition to Liberty resident Brett Seskis who says he’s moving downtown in the next few months.
“It really shows that there’s investment coming back to downtown,” Seskis said. “It kind of gives everybody something to do.”
The project did get a little more expensive since our last update a few months ago from $200 million to $217 million, which is not uncommon for construction projects due to inflation and rising construction costs.
City officials say $86 million in private and public money has been pledged or secured for the project so far, leaving roughly $130 million before the final goal is reached. But Vasquez says the city could start moving forward with about $140 million to get the early stages started.
“We’re building the plane as we’re flying it,” Vasquez said.
The clock is ticking because the goal is to have the South Loop Project completed by the time World Cup 2026 visitors descend on Kansas City.
Vasquez says ideally, a contractor would be selected in early 2024 with some work starting in late 2024 and full construction happening through all of 2025. If the project has to happen in phases, Vasquez says all four blocks would still be included.
“The priority would be to try to build out the infrastructure meaning all the walls, utilities, roadways, the cap to Grand [Avenue], and at the same time continue to raise money to do the enhancements: the structures, the playgrounds, the walkways,” Vasquez said.
Downtown resident Ron Waldbillig says he considers himself an ambassador for the city and a massive park, covering an otherwise noisy highway, would join a long list of other assests nearby.
“Quite often when we have visitors, we take them out to different places and show them, city markets, so many other places,” Waldbillig said. “So, this is just another great place to go and show our city off.”