KC Parks Board unanimously votes to remove JC Nichols’ name from fountain, parkway

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Parks and Recreation Board has unanimously voted Tuesday to remove developer J.C. Nichols’ name from the fountain and parkway in the Country Club Plaza area.

For now, the fountain is considered unnamed and the street will temporarily be called Mill Creek Parkway until the board determines a new name.

It’s the latest move in wake of huge protests calling for racial equality. And although it’s a small step, it’s one some believe will help begin progress toward stronger actions.

The decision came hours after Nichols’ family and the charitable foundation publicly endorsed changing the name.

On Tuesday, the family and the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation released a joint statement, saying that taking J.C. Nichols’ name off of the landmarks would be for the greater good.

The Nichols family and foundation have committed $100,000 to the City of Fountains Foundation for the continued maintenance and support of the fountain.

This isn’t the first time people throughout the city have called for J.C. Nichols’ name to be removed from the fountain. Some of the famous developer’s racist practices have long been called into question.

The Plaza is known for its Spanish architecture, fountains and sculptures. Much of what remains today has been inspired by Nichols, whose developments ranged across the city.

However, Nichols also took part in redlining, a practice that keeps minorities in certain parts of town away from people who are white.

Minorities were largely forced to live east of Troost, driving them into neighborhoods where banks wouldn’t loan money at reasonable rates.

“I think we’re already changing how we view the legacy because there’s some good and some bad in it, and I think the things that happened to exclude people of different races is not what we want to be about,” resident Theresa Voiss told FOX4.

As Black Lives Matters protests rose up against the killing of unarmed minorities, especially George Floyd in Minneapolis, Kansas Citians quickly re-evaluated the name once again this month

In early June, Parks Board Commissioner Chris Goode formally proposed renaming the fountain and road. The board held two community town hall sessions over the last few weeks, one in person and one virtually, to gather feedback.

Dozens of people spoke up, and the Parks Board said 80% of participants supported the change. Many Kansas City civic groups and the mayor were also in favor of the change.

Goode said the decision Tuesday is but one piece of beginning the broader conversations that are “long overdue.”

“This action is not about erasing history. It’s about responding to history,” said Jack Holland, Kansas City Parks Board chair.

But some said the symbolic gesture just isn’t enough.

“Did that change lives? Did that change the way people think? Change is going to start with how people think, and until we can change that, then we’re not doing anything or making a difference,” resident Shaniece Garlington said.

Goode agreed but insisted the move opens an important door.

“Real solutions do not come by removal of names and symbols, but they tend to push us toward the right direction of progress, and I’m proud of what this board stood for today,” he said.

Not that the vote is official, the board will begin the process of deciding what to rename the fountain and parkway.

The Parks Board said street signs along the former JC Nichols Parkway should be changed out soon. Eventually, the board will launch a new public process to get input on what the street and fountain should be called.

But first, it will renew conversations about how best to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Kansas City.

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