KANSAS CITY, Mo. — People all around the Country Club Plaza, and even in neighborhoods that might consider themselves outside the Plaza, are getting a better idea for what its future could be.
The Plaza District Council formed about a year ago and had one of it’s first public events Thursday, showing off data and maps of the area they want to help improve.
They’ve settled on three square miles bordered to the north by 43rd street, to the south by 55th, to the west by the state line, and to the east by the Paseo.
It’s much more than just the Spanish architecture that ends up on postcards.
“We have this incredible little iconic shopping center in the middle of it and it’s 15 retail blocks owned by a single owner,” said Plaza District Council President Kate Marshall. “But we’re trying to concern ourselves with the needs of all the stakeholders.”
So, Marshall says that’s why she formed the non-profit to be a place to pull in viewpoints form all over as new projects and opportunities come along.
There are already about 25 projects happening around the three square miles, from the KC Streetcar Extension, new playgrounds in parks, sidewalk and curb repair and fixing up Brush Creek all the way out to the Paseo.
“What I was really inspired by is the conversation around making Brush Creek our central park,” said KC Common Good’s Rev. Darren Faulkner. “And the language around connecting communities was huge for me.”
Faulkner already works with KC Common Good to help prevent violence in communities all over the city. He’s happy to see the Plaza District Council taking an interest in communities east of the Plaza that have historically seen disinvestment. New investment and attention there, he says, can help prevent negative outcomes.
“If that is something that really can happen then it does connect the communities and the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots,’ and gives people who have been historically the ‘have-nots’ an opportunity to rub shoulders with those who have it does lend itself to better relations which lends themselves to a safer community.”
WeCode KC founder Tammy Buckner is also on the Plaza District Council and says her non-profit can finally be brought into the fold to help. WeCode KC teaches programing and technology to students so they can get jobs out of high school.
“We’re making sure our kids are staying off the streets,” Buckner said.
She says before the District Council was formed, organizations that could help weren’t connected. Now, she hopes a more connected community throughout the district can address some of the issues that have dulled the Plaza’s shine in the past.
“[Young people are] going to come to the Plaza anyway,” Buckner said. “We want to makes sure that they have the opportunity to be involved.”
A potential new owner is doing due diligence right now as part of the process to potentially buy the Plaza. Marshall says she’s spoken with people who are part of that group and feels good about what could be next.
“It was a really great conversation with a guy who gets it, who sees what the Plaza really is, and wants to support that,” Marshall said.
While much of the conversation was about the high-level approach to what’s next Marshall says one of the first projects could be better signage around the Plaza District helping people find the cool attractions they might not know are walking distance.