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Old 11-03-2011, 09:46 AM
Location: Washington, DC area
11,010 posts, read 20,844,501 times
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Downtown Kansas City, "Kansas" vs Downtown East St Louis "Illinois"

While these cities are considerably different, KCK is not in as bad of shape that EStL is, I think KCK's downtown area is especially dead with little to no future that I can see.

KCK is more of a suburban city to KCMO than a stand alone urban center. The growth areas of KCK are entirely suburban in nature such as way out by the speedway. KCK also has a thriving heavy industrial district and an emerging area around the KU Medical Center which is more tied to the urban fabric of Midtown KCMO (being on state line) than KCK.

So these other areas of KCK could be compared to other areas of metro east (Illinois portion of StL) as KCK is considerably larger than EStL.

But downtown KCK is a different story and it will soon lose the only real office tenant they have (besides local/state//county government stuff). The EPA is leaving KCK for a far flung office park in Lenexa, KS about 15-20 miles south. The EPA originally moved from Downtown KCMO to Downtown KCK (senator Bob Dole doing) and now the EPA will soon be the only EPA office located in a far flung suburb vs a transit friendly downtown. Kind of ironic for the "Environmental Protection" Agency and can be mostly attributed to the state line issues that plague metro kc, but that's a different topic.

The EPA building in downtown KCK is really one of the biggest investments in downtown KCK in many decades and the only private investment (even though the tenant is federal govt). The EPA building was specifically built for the EPA not too long ago (mid 90's) I think.

So I'm sure it will now sit empty and deteriorate.

I have always felt that KCK could and should be a vibrant urban companion to KCMO with it's proximity to KCMO, views of KCMO and its own urban characteristics, but that's just not the case outside a small area called Strawberry Hill which is not that impressive.

Now compared to Downtown East St Louis, Downtown KCK is probably Beverly Hills. But I'm looking 20 years down the road. Will KCK and ESL swap places?

E StL is almost at a state of being able to start with a clean slate. Light Rail transit is in place to be the centerpiece of a mixed use urban area that could go up along the riverfront and in downtown. A large casino and hotel complex and parks line the Mississippi River while KCK's riverfront remains industrial and avoided other than a boat ramp at Kaw Point.

Is there a chance that either one of these cities could develop into a Covington, KY (across from Cincinnati) or even a National Harbor type area (master planned mixed use district near DC) or will they both continue to be neglected?

Both have great views and access to a major city downtown, river recreation etc. It would cool to see either Downtowns of KCK or ESL be redeveloped.

Photos, (not the best of photos, but they will do)

Here is a photo of Downtown KCK with KCMO along the horizon.

Here is a photo of Downtown East StL with StL on the horizon.

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Old 11-03-2011, 11:06 AM
Location: Jefferson City 4 days a week, St. Louis 3 days a week
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Kansas City, Kansas, I would imagine has a lot more going for it than East St. Louis does. East St. Louis is an absolute crime-ridden dump...it even makes the most rusted out parts of Detroit look nice.
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Old 11-03-2011, 11:37 AM
Location: Washington, DC area
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Originally Posted by stlouisan View Post
Kansas City, Kansas, I would imagine has a lot more going for it than East St. Louis does. East St. Louis is an absolute crime-ridden dump...it even makes the most rusted out parts of Detroit look nice.
Right, but there will come a time when that might be the best thing going for ESL. There is almost nothing left there. Nature is reclaiming the city and eventially it will be relatively easy to go there and wipe out a large chunk of it and redevelop (as well as rebrand) it.
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Old 02-10-2012, 05:00 AM
Location: Kansas City, MO
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Wow! I just found this thread. Yet I really don't know what to say. I don't know much about ESTL, so I can only provide perspective from the KCK side.

Not having been there, I've always envisioned East St. Louis as being similar to the far northeast section of KCK, the Quindaro BLVD corridor - both areas are vast majority black, poor, and derelict. Both areas on are major rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri. Being on the Mississippi, ESTL may be able to match Quindaro's history. Quindaro, of course, has an extensive history in regard to the Civil War and abolitionist movement and Western University (first black college west of the Mississippi). While not mainstream, one can tour the Quindaro town site's ruins and see the John Brown statue and former site of Western University today. The Quindaro area's most notable residential area is Parkwood, which is an historically upper-middle-class neighborhood that is still intact and inhabited, in the center of the area northeast of the intersection of 10th and Quindaro BLVD. ESTL is known to have had one of the highest murder rates in the country. Even if you secluded Quindaro from KCK, I don't think that it would stack up to ESTL. Here's a map of the area:

Kansas City, KS - Google Maps

As for comparing the ESTL to the entire city of KCK, I do believe KCK wins, despite the lack of lightrail. Although, KCMO, you did mention a mixed-use urban development in ESTL?

As you know, KCK doesn't even have a large-scale urban project in the works, at least outside the KU Med/Rosedale area. However, KCK's core has seen a lot of small-scale infill. Community (formerly Catholic) Housing of Wyandotte County has built dozens and dozens of new houses and townhouses (about 160 total) at roughly an average cost of $150K, turning around or improving multiple neighborhoods and helping people with home ownership. Their houses are well designed and most fit in very well with existing housing. KCK's mayor even chooses to live in one, in the St. Peter's neighborhood. Here's a page on their website with an example of their work:

For Sale | Community Housing of Wyandotte County

KU's School of Architecture and Urban Planning has built multiple houses in urban KCK, a couple of which are near downtown:

Studio 804

Studio 804: Mod 3

Possibly the largest single project near downtown KCK was the Prescott Plaza development at 18th and I-70, which provided an upscale grocery (Sun Fresh) to inner KCK residents, as well the area's first Jack In The Box:

Prescott Plaza - Kansas City Business Journal

Examples of recent residential development in downtown KCK:

City Vision KCK » Historic City Hall Lofts

City Vision KCK » 5th Street East Townhomes

City Vision KCK » Turtle Hill Homes and Townhomes

Examples of recent commercial development in downtown KCK:

Children's Campus of Kansas City :: RDG Planning & Design

City Vision KCK » The Kansan Building (recently landed engineering firm)

I'm going to stop, but the point is KCK's urban core is not dead and is growing, although that growth is small-scale, grassroots, organic, and slow-paced.

Looking at Wikipedia, KCK's peak population was in 1970 at 168,000, while ESTL's was 82,000 in 1950. KCK's population today is about 146,000, while ESTL's is 31,000. It looks like ESTL lost a great deal more of its population. Although, KCK did grow an expansive suburban area and glancing at a map it looks like ESTL did not. However, in history it looks like ESTL was once closer to KCK in size. In 1900, for example, ESTL's population was about 30,000, while KCK's was 51,500. KCK has suffered much since it's glory days of a bustling downtown full of department stores, but it doesn't appear to have fallen like ESTL. Also, ESTL is something like 98% black. It is extremely segregated. KCK is much more diverse at 55% "white", 27% black, 3% Asian and the rest being "other". 28% of the population is Hispanic. I had always thought KCK had fallen pretty hard and had a striking abandonement by the middle class, but comparing it to ESTL makes it seem a lot better!

KCK has an extensive Eastern European and Catholic history, which many individuals still live there and own businesses or are involved in city government. KCK is a Catholic community. I think a lot of the reason KCK has held on as well as it has is because of parochial schools, Bishop Ward High School and Donnely College, all near downtown KCK, and because of families with loyalty to the community. Having one of the top public high schools in the country, Sumner Academy, and one of the better urban school districts, hasn't hurt either. But if it weren't for the Catholics, I think KCK's core would be completely devoid of a middle class.

Another interesting fact is that just a couple decades ago, KCK's core was still majority white. Now I believe Hispanics (and not just Mexicans) make up the majority. In fact, they're even encroaching upon the Quindaro area, which is good because it breaks up the segregation. Also, the Hispanics remodel a ton of houses and storefronts and invigorate neighborhoods with families. It may not be yuppies, but it's a sort of gentrification.

As for downtown KCK, there are probably like 10,000 office workers down there and Strawberry Hill, the neighborhood with the most appeal to white people and probably most known, is part of downtown KCK. It's never really fallen, but lately has gotten better. There are several restaurants and bars in the neighborhoods business district.

Home (http://strawberryhillkck.com/default.aspx - broken link)

Downtown KCK (proper) actually has retail and restaurants and is fairly busy. HOWEVER, the retail is mostly oriented toward the working class and poor or Hispanics. Thrift stores, Rent-A-Center, urban beauty supplies, etc. There's also a small casino in downtown KCK.

Photos of downtown KCK can be found here:

KCRag Forum - View topic - 50 Photos of Downtown KCK

Svoboda: Daytripping Downtown Kansas City, Kansas

PHOTOS: Downtown KCK tree lighting | The Kansas City Kansan (http://kansascitykansan.com/blogs/nick-sloan/photos-downtown-kck-tree-lighting/9094 - broken link)

Economically, KCK is doing well too. There are over 80K jobs in KCK, which the population is only 145,000. The 2 largest employers being the University of Kansas Hospital, medical center, and nursing and med schools, which I believe has over 4,500 employees and over 3000 students. As well as GM's plant, which has a few thousand employees, I believe.


All of this and I've focused only on downtown KCK and the urban core, and haven't included any development going on in the KU Med/Rosedale area or the suburban development in KCK, usually the suburban development gets the most attention.

That said, KCK has built up an incredible suburban area several miles west of its downtown called Village West. This area is in a suburban school district called Piper, where most of the upscale suburban residential development has taken place. Although, in the grand scheme of things KCK hasn't been good at attracting middle-class suburbanites from outside the community in terms of residential. Village West, however, is a regional shopping district. Village West includes the Kansas (Nascar) Speedway, Sporting KC's stadium (KC's MLS team), T-Bones ballpark (minor league), just-opened Hollywood Casino, several hotels, as well as Schlitterbahn water park, Great Wolf Lodge, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Cabela's, Target, Walmart, Kohl's, JCPenney, a wide variety of suburban and local restaurant chains, and an outdoor, pedestrian-oriented (inward, no cars, mall without a roof) lifestyle mall with a variety of mall stores. Actually, it's taken on an "outlet theme", but offers upscale outlets like Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth, Brooks Brothers, JCrew, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, etc. Here's a satellite map showing downtown KCK on the far right and Village West on the far left:


WycoWest.com | Welcome to Western Wyandotte County, Kansas

Legends Outlets Kansas City - Outlet Mall, Deals, Restaurants, Entertainment, Events and Activities

All that said, I choose KCK! But props to ESTL's lightrail and riverfront development. KCK could certainly use some larger scale urban development to help bring in outsiders. But like I've said many times (and agree you with KCMO), it's a shame the sports facilities and at least some of went out west couldn't have been in downtown KCK.

Last edited by MOKAN; 02-10-2012 at 05:24 AM..
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