Asking Hard Questions to Overcome Disparities
Bold and visionary. Operational and tactical. The new Imagine Downtown KC 2030 Strategic Plan is a path for any city seeking to promote shared prosperity, sustenance and resilience for future generations.
Kansas City’s Downtown, anchored by a decade of strong economic growth and billions of dollars in investment, was poised for continued growth and success. The City had just embarked on a new strategic plan to define Downtown’s future...when COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill.
The incredibly destabilizing events of 2020—including deep economic uncertainty and the exposure of systemic racial and social inequities—allowed the Downtown Council and its partners to step back and ask a critical question: how can we ensure that Downtown’s economic, physical, social and educational opportunities are shared by and provide meaningful and tangible benefits for everyone in the community?
Recognizing the disparities in the distribution of previous investments and responding to a new virtual world, the Downtown Council and the MIG Team (including strong local minority- and women-owned partners) crafted and implemented a robust planning and community engagement process. Originally planned as a series of in-person workshops, we reconfigured the outreach program into an innovative multimedia-based approach that involved hundreds of participants. The program included online workshops and surveys, stakeholder and focus group meetings, a podcast series, and a set of “Community Conversations.” The activities were specifically designed to foster discussion with neighborhood leaders, businesses, and community members representing areas and groups that had previously not been involved in city planning efforts.
Along with the engagement effort, we conducted rigorous technical analyses of existing conditions, economic and market trends, and potential catalytic sites. We created renderings and visualizations to detail the variety of large and small projects that Kansas City will implement in the next decade.
The extensive and inclusive program revealed new trends, opportunities and challenges. It helped to inform priorities, strategies, policies and actions to achieve the overarching Plan vision of an equitable, inclusive and vibrant Downtown Kansas City.