Detailed renderings reveal vision for green space covering I-670 through downtown KC

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 11:04 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The group behind the South Loop Park Project unveiled new renderings Tuesday night showing the grand vision for a four-block public park, dining and event space going over I-670 in downtown Kansas City.

The most costly part of the project, estimated at $217 million, is the engineering endeavor of building a deck above the section of the highway straddled by Truman Road between Wyandotte Street and Grand Boulevard.

The project involves Port KC, the Downtown Council and the City of Kansas City. It’s been billed as “a public green space and state-of-the-art destination park.” Presenters said the hope is to have it built and ready to launch in 2026, when Kansas City will be hosting the World Cup.

An animated rendering of the vision can be found here. It involves nearly 5 acres of green space connecting the Central Business District with the Crossroads Arts District. It includes shade trees, gardens, a whole block of adventure playground space, plus a food hall, event lawn and event pavilion.

City Councilman Eric Bunch represents the council district where the South Loop would be located. He described it as an important step towards fixing what he described as a mistake made decades ago.

“The way that we built urban freeways that disconnected communities created a gash in the urban fabric,” Bunch said. “It’s a trench in the middle of downtown. I can think of no better way to close that trench and to fix that problem than an amazing public space.”

The biggest private investor so far is H&R Block, which pledged $10 million. Their president and CEO, Jeff Jones, now co-chairs the private fundraising campaign.

“We see not only great green space, but it’s a platform for people to convene to literally connect the two sides of town across the highway to build programming,” Jones said. “Kansas City is on the rise, and this park is just another example of that.”

Tuesday’s reveal came at the third public forum on the project. It was received with some skepticism from Lynelle Haugabrook, who lives downtown.

“A lot of development plans are kind of built on this ‘if you build it, they will come’ type of premise, and I am not necessarily convinced that this is going to attract more people than the existing things we have,” Haugabrook said. “As a walker and someone without a car, I love the shade and the rest of it that comes from having these like green spaces and all of the interaction for seating and engagement and outdoor opportunity. It’s just, I don’t know how this will be received by the city as a whole. Because you need that local buy in in order to like attract these other people outside.”

The estimated price tag for the vision presented is $217 million. The federal government has budgeted $28.6 million after a bi-partisan push from Democrat Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. The city budgeted $10 million, then the state added $28.6 million following a push from Rep. Greg Razer, a Democrat who represents Kansas City, and Rep. Lincoln Hough, a Republican who represents Springfield.

They have $19 million committed from private investors and $43 million in asks. That’s still $88 million away from the goal.

The plan is to seek federal grants, federal loans and more private investors, possibly through naming rights for the parks. It could be scaled down if they don’t get all the funding needed for the vision presented Tuesday night.

“Right now what we’re doing is establishing a vision for fundraising, as well as exploring all the opportunities for the park design itself,” said Chris Handzel, a project manager with HNTB. “There’s still a lot of ways to go in terms of the design efforts.”

He said the biggest concerns he’s heard so far in the public forums relate to traffic congestion and which north-south cross streets would remain open. Tuesday night, the group presented four different options for that.

You can find a video of the presentations and a place to leave comments for the team here.