Four years ago, Kansas City completed $7.3 million in improvements on Main Street between 34th and 44th streets.
Now, ambitious plans are on the drawing board to extend those streetscape improvements farther north.
It’s intended to help Main Street live up to its name, not just as a main drag for cars, but as a more attractive, green and walkable artery for the city.
“We all have witnessed the private investment that has followed, helping to revitalize the heart of midtown,” said Diane Burnette, executive director of the MainCor community organization, which spearheaded many of the changes on Main Street and along 43rd Street from Nichols Road to Oak Street. “Now we are looking to connect to the north and hope to eventually go all the way to Pershing. Our goals are good, safe, walkable neighborhoods everyone deserves.”
The $7.3 million helped pay for trees, native plantings, signage, lighting, benches, pavers and bike racks as Main Street bisects Hyde Park, Westport and Southmoreland. Now the goal is to add those improvements closer to the McDonald’s, Lamar’s, Gates Barbecue and Midtown Marketplace, including Home Depot and Costco.
About $150,000 is available to complete the streetscape design. Representatives of Confluence, who are doing the design, met Nov. 21 with area businesses who were enthusiastic about the planned improvements.
“We’re pushing,” Terry Berkbuegler, a principal with Confluence, said about plans to complete the design by early next year. But he assured property owners that designers will work with every property to make sure trees and other amenities are properly placed and don’t obscure their signs or entrances.
Actual construction awaits additional funding, roughly estimated at $2 million. MainCor has submitted a request to the Public Improvements Advisory Committee for sales tax dollars, but it has not yet been approved. Another option may be funding through a general obligation bond authorization that voters will be asked to approve next spring.
Confluence will carry forward the same design features from the earlier Main Street streetscape phases, which were implemented from 2009 through 2012.
The changes have resulted in more pedestrians and bicyclists through the corridor, according to MainCor’s counts. A typical weekday in 2011 saw about 15,500 pedestrian movements and 920 bike trips between 31st and 43rd streets. By 2015, that number had risen to about 19,500 pedestrians and 1,190 bicycle trips.
These streetscape improvements are planned whether or not downtown’s streetcar eventually extends south on Main Street. A grass-roots group has proposed extending the streetcar route south from Union Station to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. That plan still requires voter approval and will take years to complete even if approved.
Transit advocate David Johnson was at MainCor’s streetscape design discussion Nov. 21. He said the Confluence design changes are intended to work with or without the streetcar. In fact, if approved, the streetcar may well run down the center of Main Street, so its stops would not be on the sidewalks, like they are in downtown. In addition, if the streetcar is built on Main Street, the MAX bus route might be moved off Main, so those bus stops would go away.