Crossroads district is named one of the ‘15 Great Places in America’ by American Planning Association

The East Crossroads looking east from a rooftop near the intersection of 18th Street and Oak Avenue.
The East Crossroads looking east from a rooftop near the intersection of 18th Street and Oak Avenue.

Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District made this year’s list of “15 Great Places in America,” according a national group of city planners.

The American Planning Association included the Crossroads on its annual list of neighborhoods, streets and public places released Wednesday.

To call the Crossroads well planned may strike some as counterintuitive. The district south of the downtown Kansas City loop, once filled with vacant buildings, is better known for an organic process of redevelopment that filled it, bit by bit over more than a decade, with restaurants, art galleries and shops, eventually launching the popular First Friday event.

Much of the planning for that transformation may not be obvious, said Roberta Rewers, a spokeswoman for the association.

“It’s like an iceberg,” she said. “It’s 90 percent of the work that goes on under the water.”

The association praised the area’s mix of artistic and entrepreneurial activities, walkability of streets and the efforts of city planners through Kansas City’s FOCUS plan in the 1990s and the Greater Downtown Area Plan in 2010.

The district’s historic buildings, conversion of old warehouses, bike sharing stations and public transit also contributed to the award, along with the streetcar line expected to open in 2016. Also boosting the profile of the Crossroads were the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the Crossroads Music Festival and the fact that Kansas City was the first metro area in the country to receive Google Fiber.

The list also recognized the neighborhoods of downtown Plano in Texas, the Wynwood Arts District in Miami and the Roosevelt Row Arts District in Phoenix.

The association is still looking for a public place to recognize with its People’s Choice award. Anyone can vote for their favorite spot by contacting the group on Twitter at @APA_Planning and using the hashtag #GreatPlaces.