Kansas City has come a long way in the last 15 years — so say some of the participants in the Urban Land Institute’s Nichols Forum.
The day-and-a-half gathering concluded Thursday with a panel discussion on Kansas City’s emergence as an 18-hour city, a term applied to middle-tier cities such as Pittsburgh, Seattle and Austin, Texas.
Patrick Phillips spent the better part of the day discussing some of the development opportunities for such cities.
Phillips is global CEO of the Urban Land Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit education and research institute focused on providing leadership on responsible land use.
Renowned Kansas City developer J.C. Nichols was one of the group’s original founders in 1936.
Phillips said 18-hour cities are lively most of the day and night, embrace alternatives to driving with bike lanes, pedestrian walkways and transit systems, and attract a growing number of millennials as well as baby boomers.
The city, Phillips said, is far removed from the days when it essentially shut down at dusk.
“Kansas City is seeing a lot of growth and a lot of interest,” Phillips said during a networking reception Thursday evening. “It has a lot of assets and a lot going for it.”
As part of the forum, participants embarked on a tour that included visits to the River Market, Country Club Plaza, Power & Light District, Crossroads Arts District, Crown Center, 18th and Vine, Beacon Hill and the cultural district surrounding the Art Institute of Kansas City, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Arts and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Stops were also made at residential developments spearheaded by J.C. Nichols on both sides of the state line.
More than $5 billion in public and private money has been invested in the areas in the past five years, Phillips said, triggering an urban renaissance of mixed-use development.
Those traits are essential for attracting businesses and a competitive labor force, he said.
“These are the things that are making cities competitive again,” Phillips said. “It’s about a quality of life.”
Kansas City’s emergence since the turn of the century is not lost on 22-year-old Connor Privett, who volunteered for the forum as part of the Kansas City Design Team.
Privett, an Olathe native, is in graduate school at Kansas State University. He plans to return to the area as an architect after he completes school.
“When I was growing up I wanted to move out of Kansas City, but now I kind of want to live and work here,” he said. “The whole reputation of Kansas City looks promising.”
David Brain, founder and CEO of Kansas City-based Brown Cow Capital, joined a panel that included Phillips and guests from Denver and Indianapolis.
Brain, former CEO of EPR Properties, said he is proud of Kansas City’s evolution as a vibrant place to start a business and live.
“We may not be a 24-hour city, but we are not a backwater community by any stretch,” Brain said. “Local or national, Kansas City makes for a great place.”