Kansas City, a sprawling municipality of 319 square miles that spreads into four counties, has long benefited from lots of green space.
It has one of the nation’s largest public parks in Swope Park, and about 215 smaller ones, thanks to planning that flourished from 1893 to 1915 when George Kessler designed a parks and boulevards system for south of the Missouri River.
In recent decades, the city’s population and development growth in the Northland has turned planners’ attention to Platte and Clay counties, where demographers say as many as 75,000 residents might choose to live in new neighborhoods within the next 20 or 30 years.
City Hall this year looked ahead to burnish parkland planning in the Northland’s Twin Creeks development area. That effort began with a quick call internationally for design ideas.
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The name probably won’t stick, but for now the planned area is being called Linear Park, a reflection of the 7-mile-long narrow tract that could become a public amenity along the Twin Creeks watershed.
“We haven’t identified a timeline yet,” said Mark McHenry, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. “The key is to come up with an engaging concept and bring support to it.”
The city in April sent out a call for proposals and received 20 submissions by the July deadline. A nine-member committee in August, composed of national and local evaluators, whittled the entries down to three winners, none of which will be the end product but all of which will contribute to the eventual design, McHenry said.
On Oct. 19, in a 10 a.m. presentation at the Platte County Resource Center, 11724 N.W. Plaza Circle, representatives from the three finalists will offer a public view of their ideas. They are:
▪ Small Wonders, a team with designers in Seattle and New York City, proposing an environmental education theme, including a butterfly habitat.
▪ Cadaster of Brooklyn, N.Y., proposing three interweaving trails for pedestrians and cyclists with periodic green spaces.
▪ Apliz of Borba, Portugal, proposing a sequence of creekside parks that protects the existing forest, ponds and meadows.
Each of the three winners received $8,000 stipends to defray their expenses in producing the concepts or traveling.
“Eventually, Twin Creeks will have neighborhoods, schools, fire stations, all the necessary infrastructure, and boulevards,” McHenry said. “It’s important to develop with a plan for trails and public, open space. We’re looking at this holistically from an urban planning approach.”
In addition to the parks department, participants include the Water Department, the Public Works Department, the Planning and Development Department, the Platte County Development Council and the philanthropic consultancy of Bloomberg Associates.
Bloomberg Associates, founded by Michael Bloomberg, a businessman and former New York mayor, focuses on assisting cities with urban planning. The Bloomberg group helped Kansas City reach out to the international design community. Proposals were submitted from seven countries.
McHenry said Kansas City area designers also submitted proposals but didn’t make the top-three cut. He said the winners were selected based on design quality, overall vision, environmental sustainability and feasibility for implementation.
Kansas City has completed $43.5 million in infrastructure improvements to the 15,000-acre Twin Creeks area, and developers have begun building housing and commercial spaces in the area.