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Decking South Loop Tops Downtown Improvement Priority List in Survey

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4 minute read

By Kevin Collison

The proposed decking of the South Loop freeway with a park was the most popular of three potential big downtown improvements being discussed these days, according to CityScene readers responding to an informal survey.

More than 40 people offered their opinions on Facebook and Twitter last week about how they would prioritize three concepts being floated for greater downtown.

All three have a common element, to either create new green space or improve what’s already there:

1. Rebuilding Barney Allis Plaza and its underground garage at an estimated cost of $112.4 million. It’s the most refined of the three ideas, with a private consultant report made to the City Council last week outlining final design and cost estimates, but no financing plan.

2. Decking the South Loop with a four-block park from Wyandotte to Grand, estimated cost $160 million. This concept has been championed for more than a decade by the Downtown Council and other downtown advocates, and a federal grant is being sought to refine it.

3. Converting the old Buck O’Neil Bridge to a linear park, estimated $50 million to build, no estimate on long-term operational and maintenance costs. This idea is the newest of the three and has been studied the least, but has strong support at City Hall.

Decking the South Loop was ranked first by 23 respondents. Eleven put the Buck O’Neil Bridge linear park proposal at the top of their list and nine prioritized rebuilding Barney Allis Plaza.

A look at how a linear park might work on the O’Neil Bridge. (Rendering by Confluence)

Here’s what some of the people responding to the survey had to say:

Alan Johnson via Facebook: “Decking South Loop- Best return on investment and connecting downtown to Crossroads, residential already exists nearby, close to Power & Light, restaurants, culture, concert halls…. Likely federal infrastructure money available

“1. Barney Allis- Nice public plaza but limited use outside of events. Not significantly different than what’s been there for decades except a few more trees and WAY less parking.

“3. Buck O’Neil Bridge- Spending money to spend money… a linear park needs to connect two ‘places’, along a ‘path’ that people need/want to traverse. This is neither.
What about removing the North loop?”

Fred Maidment via Facebook: “We need to keep the old Buck O’Neil Bridge whether we turn it into a linear park or not. Its curves and lattice are part of what makes our skyline so beautiful.

“But if I were going to prioritize, I’d put the South Loop project just barely ahead of it. I don’t see any reason for rebuilding Barney Allis Plaza.”

Justin Michael Smith via Facebook: “I’m shocked that 1 is almost as expensive as 2. I wouldn’t care if 1 was just a multi story garage no park at all, in that dead area. But 2 would be a huge change over a very popular area. 3 is a cool idea for future but not priority.”

Mike Fredholm via Facebook: “What would I be excited to visit daily and tell friends about this city? #3, the Buck Oneil beautiful river walkway/overhead park. EMBRACE THAT RIVER for success!! Like the Seine in Paris!!

“Another parking garage (#1) is second to me, and covering the South Loop(#2) is third. But reverse the order of the last two, I am indifferent to either.”

Brian Beland via Twitter:  “2,1,3 Love the idea of capping. Barney Allis Plaza has to be done and I just can’t get excited by 3.

“One span has to be removed so the view of the bridge will be altered and the north end stops at the airport. There’s not much past that for a long way. Maybe if the K moves to Harlem.”

The final design for a revamped Barney Allis Plaza lowers it to street level and adds 39,000 square feet of green space for events. (Rendering from HOK)

Ryan Scott via Facebook: “2, 1, 3. I agree with the other poster that the linear park is cool in theory, but I think there are much better ways to spend money that actually increase connectivity and density.

“Capping the freeway is the current best way to do that, and I think the Barney Allis Plaza idea is fine, but not exciting, and doesn’t radically change that part of downtown.

“Honestly, I would love to see more money spent on smaller projects, like increasing density and amenities in midtown, as well as traffic calming pedestrian initiatives, road narrowing, infill development and things of that nature.”

John G via Twitter: “I like the idea revitalizing Barney Allis Plaza. If managed properly it could be very popular spot with all the new residents living near by as well as a draw from all across the metro.”

Wes Miller via Facebook: “I’d prioritize capping I-70, then fixing Barney Allis (I’d think this should be a public-private partnership project) and finally turning the Broadway bridge into an amusement.

“I like all 3 projects. My priority is based on what I think would bring the largest return.”

John Farmer via Facebook: “It seems as some version of #1 has to happen, due to the parking tie ins with the hotels, and it is dangerous as is.

“#2 is is a great idea if one can afford it. The added green space is really needed.

“#3 IMO, is just too much for too little, whereas revamping the North loop would be a bigger benefit, the entrance/exit ramps are obsolete and should be part of the new bridge tie in.”

Several respondents said the potential of removing the North Loop freeway should have been included on the list. (Rendering by Confluence)

David Dye via Facebook: “2 great, 3 sure, 1 – why?

“I’d love to see the north loop gone as well, and make the city a place for people instead of cars – this is also why I don’t much care about the Plaza – it’s already decent for people and the new garage will likely never pay for itself.”

The KC Downtown Loop via Twitter: “3 Bridge, 2 Loop, 1 Barney. Buck O’Neil bridge first only b/c it will be torn down if not developed, and I think it’s worth saving and adding to Downtown amenities and attractions. South Loop is a game changer. Barney Allis serves a purpose, but….

Steve Kimble via Twitter:  “Barney Allis Plaza supports parking for Bartle, Municipal, and the theater, so it must be fixed. Think of it as a leaky roof – expensive to fix and not very exciting.

Turkana__boy via Twitter: “Every visitor who drives into/through Kansas City sees the Buck O’Neil bridge, and it is an iconic image. If not restored it is to be removed. And it’s restoration would be a pedestrian heaven.”

Chris Seferyn via Twitter: “2,1,3. Only because no one lives near 1. 2 is a game changer for the entire downtown and adjacent to things that are currently busy.

“Gotta be a way to do #1 for 1/2 the price. There’s too many things going on there. Stick to parking + 1 awesome feature.”

Sven Erik Alstrom via Facebook: “Barney Allis is essential to downtown infrastructure & parking for Municipal Auditorium and more. Once a downtown Architect employee at New York Life Building and at The Brookfield Building.”

Jude Huntz via Facebook: “Regarding #3, there could be an exciting connect with the Northland in conjunction with streetcar expansion to NKC. Removing the north loop facilitates this and the development in NKC could easily connect as well.”

Pat Binning via Twitter: “#1. They are all good ideas. But BA Plaza is literally rotting. We have to take care of what already exists.”

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