Published April 11th, 2023 at 6:00 AM
The $200 million proposal to cover the disruptive South Loop freeway with a four-block park should have a goal of becoming the “community front yard for downtown,” according to a new public survey released today.
More than 1,650 people offered their opinion either personally or online about what’s tentatively called the South Loop Link.
The ambitious endeavor calls for a 4.6-acre park to be built above the freeway from Wyandotte Street to Grand Boulevard, mending the wound created when the noisy South Loop trench separated the central business district from the Crossroads in the 1960s.
The results of the survey are to be presented today at an event sponsored by the Downtown Council from 5- 7 p.m. at The Gallery Event Space, 61 E. 14th St. in the Power & Light District.
The survey combined the results of a community meeting held March 7 at the Downtown YMCA and an online questionnaire. It’s the first time the public has had an opportunity to offer what they’d like to see in a proposal that’s been discussed for more than 15 years.
Over the past few years, the idea has gained momentum in an effort led by the Downtown Council, an association of business and property owners. Klyde Warren Park, also located above a freeway in downtown Dallas, has proven very successful as a civic gathering space.
Backers have received almost $30 million in federal funding for the proposal, and private donors have contributed another $18 million, including a $10 million grant from H&R Block, the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation and the H&R Block Foundation
The City Council also is currently reviewing a proposal to ask Jefferson City for $15 million in state tax credits, which could generate at least another $30 million in private donations. Additional funding is expected to come from the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Port KC has been assigned to manage the effort and last year HNTB was hired to do the planning and design work.
So what would the public like to see in a prospective South Loop Link?
“My biggest want is for the area to be a place where people can meet and spend time together without having to spend money,” said one respondent.
“Art, art, art, and opportunity for multicultural spaces like an outdoor museum and small shops,” said another.
“As many trees as possible,” added another.
“A great lunch break destination would attract more downtown business,” said one.
When asked what the South Loop project should be for Kansas City, 52% responded a community front yard for downtown; 26% said a refuge for the city, and 17% said the place for civic and cultural events.
Creating better green space has been a consistent wish of downtown residents surveyed by the Downtown Council, a desire that includes more dog parks, walking trails, sports courts, art amenities and restrooms.
When asked how they’d like to program the proposed South Loop Link, the biggest response was creating an event lawn followed by interactive public art, passive space, shady courts, restrooms, ornamental gardens, food truck and pop-up markets.
If the South Loop Link project moves forward, the plan ultimately calls for the park itself to be owned and maintained publicly, and its operation and programming handled by a non-profit group, similar to the one used in Dallas.
Flatland contributor Kevin Collison is the founder of CityScene KC, an online source for downtown news and issues.