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New Midtown Leader Plans to Add Livability and Placemaking to Streetcar Expansion

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3 minute read

By Kevin Collison

Midtown KC Now, formerly MainCor, has chosen Kevin Klinkenberg as its new executive director, succeeding its longtime, respected leader Diane Burnette who left recently to take a job with the Urban Land Institute in Washington D.C.

Klinkenberg brings a strong background in architecture and planning to his new job, and his latest position before returning to Kansas City was a four-year stint as executive director of the Savannah (GA) Development and Renewal Authority.

Prior to moving to Georgia in 2010, he was a familiar face in the local planning and architecture world. He was a past president of the KC Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and founder of the Urban Society of Kansas City.

Klinkenberg’s also written on topics related to urban revitalization, and publishes a blog entitled “The Messy City-Embracing Change, Unpredictability and Local Initiative.”

His arrival comes when Main Street is preparing for the planned extension of the streetcar from downtown to UMKC by late 2024 and the expansion of Midtown KC’s footprint to include not only the community improvement district on Main, but Broadway as well.

CitySceneKC sat down with Kevin recently at the Monarch coffee shop at Armour and Broadway to discuss his plans for the organization at this pivotal time for midtown.

What are your immediate goals for Midtown KC Now?

“It’s a really interesting gig and kudos to Diane and what she built over 17 years. My goals are to continue the great things they’re doing well managing the two CIDS. I’d like to figure out how to do more and provide even better services in the districts.

MainCor has worked closely with the city to develop an overlay district on Main and I want to continue shaping redevelopment along Main.”

Midtown KC Now is responsible for maintenance and security in two community improvement districts on Main Street and Broadway. (Map from Midtown KC Now)

How should Main Street be preparing for the anticipated streetcar extension?

“I want people to think of this as not just laying tracks in the street, but a once-in-a-generation placemaking opportunity. The streetcar will change the entire function of Main Street in a good way.

I want to get Main Street back to the walkable, mixed-use street it originally was and was meant to be.

I want to encourage everyone working on the streetcar to think broadly about urban density and the opportunity this will present.”

What plans to you have for the existing Main Street and Broadway CIDs?

“I think we do an excellent job with cleaning and maintenance and security, although there’s always more we’d like to do with security. I’d like to do more case management working with the homeless.

“Along 39th street we’ve had specific problems for a lot of years. We’ve been working with the city to help building owners deal with these issues in a handful of properties.

I’d also like to create a place-making committee. I’m think about the little intersections in Midtown where we can do interesting things.”

There are complaints that Kansas City Life Insurance has not done much to redevelop the extensive properties it owns in Midtown, what do you think its role should be?

“There is such incredible potential in Midtown. This whole part of the city is poised for a great run over the next 10-20 years. I hope the people who own a lot of land move their development forward.

“Understand, 20 years ago the whole area was in decay and they were in a defensive position. But now, there’s a lot of opportunities.

Now we have the time to rethink the area. Not just with big buildings, but urban-style buildings, smaller apartments to rebuild the city’s residential base.”

The Kansas City Life Insurance headquarters is a Midtown institution at 3520 Broadway.

What’s your take on Exact Partners is redevelopment of the former Hawthorne Place at 39th and Main into the Netherlands and Monarch apartment project in anticipation of the streetcar extension?

“It’s a phenomenal project and it’s exciting to see what they’re doing four or five years ahead of the streetcar even coming down Main. It speaks highly of Midtown that people are making these investments.”

What did you learn from your experience in Savannah that could be applied here?

“It’s the importance of doing things to a high level of excellence in terms of architecture and public spaces. Savannah is internationally know for a one square-mile historic district. Because it’s so good, they draw 14 million tourists per year.

“The attention to detail in Savannah is incredibly important when you’re walking around. I want to bring that to Midtown and create public spaces. The effect on livability and the value it creates is something to behold.”

(Editor’s note: Beginning Dec. 2, CityScene KC has become a paid subscription publication)

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