A performing arts center. An entertainment district. An arena. A street car line. An arts district. A big rise in residential population, led by younger people.
You could say those things about Little Rock’s core, if perhaps not to the same degree as Kansas City is experiencing, according to this interesting New York Times report. (If we only had a philanthropist on a par with Ewing Kauffman, whose family foundations undergird the city’s smashing new performing arts complex.) But the parallels are there. Downtown KC, once a dreary place with acres of derelict buildings, now is even “cool.”
The shift has coincided with $5.5 billion in public and private projects, including the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the Sprint Center arena and the Power & Light District entertainment area, which features clubs, restaurants and — possibly the holy grail of all downtown additions — a full-service grocery store.
The number of people living in the central business district has increased about 50 percent, to 20,000, since 2000, according to the Downtown Council of Kansas City. Apartment developers added more than 6,130 units from 2002 through 2012, and occupancy is above 95 percent, according to the Kansas City office of Cassidy Turley, a real estate brokerage firm.
I’m indulging myself with a bit of nostalgia here. I’ve loved Kansas City since I was a child who rode with his dad on the Kansas City Southern up the western edge of Arkansas every summer for some baseball games at the old Kansas City Municipal Stadium. When pop got prosperous, that trip included a room at the Muehlelbach Hotel, where the New York Yankees always stayed. It’s now reborn as a wing of the downtown Marriott. I’ve probably mentioned before my thrill, while waiting for our own table at the Golden Ox, hearing the announcement: “Mr. Ford; Mr. Whitey Ford.”
Let’s dream, too, about Little Rock shall we?