A (Shade) Tree Grows in Crossroads

A crew prepares a tree well in the Crossroads for its new occupant. (Photo from Crossroads Community Association webpage)

By Kevin Collison

The Crossroads Community Association wants to grow its way out of being downtown’s hottest neighborhood–literally–by planting dozens of street trees to provide more shade.

“The goal is to make a meaningful dent in the tree canopy coverage in the near term,” said David Johnson, a CCA board member.

“We plan to fill empty wells where trees died or were cut down during the streetcar construction six years ago.”

This week, 11 trees were planted throughout the neighborhood in the first phase. Johnson said there’s a total of 50 wells needing new trees and the plan calls for replanting them all before expanding to new locations.

The key to maintaining the new trees and planting more will be the establishment of a long-contemplated community improvement district in the Crossroads. The idea of creating a CID to fund security and landscaping has been kicked around for many years.

“We’ve had fits and starts with a CID, but we’re serious this time,” Johnson said. “I’m project manager for getting a Crossroads CID up and running in the next one- to two years.”

The latest discussion on how a district would be funded calls for charging a flat rate on property owners based on the size of their building, Johnson said.

In the meantime, the Crossroads Association has committed to watering and caring for the trees for the first two years.

A pair of newly-planted trees on Baltimore near 18th Street.

A 2018 Urban Forest Master Plan by the city parks department found only 1.2 percent of the Crossroads neighborhood was sheltered by a tree canopy as opposed to 2.5 percent in the Central Business District, according to the CCA.

That compares with city neighborhoods such as Crestwood where 60 percent benefits from a tree canopy.

Without the shade of trees, parking lots and other paved surfaces absorb heat and create heat islands that can make the temperature feel hotter.

“With climate change threatening to increase the number of hot days in the region, we have to do our part to help mitigate the impact – especially on streets with no open green space,” Robert Harris, CCA president, said in a statement.

The replanting effort is being privately funded, although the Streetcar Authority is paying to  replace the trees removed during construction of the downtown streetcar line.

The CCA also is working to fund future tree-planting phases with multiple sources, including the city’s RebuidKC grant program, according a press release.

“We appreciate the tremendous support of Crossroads Community property owners, the city, Kansas City Streetcar Authority, KCMO Parks, and Heartland Tree Alliance (HTA) in our efforts,” Harris stated.

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  1. Since moving to the Western Auto building, I have concluded Grand Blvd is one of the worst streets in the city. I think it could be massively improved by a median from Truman Road to Crown Center that was grassy and had trees. And then narrowed to one traffic lane going each way (or two narrow lanes), with bike lanes on at least one side. As is it’s basically a highway for drag races and enormous groups of motorcycles to race from 20th Street to Crown Center all night long, and it’s hot and too wide and incredibly unwelcoming to pedestrians.

    • A decade or so ago, there was something called the Make Grand Grand initiative that called for many of the same improvements. I don’t know where it disappeared. I agree with your appraisal of Grand, when I first came here I thought it resembled an airport runway.

      • Oh, interesting. I emailed my two council representatives about it, and was summarily brushed off by the one who responded. It was included in a complaint about how all of the streetlights between 20th and 22nd are burned out or broken, and nothing has been done about those.

  2. Planting a couple dozen trees isn’t going to have much impact on the level of heat. Need to add green roofs to buildings and green infrastructure to streets and surface parking lots.

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