By Kevin Collison
The familiar “bumblebees” who provide downtown security and maintenance are expanding their range to the riverfront in response to the area’s growing number of residents and visitors.
Port KC and the Downtown Community Improvement District announced a contract last week to enlist the CID’s Ambassadors to help patrol and maintain the Town of Kansas Bridge and the Heritage Riverfront Trail extending to the Kit Bond I-29 Bridge.
“As the population and use of Berkley Riverfront Park and the Riverfront Trail continues to increase, it makes sense to contract with the CID,” said Jon Stephens, Port KC president and CEO.
“They’ve already been successful with assisting downtown guests and getting ahead of problems early. This will be a seamless connection between the rest of the River Market and downtown.”
The Ambassadors, nicknamed bumblebees for their yellow-and-black uniforms, have been a familiar downtown fixture since 2003, when the Downtown Council, an organization of business and property owners, launched its community improvement district.
The organization expanded their operation to the River Market in 2006, and also provides services to the KC Streetcar Authority, KC Public Library, the City of Kansas City, Jackson County and the federal General Services Administration.
“The agreement between the CIDs and Port KC is designed to enhance an enjoyable and safe experience along the riverfront,” Sean O’Byrne, executive director of the Downtown CID, said in a statement.
“We are committed to assisting Port KC in developing a clean, safe and delightful experience for neighboring residents and visitors.”
The revival of the downtown riverfront has accelerated in recent years as more people have been enjoying Berkley Park and the riverfront trail. Bar K, a popular private dog park, bar and cafe, also has brought more visitors.
Port KC is in negotiations with private entities to establish a beer garden for the park that would include food trucks and ice rink during the winter. A live music venue accommodating up to 6,000 people is in the works, too.
The area also is becoming home to hundreds of people. The 410-unit Union at Berkley Riverfront Park apartments opened in 2018, and the 353-unit CORE apartment development is currently under construction.
Finally, a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge leading to the riverfront is expected to begin construction next to the Grand Viaduct later this year, and the streetcar is planning to extend its route from the River Market to Berkley Park.
Stephens said the CID Ambassadors will help visitors to the riverfront, clean trash and remove graffiti. The initial contract is for one-year, but that is expected to be extended.
“Our plan is for a permanent partnership,” he said.
As for the increasing number of the ‘love locks’ people have been attaching to the Town of Kansas Bridge, Stephens said Port KC likely will have to remove them at some point because their accumulated weight or dead load will eventually affect the bridge’s stability,
Paris was forced to remove love locks from some of its river bridges after their combined weight began causing damage.
“We’re working with an architectural team about maybe creating some kind of display or sculpture,” he said.
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