By Kevin Collison
Two alternative concepts for the proposed four-block park above the South Loop freeway, one calling for the closure of Baltimore Avenue, the other Walnut Street, were presented at a public meeting Tuesday.
The proposed South Loop Link would cover the freeway from Wyandotte to Grand, and designers with OJB Architecture said a 40-foot drop in grade between Wyandotte and Baltimore required some creative approaches to making a potential park work.
One idea, referred to as Scheme A, called for the park to run uninterrupted between Wyandotte and Main, a design that would require the closing of Baltimore. Scheme B called for the park to run continuously between Main and Grand, which would close Walnut.
Both concepts include areas for relaxation, a children’s playground, restrooms, ample landscaping a trees, an event lawn and permanent food and beverage structures. They differed in which parts of the alternative versions those amenities would be located.
The audience was asked to provide feedback to the designs, which will be further refined and presented again in late summer.
You can see the presentation by an architect with OJB Architecture here.
OBJ has designed parks around the country, including the recent reconstruction of a large park in downtown Omaha.
In a public survey released at the event, a majority of people believe its goal should be becoming the “community front yard for downtown.”
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 to Grand, mending the downtown wound caused when the noisy South Loop trench separated the central business district from the Crossroads in the 1960s.
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.
It’s based on the model of Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. That park also is located above a freeway and 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 recently approved 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 percent responded a community front yard for downtown; 26 percent said a refuge for the city, and 17 percent 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.
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Definitely love the idea of a lot of trees. If it’s blazing hot and no shade in the summertime, people won’t use it. But I do hope they keep retail out of it. I like the idea of small cafes around the perimeter (maybe on the bottom floor of the “Light” buildings), but otherwise, just keep it a park. So excited about this!
I’d like to see Walnut blocked off over Baltimore. You would be removing access to Power & Light Tower, President Hotel, the new Blue Cross Blue Shield KC headquarters, and the potential site for 4 light. Seems like it would create a lot of congestion and the stretch of Walnut between 2 and 3 light doesn’t see nearly as much traffic. Still nice to see these renderings.
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