Do you agree on the top Midtown storylines of 2013?

school busAs the calendar turns over to 2014, we thought we’d review some of the major trends we’ve followed for the past year. We expect all of these storylines to continue to impact Midtown, for better or worse, in the coming 12 months. Here are what we think are the top ten issues in Midtown, listed in no particular order.

But, we’d also like to hear what you think. Did we cover the right things in 2013, or did we miss something? And what do you think will be important issues in Midtown in 2014?

  • Schools, or the lack of them, continue to be a huge issue for residents with and without children. While the year began with the Kansas City School District under provisional accreditation, it closed with the district fighting a court decision that upheld the state transfer law allowing students from unaccredited districts to transfer to a neighboring district. Meanwhile, the district’s repurposing program continued to seek out new uses for closed district schools, including Westport High and Middle School. Parents and teachers at Gordon Park charter school in Volker were shocked when the state suddenly closed that school, but it reopened after a court battle. And a group of Midtown parents took the initiative to try to secure more options for their children, forming the Midtown Community School Initiative.

Sample storiesSchool board sues to stop student transferSale of Westport Middle raises concerns about Midtown school capacities; Details on Westport schools reuse: A private school and an urban gardening center; Details on Westport schools reuse: Market rate housing proposalState asks court to amend Gordon Parks decision; Midtown group challenges residents to re-imagine local schools.

  • The changes on Armour Boulevard made by Mac Properties have continued to redevelop and stabilize the area. Developer MAC Properties told a Midtown audience early in 2013 it was betting millions of dollars that its redevelopment along Armour Boulevard would bring people back to the area. The company has renovated more than 20 properties and continued its efforts in 2013 with the reopening of the Bellerive and the purchase of the Gillham Plaza Building. But as the year ended, MAC disagreed with the some members of  Old Hyde Park neighborhood and preservationists about the redevelopment potential of several buildings and the Historic Preservation Commission voted not to allow MAC to demolish them.

Sample stories: Bellerive is back in play on Armour; Armour Boulevard group to buy dull but useful building; Mansion returns to life on Armour Boulevard; The Homestead’s new name has a Pendergast past; Historic commission denies demolition of Armour buildings

  • Broadway holds the promise of developing into a newly revitalized arts and entertainment area. People began talking about possible new life on Broadway with the word that Hamburger Mary’s may relocate to the Uptown Theater and other restaurants may come to the nearby Uptown Shoppes at 3600 Broadway. Across the street, the Uptown Arts Bar hosted daily events, and a new jazz club opened.
  • Residents are sharing ideas for the future of the area as they help develop the new Midtown Plaza area Plan. At a series of meetings that will continue in 2014, resident are being invited to get involved in developing the city plan that will guide land use, development, economic development and transportation. At the initial meetings, they described why they like living in Midtown: the diversity of people, places, businesses, experience, and economy; proximity and easy access to other parts of the city; and the sense of place that comes from the history and preservation of Midtown, the design of its public spaces, and its look and feel. As the planning progress progressed, residents gave input into specific sections of Midtown and how they would like them to grow and change.

Sample stories: In NW area of Midtown, concerns about traffic speed and development; In NE area of Midtown, vacant property and changes brought on by redevelopment; Public gives more input into developing Midtown-Plaza planPacked room tells city what is good, could be better about Midtown; Midtowners already weighing in online on Midtown/Plaza plan; Residents tell Midtown-Plaza planners why they live in Midtown; What concerns do residents have about Midtown’s future? 

  • Midtown’s transportation system is changing, with more options available and others in the works. Over the past year, we’ve reported on the controversy over building a new airport, while a blue ribbon commission considers its recommendation. Midtowners continue to support the Main Street and Troost MAX bus systems, and planning is underway for a Prospect MAX. As the first phase of the streetcar system began being built downtown, the city studied additional routes and narrowed its focus on three, including Main Street and the Linwood/31st Street corridor. Finally, the bike rental program operating downtown started plan for its move toward the UMKC area and new bike lanes were added to area streets.

Sample stories: ATA begins planning study of Prospect MAX; Committee begins considering changes to airport; Streetcar expansion planning moves forward; Be the first to get the new KC bike map; Is there a B-cycle station in your neighborhood’s future?

  • The focus on crime prevention has shifted to a more comprehensive approach called “focused deterrence.” Early this year Kansas City started the No Violence Alliance, a broader and smarter attempt to prevent murder and shootings before they happen. The approach links law enforcement and community groups and dates to successful efforts in other cities and to military doctrine. There have still been more than 100 homicides in the city this year, but supporters say that will change.
  • Google Fiber’s installation in Midtown neighborhoods has opened doors for change, but residents continue to be concerned about he growing “digital divide.” In late 2012, Neighborhoods began deciding whether to sign upfor the new Google service which competes with cable companies to deliver high speed internet and TV.  Midtown was in the national spotlight as Kansas City became the first city with the ultra-high speed internet service, attracting tech startup companies to the area. But many also worried about the growing digital divide and the impact on the digital have nots.

What do you think? Are these the most important issues in Midtown Kansas City, or are we missing something we should be covering?