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Riverfront Plans: Housing, Retail and a Showcase Park

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Another view of the redesigned park. The platform in the foreground would allow people to walk out over the water when the river is at flood stage.

By Steve Bell

Kansas City, MO – The plans for are completed for a new riverfront mixed-use development surrounding a redesigned Richard Berkley riverfront park. The Kansas City Port Authority unveiled the plans Thursday: a park with space for festivals and an amphitheater for events, surrounded by a neighborhood with residences, shops and offices. Berkley, for whom the park is named, would end up with the city's largest monument to a former mayor.

Berkley:
I feel very fortunate and very honored, and people have been very, very nice, and they're working very hard, and I think they have a lot of great ideas here.

Mark Johnson of Civitas, the firm that developed the plans said among the many advantages of the project, one would be most memorable.

Johnson:
You'll actually be able to get to the river and stick your toes in the water. That's the number one thing.

The state and the philanthropic community must stick their toes in the water to make the plan a reality. $55 million is needed to revamp the park.

Forest City Land Group would develop the bordering neighborhood of offices, shops and 1200 or more housing units. The Parks Department may develop a recreation destination to the east of the park.

Johnson says in addition to serving the neighborhood the park will host many community-wide events.

Johnson:
I would expect a festival having to do with the river itself, a festival having to do with largely food, a festival having to do, probably, with music. I expect we will have some of those components. And I wouldn't be surprised to see some ethnic festivals in there, too. You could float a stage on a barge and use that levy as a major amphitheater. Imagine having a concert where you're sitting down almost at the water, the band is on the water, fireworks over the river, and all of those sorts of things can be quite spectacular.

He told the crowd that by allowing close access to the river itself, the revamped park will give the public many new experiences.

Johnson:
You have a very nice park here, but you can't get to the river. That's the number one thing people said to us. You can't get to the river. In some places you can't even see the river from the park today. Then there's the proposition of building this wonderful mixed neighborhood near the river to connect Kansas City and downtown truly to the Missouri River -- something that it hasn't had, perhaps since the town of Kansas.

Planner Johnson says if everything moves according to plan, construction will start within two years.

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