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Nelson-Atkins Cultural District Planning Narrows Around Three Big Ideas

Laura Spencer

Several dozen people representing neighborhoods, arts groups and the city of Kansas City, Missouri, assembled Tuesday night at the Kauffman Foundation to continue discussions about a proposed cultural district around the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

They broke into smaller work groups, then discussed and voted on three design concepts: 

  • City Beautifulfor the 21st century: "utilizing the existing framework of an acclaimed Parks and Boulevard System, this concept proposes enhancements that promote the appreciation of art and culture in a park-like environment. Beautification, ecological and programmatic improvements are designed to support this mission and to improve neighborhood quality of life."
  • Arts and education in the city: "promotes creative active urban spaces with ever-changing performance and art opportunities, sponsored by neighborhoods and institutions; designed to support all age levels from Pre-K to professional; physically and metaphorically bridge divides; new development focuses on artists' needs."
  • Connectivity through iconic amenities: "A singular sculptural element brands and visually unifies the District following a playful route along the most significant East-West connector: Brush Creek. This plan also highlight destinations, circulation paths and art/culture-themed amenities." 

Planning consultant Vicki Noteis (former director of planning and development for the City of Kansas City, Missouri) has been leading the public planning process, which kicked off last year. Noteis says the second design concept, with a focus on arts and education, was the hands-down favorite.

"It was just more kinetic, it's more urban, it's more changeable, more fast paced in a way," Noteis says. "It's supposed to be more entrepreneurial." 

The proposed district's boundaries roughly extend from 39th to 55th, and Main Street to Paseo. Noteis says bridging the east-west divide, or the "disconnect at Troost," has been a recurring theme. Other ongoing discussion topics include keeping neighborhoods healthy, creating multi-modal transportation, sustaining current and historic amenities, and establishing costs and governance. 

Over the next few months, Noteis says, the team will draft a proposal incorporating feedback. The expected final meeting — again, open to the public — is slated for mid-July. 

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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