Kansas Stereotypes Turn Quickly To The Suburbs In Kansas City | KCUR

Kansas Stereotypes Turn Quickly To The Suburbs In Kansas City

Nov 19, 2014

Suburban life has become synonymous with parts of Johnson and Wyandotte counties in recent Kansas City history.
Credit futureatlas.com / Flickr--CC

Do you use the word, Kansas, as shorthand for the suburbs?

Our daily talk show Central Standard explored that question Wednesday.

There’s some truth to the perception that the Kansas side of the metropolitan area is way more suburban than the “real city” in the Show-Me-State, said Bill Coldiron.

Bill Coldiron has lived in Johnson County, Kan., since the 1960s.
Credit Alyson Raletz / KCUR

Coldiron, of Overland Park, Kan., is a member of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., where KCUR held a community forum last week as part of our Beyond Our Borders series.  

People who attended the forum brought up the notion of community, and how it means something different in Johnson County than it does in other parts of the metro.

“I’d like to see us be one big community,” Coldiron said.

He has lived in Johnson County since 1961.

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“When people say Johnson County, I think a lot of people in this city think of it as beige and bland ... And kind of boring,” said Jim Peters, a board member of the Volker Neighborhood Association in Kansas City, Mo., where we held a community forum last month. “I think we should be one big metro.”

Peters added that he thought the Kansas stereotype was unfair, considering similar parts of the metro don’t receive similar negative treatment.

“Basically, Lee’s Summit is much like Johnson County, but you don’t hear that brought up,” Peters said.

Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann asked how Wyandotte County, Kan., plays into suburban perceptions in Kansas City.

Coldiron said the Legends Outlets and surrounding development helped bring some much-needed attention to the other Kansas City.

“Up until then, most of the time I think Kansas City, Kansas, has been looked upon as the orphan,” he said.


Daniel Serda owns Insite Planning LLC, a community planning and economic development consulting firm in Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Alyson Raletz / KCUR

Daniel Serda, owner of Insite Planning LLC, a community planning and economic development consulting firm in Kansas City, Mo., also was a guest Wednesday on Central Standard.

He said that he sees Wyandotte County as an integral part of the urban core of the metro — with its ties to the railroad and transportation industries — but agreed that it’s been perceived differently over the years.

“Wyandotte County is in a kind of peculiar place. Is it a city or is it a suburb?” Serda told Kaufmann. “It’s interesting that we talk about KCK coming into its own when it became more suburban.”

Serda explained that the industrial and urban components of the Kansas cities' history were essential to the development of the once rural parts of the metro that we now consider suburban in Johnson and Wyandotte counties.

Kaufmann asked Serda if he thought Kansas City had its own understanding of what a suburb was.

A lot of what we call urban areas are really “vintage suburbs of another era. Brookside is a great example,” Serda said, with its single-family homes and green lawns.

For more of the conversation, listen to the full discussion above.

On Thursday's Central Standard, we'll continue our Beyond Our Borders series and explore why parents choose to send their children to schools on either side of the state line.

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This look at the Missouri-Kansas state line is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders  and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them. Be a source for Beyond Our Borders: Share your perspective and experiences on the state line with KCUR.