Destination Kansas City

For a  number of years, the streets and sidewalks of Downtown Kansas City were concrete cemeteries. No noise. No hurry. No traffic. Nobody.

Finally, Downtown is coming back from the dead with more than $4 billion in major improvements. In fact, since 2000 more than 3,000 people have resurrected office and warehouse structures into vibrant and luxurious offices, retail spaces, condos, lofts and apartments.

One of the smaller but most important developments is  among the most popular: soon downtown residents will have their own neighborhood grocery store.

Downtown Kansas City is enjoying a development renaissance with more than $4 billion in investment in the southern sector of the downtown loop.

The list of of the projects currently or soon to be developed in Downtown KC includes:

• The importance of the $276 million, 20,000-seat Sprint Center simply cannot be overemphasized. Without it, much of the adjacent development most likely wouldn’t have happened. The arena will house the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, expected to draw at least 150,000 visitors its inaugural year.

• The new $835 million, nine block Power & Light District will feature entertainment, retail, office and residential opportunities. The district will link Downtown’s core office buildings, convention center, hotels, residential areas and attractions.

• H&R Block’s world headquarters, with 1,500 employees, is in the middle of the action in the Power & Light District. The $138 million headquarters occupies 525,000 square feet and 19 stories near the Sprint Center. The building also includes a 300-seat theater serving as the second home of the Kansas City Repertory Theater.

• The historic Hotel President and its legendary Drum Room have enjoyed a $45 million restoration into a 213-room boutique hotel. Now the Hilton President, the hotel was the headquarters for the 1928 Republican Convention.

• AMC Entertainment is restoring two more historic Kansas City venues at a cost of approximately $60 million: the Empire Theater and the Midland Theater. The Empire Theater, built in 1921, will become a six-screen digital movie theater complex. The Midland Theater will serve as a live music venue.

• Approximately $135 million has recently been invested in the Kansas City Convention Center renovation and expansion. The center of the expansion is the grand ballroom and multipurpose space spanning the interstate—46,450 square feet will accommodate more than 6,000 people. The Convention Center will look more like a high-end hotel after its renovation. The new space includes spacious boardrooms, state-of-the-art AV equipment, high-speed wireless Internet access and an innovative, energy-efficient lighting system. New seats and upgrades to art deco jewel Municipal Auditorium are included, as well.

• More organic, but equally important is the Crossroads and Freight House Districts, vital links in the urban chain. Grassroots efforts produced scads of art galleries, boutiques and restaurants, which have attracted small business owners as well as upscale residents.

• A bit farther south, the new $370 million IRS Service Center will become one of the largest Downtown employers, consolidating 6,000 employees in the 1.1 million square-foot facility. This project also includes remodeling the former Main Post Office.

• Overlooking Downtown is the Liberty Memorial Museum and Monument—the nation’s World War I Monument—has enjoyed a multi-year, $90 million renovation. This includes 30,000 square feet of museum space beneath the memorial, more than 15 times larger than before.

• To the south of the Liberty Memorial rises the new $280 million Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Its 14 floors will be home to more than 1,000 employees in 2008.

• MAX is a friendly—and fast—way to get around the city. The $21 million Metro Area Express bus rapid transit line connects the River Market, Downtown, Crown Center and Plaza.

• Looming on the horizon, literally and figuratively, the $326 million Metropolitan Kansas City Performing Arts Center is scheduled to open in 2009. The center will include a 1,600-seat, acoustically perfect concert hall for musical performances as well as an 1,800-seat hall for opera, ballet and theater.

In distinct ways, each project listed is responsible for giving the entire Downtown area its new lease on life.