The Lights Are Much Brighter There…
by Jeff Pinkerton
The International Downtown Association recently released a report measuring downtowns throughout the country.
The IDA defined downtown as a one-mile radius around the commercial core. Downtown Kansas City checks in with just under 70,000 employees and 22,000 residents. This makes Downtown KC the 57th– largest downtown in the country in terms of employment. (This just counts primary downtowns. There are secondary employment centers — like Brooklyn in New York, or Westwood in Los Angeles — that are still larger than Downtown Kansas City).
It’s somewhat surprising that Downtown Kansas City ranks lower than downtowns in much smaller metros like Buffalo, Tempe and Des Moines.
Clearly, Kansas City is a metro with multiple employment centers. The one-mile radius around the Sprint Campus and the I-435 Office Parks in Overland Park, with 57,951 and 33,300 employees respectively, were also included in the analysis.
Kansas City Employment Centers
Downtown employment seems to be going through a shift right now. Over the past 10 years, Downtown Kansas City has lost thousands of publishing and telecommunications jobs. We are seeing increases in industries like performing arts, food service and professional, scientific and technical services.
The overall numbers for Downtown Kansas City may not be that impressive, but any long-time downtown watcher will know that Downtown Kansas City has increased in its stature in the region. Employment growth is slow, but the residential population is clearly on the upswing. Many new residential projects are in the works to meet the growing demand.
And though it was not covered in the report, Downtown is increasingly becoming a strong entertainment center for the region. With the Sprint Center, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the Power and Light District and First Fridays in the Crossroads, more and more metro residents are becoming reacquainted with Downtown.
Add to the mix the Downtown Streetcar, the potential UMKC Arts Campus and new small business incubators and there is reason to believe that Downtown Kansas City will rank higher in future studies. We may not be ready to forget all our troubles and forget all our cares, but the lights are definitely getting much brighter.