Category Archives: Media spotlight: KC

Big news: Google Fiber picks KCK

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon being teased by several e-mails about a “HUGE” announcement taking place today in KCK that would feature, among other highlights, a catered lunch from Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ. *cue drooling*

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in a blissful, Internet-free existence), you probably already know the news. Google has picked KCK out of more than 1,000 cities to be the first city included in its groundbreaking Fiber Project.

In a nutshell? KCK’s getting some crazy fast Internet. But the Google Fiber Project is much, much more than Internet connection speed. Schools, businesses, local government and residents will all be able to benefit from this technology, and the opportunities and outcomes that could result from this designation are nearly limitless.

As for my two cents? I’ll be strongly advocating for any and all downtown KCK opportunities that may come of this announcement. Sure, I’m biased, seeing as I’m a board member for the Downtown Shareholders, a membership-based downtown advocacy group. And this doesn’t mean I want to shun the western half of the county–Google Fiber means great things for Cerner, Sporting Kansas City, Kansas Speedway and the Legends.

Yet within this project that perfectly encapsulates forward growth and progression, I hope that momentum will translate to KCK’s urban core as it becomes a more vibrant, thriving downtown, echoing a similar renaissance that’s taken place across the river.

Congratulations, KCK!

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Plaza’s Balcony Building saved? Not yet.

An updated rendering of the Polsinelli Shughart building on the Plaza. Image courtesy of the Kansas City Star.

According to many who have seen Highwoods Properties’ revised rendering of the Polsinelli Shughart building on the Country Club Plaza, the Balcony Building–and the district itself–are saved. Whew! Glad we could clear that up so quickly! Except …

Is the Plaza REALLY saved? Maybe using the word ‘saved’ is a little dramatic. It’s not as if the Polsinelli Shughart project puts the entire shopping district at risk for immediate demolition.

The concern — as I and many, many others have pointed out — is that the design of this building is fundamentally different from the existing Spanish aesthetic, and therefore infringes on the Plaza’s signature architectural style. Questions have also been raised about the Plaza’s lack of inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Although that designation isn’t an iron-clad way to prevent new development or renovations, it certainly requires a more careful thought and planning process from those wishing to modify qualifying structures.

As the debate about the Plaza project has continued, supporters have pointed to Valencia Plaza, a newer structure that was built to house restaurant, retail and office space. According to an article published on Buildings.com, “Valencia Place claims status as the largest project ever developed in the Kansas City, MO, Country Club Plaza.”

Valencia Place’s claim to fame is a 10-story tower, two stories taller than the proposed Polsinelli building. Yet thanks to height restrictions passed in 1989, the tower was built 70 feet back from 47th Street, the main Plaza thoroughfare, so as not to interfere with the existing streetscape. That same distance of 70 feet will be used in the Polsinelli project, according to developers.

Take note, however, of this materials description from the aforementioned article in a quote from John Hunter, senior project manager for J.E. Dunn. “‘One of the most striking aspects of this structure was the architect’s use of materials,’ Hunter says. ‘Eight different colors of brick, in many different shapes, were integrated with the stone. The ornate facade and earth-tone colors complement the Spanish-style architecture of the Country Club Plaza’s existing buildings.'”

Although I’m thrilled that the revised Polsinelli building incorporates the existing structure of the Balcony Building, I still worry about the new construction that appears to be mostly glass and a neutral-colored brick or stone. A caller on Monday’s “Up To Date” radio show made a fair point about inevitable change that happens over time, and how much the Plaza has changed in the last few decades. I consider myself a forward-thinking, progressive person, and am all about urban development and renewal, especially when it can resuscitate a previously blighted area.

Yet I still worry that the Polsinelli building — even in its revised form — is too much of an architectural and aesthetic departure for the Plaza, one of the few areas in Kansas City *not* crying out for renewal and construction. Maybe I’m being overly sentimental, but I am adamant that the Plaza is one of Kansas City’s defining factors and should be treated with special care and attention. Do we, as a city, want to work to preserve one of the few strongly identifiable characteristics of our sprawling metropolitan area? Or do we watch as the Plaza’s history and appearance is chipped away, one building at a time? I vote for preservation. For perseverance. For protection. And for principles.

Save the Plaza.

The Food Network Hearts Kansas City!

Photo by Katy Ryan

I admit it. When Guy Fieri walked past me after taping the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” segment at Columbus Park sandwich shop Happy Gillis, I was sorta definitely starstruck. And then promptly berated by a couple of lurking onlookers for not taking a picture.

I’m so excited to (finally!) see the episode air at 9 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 30. OK, OK – so I’m definitely curious to see if I make the segment while I’m destroying the delicious steak sandwich. But more than that, I’m so excited for more people (especially those outside of Kansas City) to be introduced to what is, without a doubt, one of my favorite restaurants in the city.

I’ll be sure to head back this week and enjoy the calm before the DD&D storm, but don’t worry – I’ll brave a line down the block for what I’ve declared the best biscuits and gravy in Kansas City. Seriously. You’ve got to try them.

So be sure to tune in live or set your DVRs! And while we’re talking about KC restaurants on TV, a huge congratulations to Julian mastermind Celina Tio on her selection as a competitor on “The Next Iron Chef.” As if I needed another reason to love the Food Network!

“Moon Kansas City” in the media!

Happy day! Lucas Wetzel of KCFreePress.com wrote a fantastic Q&A about “Moon Kansas City” and the behind-the-scenes process. Check it out, and don’t forget to stop back by later today for the third “Reason I Love Kansas City!”

Adventures of an aerialist

Kansas City aerialist Rachel McMeachin performs. Photo courtesy of Rachel McMeachin.

I’ve always wanted to be a performer. Put me in front of a crowd and I’ll do my best to entertain, although I can’t claim to be a singer, a dancer or an actress.

Instead I live vicariously through those who make their living on stage, and that’s why this week’s Odd Jobs profile for KCFreePress.com proved endlessly fascinating. Rachel McMeachin, a founding member of Kansas City’s aerial performance troupe Voler – Thieves of Flight, has a performance background that’s as varied as her costume wardrobe, which she says is bursting out of her closet.

When Rachel isn’t performing, she spends her time teaching aerial techniques from her West Bottoms loft. My new goal? To develop enough upper-body strength that I can enroll in her beginners’ level. I don’t expect to fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Instead, I’ll leave that to the experts.

Hold the barbecue, bring on the art!

CR KC Skyline Day-13.jpg

Kansas City skyline from the Crossroads District. Photo courtesy of the New York Post.

Throughout the year, the New York Post has regularly posted articles, galleries and city guides that add up to one monumental story: a travel guide through each of the 50 states.

And now it’s Missouri’s turn, and that means Kansas City steps into the spotlight. Sure, the story includes obligatory mentions of the city’s barbecue and jazz cultures, but an overwhelming portion of the story centers on the local arts scene, a creative mix that fills a wide-ranging spectrum from independent galleries to world-renowned museums like the Nelson-Atkins, Kemper and Nerman.

If you’re inspired to spend the rest of the week enmeshed in Kansas City’s arts community, use this daily blog as a guide for navigating upcoming art openings and exhibits authored by the tireless Steve Brisendine, a writer/journalist/painter/curator who has become a veritable fixture of the local arts scene.