Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kansas City Renaissance May Be a Model for Jacksonville; A Focus on Renovating Downtown Is "Very Much Needed Here."

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kansas City Renaissance May Be a Model for Jacksonville; A Focus on Renovating Downtown Is "Very Much Needed Here."

Article excerpt

Byline: KEVIN TURNER

A decade ago, downtown Kansas City, Mo., was similar to many other large American cities - it had plenty of office buildings, but it had decayed over time and lacked life.

Nine years ago, the city's business and political leadership devised a plan to make their downtown a shopping and entertainment destination. They also sought to coax businesses that had fled downtown to return and interest people in living there.

Today, Kansas City has the massive, nine-block, Kansas City Power and Light District, which is filled with restaurants and nightclubs. It also has a downtown shopping district as well as loft apartments where 17,000 people live. It even houses an art museum.

All of that impressed about 100 Jacksonville professionals and business leaders who spent three days in Kansas City this week as part of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual leadership trip.

"They have been able to accomplish so much together in a relatively short period of time," said Penny Thompson, Shands Jacksonville vice president of public affairs.

The city's philanthropic track record is also very impressive, she said. The city's Stowers Institute for Medical Research was funded by $2 billion in investments from a city couple, for example.

Many came away with an appreciation of how Kansas City's focus on its downtown could work in Jacksonville.

"I think that is very much needed here in downtown Jacksonville," said city General Counsel Rick Mullaney.

An integral part of downtown planning in Kansas City was the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, a CEO-led group that has worked since 1964 to focus on the city's improvement, Mullaney said.

"I think they took a look at the dilapidated aspects of Kansas City, and they did undergo a very substantial investment," he said.

MAKING AN INVESTMENT

That investment, all told, was about $4 billion - a mixture of private and public investment, including voter-approved bond issues, said Mayor John Peyton. …

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