Episode 3: Creating Vibrant Activity Centers

Orignal Air Date: 3/24/11, 7:30 p.m., KCPT

Watch the complete third episode below

The third episode of Imagine KC focused on creating and sustaining vibrant activity centers, and the critical role these community anchors play in the Centers, Corridors and Conservation strategy for building a more green, vibrant and connected region. Stories explore a widespread desire to revitalize historic downtowns, develop more active centers in older bedroom suburbs and build new centers in emerging suburbs on greenfield sites. This episode demonstrates the defining characteristics of different types of centers by highlighting regional examples and showing how quality urban design principles have been, and continue to be the key to creating our most beloved community places. We also explore some local government plans and ordinances that support a key element of the region's sustainability vision, which strives to develop a connected network of vibrant activity centers.

In short, this episode will answers the questions: What does a vibrant community look like and what policies and actions can local communities use to guide the development of these centers?



Introduction: What are vibrant, active centers, where are they and what do they look like in our region?

The Kansas City region has excellent examples of quality places and vibrant centers—residential areas, shopping districts and public spaces—that enhance the lives of area residents. Many of the region’s quality places are more than 50 years old, and it’s helpful to keep these models in mind to inspire and direct us in the complex task of translating the regional centers plan and associated design principles into reality.

This segment provides an overview of local examples, the strategies that spurred their creation, and how these centers have sustained or reinvented their sense of place over time.

Some of the region's vibrant centers shown in this segment:



Leavenworth, Kansas: Sustaining vibrant downtown centers

Leavenworth, founded in 1854, was the first incorporated city in Kansas. The city is located south of Fort Leavenworth, the oldest active Army post west of the Mississippi. Leavenworth is also working hard to ensure that its once thriving downtown remains vibrant today. Dedicated residents and grassroots organizations spearheaded an effort to revitalize the downtown in the 1980s. Now identified as a National Downtown District and qualifying for National Trust for Historic Preservation funds since 1995, more than 65 historic buildings, and land from downtown to the fort have benefited from business renovations and repairs, façade improvements and historic preservation projects. Surrounding urban and rural districts have also benefitted from revitalization efforts, including new construction projects designed to maintain the city’s sense of place.

In this story, Imagine KC talks to city government staff, elected officials and shopkeepers involved in downtown revitalization efforts to show what is required in an undertaking as intensive as maintaining and improving one of our region’s most historic places. In this segment, we also show how some of our region’s other historic centers remain vibrant and vital to residents.


Creating centers in older suburbs

Why are so many older suburbs trying to create town centers? What are the visions, challenges, successes, processes and strategies they have encountered in trying to make them a reality? This segment looks at some of our region’s more established suburbs and the processes they are using to create and maintain a sense of place that meets current market demand and demographic shifts.

Learn more about our region's older suburbs>


Gladstone, Missouri

The city of Gladstone, established in 1878, is now a community of nine square miles with more than 27,000 residents and over 8,000 housing units. It’s also a vital commercial community of around 940 establishments. Today, Gladstone addresses growth and change with a long-term plan which looks at creating a new town center in a series of planned milestones. Progress can be seen in the city’s recent efforts to make its North Oak transit vision a reality and in other accomplishments, such as a new community center and attractive streetscape enhancements. This segment looks at the city’s plan to create a new center to provide a community identity and to improve its housing and community amenities.  We talk with local government and community leaders and show you elements of Gladstone’s long-term plan which will soon become a reality.

The OverView

Exploring Kansas City through Alex Maclean's Aerial Photographs with curatorial commentary from Kathleen Collins.


In-studio Interview: Ora Reynolds and Mike Scanlon

Implementation of specific development codes and ordinances consistent with the core principles of local government plans and the regional centers plan is a necessary step toward advancing local and regional visions for sustainable development.

Development codes and ordinances at the local government level guide key planning decisions that impact the form and function of our built environment — where we live, work, play and shop. Imagine KC host Sue Patterson examined these concepts from a developer’s perspective and from that of a local government planner when she sat down for a conversation with Ora Reynolds, president of Hunt Midwest Real Estate Development; and Mike Scanlon, city manager of Mission, Kansas.

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Urban Design Principles: Creating quality places

As new town centers are created in greenfields, where they didn’t previously exist, it’s important to recognize the policies and design standards that make these places vibrant, active centers and community treasures. These are the product of intentional planning around the needs and desires of residents, under the guidance of quality urban design standards. This segment looks at some of our region’s most recent developments and how they incorporate urban design principles and best practices to address market demand that will produce a high standard of living for future residents.