Kansas City, Missouri, used to stash its disasters on the riverfront. Supposedly the rubble from the Hyatt skywalk collapse, the Kemper Arena roof cave-in and the Wayne Miner housing project all wound up in the dump situated between the Heart of America and Paseo bridges.
The rubble's been hauled away as part of the long and expensive process of making the riverfront suitable for more than just hobos and trash-diving birds. But one crucial step remains: Find somebody in the private sector who wants 55 acres with sweet waterfront views.
Reclaiming the riverfront has been a major effort. Berkley Park opened in 1998. The environmental remediation of the former dump was completed in 2007 at a cost of $45 million. A trail underneath the ASB Bridge opened in 2009. An interchange with the new Bond Bridge is under construction.
On Wednesday, the Port Authority of Kansas City began another project: an extension of Front Street that will connect Grand Avenue with the interstate. Current and former mayors Mark Funkhouser, Emanuel Cleaver II and Dick Berkley turned shovels alongside Port Authority Chairman Trey Runnion and others.
The road under construction will incorporate "green" elements, such as LED lighting and a pervious pavement trailhead. The Port Authority has made sustainability a feature of the redevelopment process, restoring a wetland and planting native species along the Riverfront Heritage Trail, which no longer comes to a sad and sudden end
at the ASB Bridge.
Bringing back the riverfront has meant undoing the mistakes of prior generations of leaders, who saw water's edges as a place for sand and gravel companies and little more. "We've done dumb things," Cleaver said at the ceremony.
The public sector can take the riverfront so far, however. What's needed next is a developer with deep pockets or a big company looking for a cool site for a corporate headquarters. But for now, it's up to trail users and Fourth of July celebrants
to make use of the reclamation.