A couple of months ago I attended a wedding in Kansas City, a place I lived after graduating from college.  Back when I was fortunate to work with the wonderful people at Wellner Architects, I worked in what was then an almost lifeless downtown.  My walk to work from my derelict parking garage took me past decaying and sullen buildings.  As an architect and planner who went into Architecture school because of my passion for our built environment and the amazing history our buildings reflect, I always walked with a heavy heart.

It’s exciting to see the progress in Kansas City and other cities in the Midwest.  The Power and Light District has now taken the place of my horrid parking garage, and many of the buildings I used to lament about have either been renovated, some sadly torn down, or new ones built.  People walk the streets – there is life and vibrancy.  We attended the wedding in what I call the ‘warehouse flats’ the low side of the City close to Kemper Arena.  Who would have dreamed of exciting redevelopment in that once desolate area?!  It’s happening.  And it’s exciting!

I recently went to coffee with a gentleman who has long been involved in the development in St. Louis.  We had a fun conversation about people we both knew and the amazing, and often frustrating, resistance to change in our area.  How there seems to be an undercurrent of amazingly creative energy that never seems to quite bubble over and infect our metropolitan area.

Why does Kansas City seem so much younger and willing to embrace change and we seem to fall behind?  Do we, really, or is it a matter of scale?  Or is it that we’re so busy not feeling quite up to the status of Chicago, but being nipped on the ankles by smaller Cities that are more innovative like Kansas City, Memphis, Chatanooga (yes, Chatanooga!).

My friend mentioned during our coffee that St. Louisans tend to do things in silos, vertically, without consideration for a bigger plan, the bigger picture; that in order to succeed we need to develop projects that connect to the fabric of the surroundings while looking to the future and taking a bit of risk.

For an old dog, I think he may be on to something.

St. Louis, Kansas City, Silos and the Need to Embrace a Bigger Development Picture