West Bottoms Reborn







In 2015, the Historic West Bottoms Association (HWB) approached the KCDC and the City of KCMO Office of Culture and Creative Services for help in addressing infrastructure and connectivity needs in the West Bottoms, with the hope that improvements would engage the unique heritage of the area and sustain its emerging arts industry without demeaning it. The KCDC worked with HWB and OCCS to apply for a National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Our Town Grant, which is a grant program (eligible to municipalities) that supports projects that enhance the quality of life and opportunity for existing residents, increase creative activity, and create a distinct sense of place with the arts at their core. Our Town projects challenge artists, arts organizations, and community development practitioners to deliberately integrate arts and culture into community revitalization work - placing arts at the table with land-use, transportation, economic development, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety strategies. The KCDC West Bottoms Vision Study for a System of Public Places builds upon the Greater Downtown Area Plan (extends downtown boundaries to the West Bottoms), Arts Convergence Plan (nurturing city-wide artistic production), the KCDC 2011 West Bottoms Vision Plan, and the Urban Land Institute’s Rose Fellowship Study (economic development). This project will also build on an existing streetscape and wayfinding plan and a green infrastructure plan that is currently underway. 


Continue to develop policies first identified in KCMO’s Arts Convergence Plan which support artists and artistic production in the West Bottoms.

Increase social and civic engagement through the integration of art and cultural production into urban planning processes.

Invest in the critical infrastructure and public space needs in the West Bottoms.

Increase art and cultural production through the development of urban infrastructure and public space. 

Increase both population and jobs connected to arts and culture in the West Bottoms. 



A vision for a system of public spaces in the West Bottoms will be produced.

Conceptual, programming, and design studies will be produced for the system of selected sites in the West Bottoms.

A series of public engagement programming designed to honor the history and place of the historic West Bottoms will be held in conjunction with the project. 

Public space design prototyping of the chosen sites, which will undergo full design development and implementation, including installation of site specific artwork. This process will be carried out by the KCDC and design team members, culminating as part of a design-build academic exercise.

A comprehensive project publication will be produced, documenting the entire process and the design iterations, and advancing an argument for art based processes in the creation of public spaces.




Fall 2015

The KCDC applies for an NEA Our Town Grant in partnership with the HWB and OCCS.

Spring 2016

The NEA Awards the City of Kansas City, Missouri $100,000 for the project in spring 2016.

Fall 2016

The project commences in the fall of 2016. In Jan 2017, two artists are competitively selected to join the design team.

Spring 2017

The KCDC design team conducts a rigorous research and analysis phase, engaging community members, artists, and business owners, with the goal of selecting three sites in the West Bottoms for prototypical public space design.

Fall 2017

The three sites are selected for further design investigation, and the design phase begins. This phase centers on the exploration of conceptual and programmatic scenarios for the deployment of arts at each individual site across all media.

Spring 2018

Design development and implementation begins on the three sites. The project culminates in a public celebration in spring 2018.


Guiding Principles 

  •  Inclusive Public Space

  •  Activation and Interactivity

  •  Digestion and Understanding

  •  Inspirations and Rejuvenation

  •  Equity and Partnership

  •  Pragmatic Processes

Defining Outcomes

  • Design a Public Space that inspires others 
  • Cultivate a design process with full integration of artists, designers, and communities
  • Cultivate partnerships without exploitation of the creative class
  • Assess the traumas surrounding the sense of place present in the West Bottoms 
  • Engage adjacent communities in Kansas City, KS 
  • Activate the space through collective use, occupation, and ownership
  • Create lasting partnerships between artists, residents, communities, stakeholders, and  business owners. 
  • Address topics of sustainability and green infrastructure in relationship to the land and river
  • Implement a project that generates new possibilities for public space and the arts