Once part of the rigid street grid of the West Bottom’s Historic Core, the space underneath Interstate 670 now reads as a massive tear in the area’s urban fabric. The site sits on the border between the Historic Core to the north and the Stockyards to the south. The Historic Core is densest just to the north of this site, and hosts numerous antique shops, artists studios, event spaces, and offices. To the south, there are a few garages, industrial suppliers, and vacant buildings. The barren space under the viaduct lacks pedestrian activity except when used for event parking, such as First Fridays, antique weekends, and the haunted houses.
Kansas City Water Services and HNTB are partnering up to design and deploy stormwater management improvements to the West Bottoms. I-670 is one of their sites for these infrastructural improvements. A second site is the Liberty Lots, a parking lot directly south of I-670. There is opportunity for the West Bottoms Reborn project to coordinate with their CID Green Infrastructure project to improve both water management and the public realm at the same time.
The experience of the site is shaped by the highway overhead and the columns that support it. The vast viaduct provides shelter from the elements. The concrete column structures repeat in a way that makes the space underneath resemble the interior of a cathedral or a path of torii gates. The noise of constant overhead traffic gives the site a steady rhythm and provides a hint of the motion above. There is a slight gap between the two viaduct roadways. This gap appears as a line of light in the midsts of the dark underside of the viaduct. During sunsets, the sun projects a line of light through the gap and onto the gravel ground. During storms, the rainwater drips through the gap as a wall of water, moistening a line of earth below it, juxtaposed to the dry earth underneath the roadway.
For more information on the preliminary design for the I-670 site, please refer to the KCDC's project publication for the first phase of West Bottoms Reborn.