Urban Land Institute Urges the City of Kansas, City, Missouri, to Bring Equity to the Park System by Establishing a Conservancy and Listening to the Community

Urban Land Institute Urges the City of Kansas, City, Missouri, to Bring Equity to the Park System by Establishing a Conservancy and Listening to the Community

Kansas City, Missouri, can begin to heal the wounds of racial division by establishing a more equitable process for parks and recreation investment through a new parks conservancy and listening to the broad-based needs of the community, according to a report released this week by the Urban Land Institute. ULI is a global, multidisciplinary real estate organization whose work is driven by more than 45,000 members dedicated to responsible land use and building thriving communities.

The report is based on recommendations from a panel of parks and equity experts convened last year through ULI’s Advisory Services program to advise the city on how to create an equitable parks system that works for the benefit for all residents, not just a privileged few. The panel’s visit, which took place from December 1-6, 2019, was sponsored by Kansas City, Missouri, Parks and Recreation Association and included tours of the as well as interviews with a variety of stakeholders in the community conjunction with the 10 Minute Walk Campaign, a national movement striving to ensure that residents of urban neighborhoods throughout America have access to a high-quality park within a ten-minute walk from their homes. The visit concluded with initial recommendations by the panel, which were explained in further detail in the report.

The recommendations include:

  • Establishment of a parks conservancy: The panel recommended establishing a conservancy that would be able to attract broad based support from the community, which would be able to raise funds, advocate for policies and resources to improve the public realm, and provide relevant programs, activations, and events that connect residents to parks;
  • An equitable approach on maintenance, park development, and programming: Advisory Services panelists recommended that the parks and boulevard system change its planning and development processes, focusing on the people most harmed, to produce equitable social outcomes. This includes creating a shared definition of equitable planning and development so that access to KC Parks planning, programming, and maintenance can be addressed with community buy-in;
  • Better align the capital budget to maximize opportunities to leverage limited resources: The panelists recommend that a more collaborative process surrounding citywide budgeting occur to enable KC Parks to better realign its capital budget with available capital funding and staff expertise as well as refocus to reduce operation and maintenance and new revenue opportunities; and
  • Utilize the upcoming comprehensive planning process to evaluate development patterns and code surrounding parks: The panelists recommended that the city’s Planning and Development department implement a more holistic neighborhood strategy to coordinate resources both within the urban core and suburban areas, following smart growth principles outlined in the report as well as recognize that housing should be seen as a necessary and complementary use to neighborhood parks;

among other recommendations to increase the equity of the park and boulevard system and city.

The panel was chaired by ULI member Carlton Brown, principal, Direct Invest, New York, New York. “As Kansas City and the entire country have been awakened to the challenges of structural racism and how policies, have created, in essence, two Americas one Black and one White, ULI was already at work in Kansas City”, said Brown. “The observations and process recommendation contained in this report may not only point the way forward in Kansas City but may also inform the creation of a blueprint for other communities around the country that believe in a future in which the entire community thrives equitably together.”

Brown was joined on the panel by David Abraham, lecturer/research scientist, Rice University, Houston, Texas; Karen Abrams, program officer, Equitable Development, The Heinz Endowments, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Kate Humphrey, director of development, Public-Private Partnerships Division, Housing and Revitalization Department, City of Detroit, Detroit, Michigan; Emeka Moneme, senior vice president and managing director, The Menkiti Group, Washington, D.C.; Bonnie Roy, partner, SWT Design, St. Louis, Missouri; and Allison Schapker, director, capital projects, Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“Racial inequity is not just a regional issue, but a national one, and one ULI has sadly played a role in,” said ULI chief executive officer W. Edward Walter. “We want to make this right. The organization is working to identify the systemic elements of community planning, real estate development, and financing that have helped establish a legacy of racial inequities. Reports like this one are opportunities to have this discussion and present recommendations to address the systemic failures affecting our ability to build just and inclusive communities nationally.”

For more than 70 years, ULI’s Advisory Services Program has assembled ULI members who are experts in the fields of real estate development and land use to advise communities facing complex urban development challenges. Past sponsors of ULI Advisory Services panels include federal, state, and local governments; regional councils of government; chambers of commerce; redevelopment agencies; private developers and property owners; community development organizations; lenders; groups focused on historic preservation; local nonprofits; environmental organizations and economic development authorities.

About the Urban Land Institute
The Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the institute has more than 45,000 members worldwide representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines. For more information on ULI, please visit uli.org  or follow us on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram.

About ULI Kansas City
The Kansas City District Council was founded in 1994 and now includes more than 300 Kansas City-area members. Our members are involved in all aspects of the development and city planning process – private, public, and non-profit. Membership in ULI Kansas City includes the research and resources of the oldest and largest network of cross-disciplinary real estate and land use experts in the world. Follow ULI Kansas City on Twitter.