The history of Kansas City is a tale of two cities. The Missouri city was established in the 1820s, followed in 1868 by its sister city (known locally as KCK) across the Missouri River. Linked by more than a shared name and bridges, the two form one large metropolitan area. Each city retains its own identity, however. Until recently, KCK was the more industrial one, while the other city got most of the corporate headquarters and entertainment, sports, and cultural venues. But since the decision to consolidate the KCK and Wyandotte County governments in 1997 (KCK is the county seat), fortunes are beginning to change on the western side. The city known as the Heart of America is getting a massive facelift, with new master planned communities, enormous entertainment complexes, and a rash of downtown revitalization under way.
“Several years ago, Kansas City realized [it] needed to do something to ensure a healthy, growing, vibrant downtown and surrounding areas,” says David Rezac, principal of local firm 360 Architecture. Citizens approved gambling, resulting in plans for several new casinos; they also voted to increase the size of the convention center and revitalize the central business district. “The coming years will see our visions becoming reality,” says Rezac. The effort has already borne fruit: Money magazine put KCK on its list of top places to live in 2005 and 2006. But downtown isn't the only part of town that's experiencing growth. Areas south and west of the city's center are booming with new development.
“With unique retail and entertainment venues in Wyandotte County, growth will surpass many other areas of metropolitan Kansas City,” predicts Scott Lane, senior vice president/managing broker of Reece & Nichols, a local commercial real estate brokerage. “Developers are already beginning to expand south and west, creating additional new home community options in the higher-than-average price range. As retail moves south and west, so will the demand for housing, driving up home values and average sales price.”
A July 2005 census estimated the city's population at 144,210. Job growth for the metropolitan area rose 1.4 percent from June 2006 to June 2007.
Wyandotte County's 470,731-square-foot office market was 21 percent vacant at midyear 2007, with average asking rates for Class A space of $15.75 per square foot. The unusually high vacancy rate is a result of, among other things, recent layoffs by large companies and moves from older buildings into more recent construction.
In June 2007, the average home sale price in Wyandotte and Johnson counties, the Kansas portion of the Kansas City metro area, was $247,000. Homes stayed on the market an average of 81 days.
- More tax revenue from new developments
- Good schools
- Growing service sector
- Increasing unemployment rate
- Suburban sprawl
- Aging and inefficient infrastructure
“Village West [a retail and entertainment destination] and Kansas Speedway have given us leverage with new property tax dollars to reinvest in our older commercial and residential neighborhoods and increased developer interest to levels not seen in the last several decades,” says Cindy Cash, president of the local chamber of commerce.