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Bringing Social Change and Urban River Restoration Together Through Public Involvement and Spatial Analysis

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Located in the heart of Midtown Kansas City, Missouri, within the urbanized Brush Creek Basin and adjacent to Troost Avenue, the Historic Manheim Park Association is a diamond in the rough. This neighborhood has many fine historic homes but is suffering from longstanding infrastructure neglect and suburban flight. To counter this, the neighborhood has joined forces with adjacent neighborhoods, a strong, watershed based, local community advocacy group; planning and design professionals and local graduate students to develop a vision for revitalizing the historic neighborhood. The grassroots vision plan was led by community leaders and fed by the voice of the community. A vision statement and goals and objectives were developed through a public process involving members of Manheim Park and two surrounding historic neighborhood groups. The public process worked in tandem with an environmental and economic analysis developed by planning professionals who identified significant habitat restoration opportunities, underserved and aged stormwater infrastructure, and the need to create a destination that draws in people and commercial investment. Together, the community goals and objectives and the environmental and economic analysis indicate significant possibilities to meet many community goals through innovative stormwater management that re-links the neighborhood to the adjacent Brush Creek.

Brush Creek itself has a storied history. It was channelized in the early 1900's to make way for building Kansas City's premier shopping destination, The Country Club Plaza, and one of the Nation's first planned communities, Mission Hills, upstream in Kansas. Between 1920 and 1992, Brush Creek has also had the unfortunate history of deadly flash flooding and poor water quality, both stemming from rapid urbanization of the upstream Brush Creek Watershed. In response to the flooding, and to protect the County Club Plaza, the Army Corps of Engineers integrated a flood control channelization project and urban riverfront walk along the corridor below the Plaza in the 1990's, but did not improve the section adjacent to Manheim Park, which remains today as a 1930s era concrete flat bottom ditch.

The Historic Manheim Park Neighborhood is poised to redefine its position in the City as a major community asset. This paper will explore the spatial, social, historical, and environmental relationships between Brush Creek, the Historic Manheim Park Neighborhood, and Troost Avenue illustrating how these themes could converge around urban river restoration.
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Keywords: Community Planning; Spatial Analysis; Urban River Restoration

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2010

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