2022 Nichols Student Prize Winners

Tianna Morton wins First Prize in the 2022 Nichols Student Prize competition for Urban Planning + Design students.

The Garden District
The Garden District, FIRST PRIZE

Tianna Morton’s project reimagined the area adjacent to Main and Linwood as “The Garden District.” Her project starts with a examination of whether big-box retail will still be viable in the future. Taking the site of Midtown Marketplace, she redevelops Linwood Boulevard as the site for apartments with an adjacent community of a mix of housing types. The Garden District will expand housing opportunity in Kansas City while providing a new park.

Two other projects received prizes in the competition. Jazmin Bustos received a Second Prize for her project Imagine the Possibilities. The jury was impressed with the attention to community institutions as part of her program for the site at Main and Linwood.

Imagine the Possibilities
Jazmin Bustos, Second Prize

Jazmin Bustos’ project included a child care facility, a library, and a community center with the aim of providing the services that could bring families back into this portion of Midtown Kansas City. Finally, the jury awarded a Second Prize to Luke Bertram’s project Baltimore Square.

Baltimore Square
Luke Bertram, Second Prize

Baltimore Square proposes the extension of Baltimore Avenue north across Linwood Boulevard up to 31st Street. Around the area of 32nd Street, Baltimore Avenue would intersect a public square providing a quiet respite from the bustle of Main St, Linwood Boulevard and 31st Street. The jury thought this design reflected an appealing sense of urbanism.

The Nichols Student Prize is awarded to students in competing to develop innovative urban designs and developments as a part of their education in UMKC Urban Planning + Design program. Support for the Nichols Student prize has been generously endowed by the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation.

AUPD joins the new UMKC School of Science and Engineering in 2022.

The Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design will be joining the new UMKC School of Science in Engineering on July 1, 2022. Come to UMKC and learn to build the cities of tomorrow with programs in Architecture, Urban Planning + Design, Civil Engineering and Environmental Studies.

UPD Student Jared Islas Awarded Transportation Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Portland, OR

Junior Urban Planning + Design student Jared Islas will spend the summer researching transportation planning at Portland State University in Portland, OR.

UPD junior Jared Islas
UPD junior Jared Islas

Jared was selected among a competitive pool of undergraduate students across the country and the globe to participate in the Transportation Undergraduate Research Fellowship (TURF) sponsored by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) at Portland State. NITC is one of five U.S. Department of Transportation national university transportation centers and a program of the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State.

Jared will spend 10 weeks researching with Nathan McNeil, a Research Associate in the Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning. Jared will receive a $7,500 stipend for his work this summer.

Transit Driven Thinking

from UMKC Communications 5/17/2017

Nichols Student Prize contestants inspired by streetcar extension

Kansas City’s new streetcar is already driving development activity along its route. So with an election to decide on an extension plan in the offing, it’s only natural to imagine what changes in the city’s urban environment could follow.

Students in the Urban Planning and Design Studio II course at the University of Missouri-Kansas City took on that challenge, and did more than merely imagine the possibilities. The class, taught by faculty members Michael Frisch, AICP and Ted Seligson, FAIA researched existing land uses along the extension route, selected specific intersections, designed transit-driven developments at those locations that would meet community needs, and drafted implementation plans for their concepts. The student proposals were entered in the annual J.C. Nichols Student Prize competition sponsored by the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning and Design, part of UMKC’s College of Arts and Sciences. Funding for the Nichols Student Prize has been generously provided by the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation.

Each student selected a strategic node on Main Street from 30th Street to the UMKC campus.

At 31st and Main, Alex Gilbertson envisioned Warwick Ridge, an iconic building composed of stacked, cantilevered and offset layers, with luxury apartments atop first-floor retail shops.

At Linwood and Main, Rawya Alrammah called for a return to historical levels of housing density, with multiple apartment buildings over underground parking, surrounding an open central courtyard.

Billie Hufford recommended an emphasis on enhanced retail services at Armour and Main, anchored by a new Main Market food hall with dozens of micro-businesses in stalls on a first floor that could be opened to the elements in good weather; apartments would occupy the upper floors.

At that same intersection, Thomas Kimmel’s concept focused on adding a variety of housing types to an under-utilized 13-acre tract behind a school and Home Depot, tied together with a pedestrian concourse dubbed “The Circuit.”

A few blocks to the south, Sean Thomas sought to tie together the intersections of 39th and Main with Main and Westport to create a pedestrian-friendly “harmonious urbanism” that would reclaim areas sacrificed to automotive traffic and parking.

Taylor Vande Velde looked at 43rd and Main and saw an intersection physically dominated by huge nearby buildings – the American Century towers and the Marriott hotel. To counter that impression, she called for a human-scaled piece of landmark architecture built along the waterway. Mill Creek Point would include ground-level retail and community space with residences above.

The Nichols Prize jury, however, was most taken with David McCumber’s concept for the intersection of Main and Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard, and awarded him first place in the competition. His pedestrian-oriented concept, Plaza Connections, would reclaim large swaths of asphalt for human use, extend the Trolley Track Trail north of the Country Club Plaza, and add two pedestrian bridges across Brush Creek and three new apartment buildings. But the centerpiece of his concept borrows, as does the Plaza, from Seville, Spain: a half-circle hotel structure outlining a circular public plaza space. The hotel would be built on land owned by the city’s Parks Department, with ample first-floor space open to all, in a new take on public-private partnerships.

The jurors were Prof. Joy Swallow, the AUP+D Department Chair; Bill Bruning, a member of the department’s Advisory Board; Diane Burnette, director of MainCOR; and Gib Kerr of Cushman & Wakefield and the Regional Transit Alliance. They awarded third place to Vande Velde for Mill Creek Point, and second prize to Kimmel for The Circuit.

First-Year Planning Field Trip

During our fourth annual planning field trip with first-year students in the Urban Planning + Design program, we finally made it to the Kansas City, Missouri City Hall observation deck (it was closed during previous trips).  After speaking with a planner on the 15th floor, we walked to Louis Berger to learn what AUP+D alums are working on. We rode the streetcar to Union Station and walked to lunch at Crown Center before returning to campus on the Main MAX bus.

Clara Irazábal merges pursuit of social justice and equity in two areas

Clara Irazábal is settling into her new roles as director of the Latina/Latino Studies (LLS) Program and professor of Urban Planning at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she combines these roles to pursue social justice and spatial equity.

“These positions allow me to teach, research and serve while addressing the urban challenges our communities face,” said Irazábal.

“I feel mutually connected and devoted to both areas, and my classes at UMKC will have components from urban planning and Latinx Studies, including exploration of issues of economic and community development; affordable and inclusionary housing; and sustainability and resilience for the Latinx communities and other minoritized groups in Kansas City and beyond,” she said. “Not only will we learn to identify and analyze the challenges, but most importantly, rehearse solutions for them while empowering communities.”

Irazábal has conducted her planning research in Latinx communities in the United States and in countries of Latin America, including Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Caribbean. Throughout her career, she has been motivated by her concern for understanding social justice struggles as displayed in the transformation of urban space, which has allowed her to share her experiences and expertise with communities.

“I have conducted the majority of my urban planning research in the Latinx community. It sets the stage for how to improve practices and the well-being of the entire community, beyond Latinxs,” said Irazábal. “I know here in Kansas City there’s a Troost divide, which the city has not yet overcome. We need to integrate both sides of the community,” she said.

Irazábal explained the rapidly-growing term ‘Latinx’ (pronounced Latin X) as an all-inclusive term. When using ‘Latina or Latino,” some individuals might be excluded. Latinx includes individuals who do not identify as women or men in the LGBTQ community.

The new UMKC Center for Neighborhoods in the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design is an example of where she can merge the two areas of research and engage the community.

“The goal of the center is to promote community development by training leaders, and allowing them to select projects they wish to work on,” Irazábal said. “The Center just graduated its first cohort of trainees, which includes neighborhood leaders and police officers. There is much hope for the LLS and the Center for Neighborhoods as instruments for community development, representing opportunities to learn how to work better, collaborate and create synergies,” she said.

Since her arrival in July, Irazábal has been attending meetings and learning about more initiatives at UMKC, which she will support.

“I have already attended meetings with the UMKC Hispanic Advisory Board and was impressed by how invested its members are in the LLS Program and UMKC at large, as well as their energy when promoting the university and our students,” she said. She has learned about upcoming Division of Diversity and Inclusion programs, including the Social Justice Book and Lecture Series, the Agapito Mendoza Scholarship Breakfast and the Avanzando program.

“Each of these is critical to the success of our students and to celebrate and reach out to the community,” she said.

Irazábal has some specific thoughts about enhancing the LLS Program, which include opportunities for growth.

“I want the program to mature and expand and offer an integrated graduate certificate, a Latina/Latino Studies major and eventually a master’s degree,” she said. “Also, I want the program to include Latina/Latino and Latin Americas Studies, attracting students and faculty to increase visibility and impact in the community,” she said. “I want the program to have a larger presence in our community and for the community to be engaged with us.”

Having arrived at UMKC by way of Columbia University in the City of New York, where she taught and conducted research for eight years, Irazábal worked with the Institute of Latin American Studies and collaborated with the Centers for Brazilian, Mexican and Caribbean Studies.

“Latinxists and Latin Americanists – researchers, teachers and activists – came together to create a synergy, a dialog, an enrichment to communities and students,” she said. “I want to stimulate that here at UMKC.”

While not in the classroom this semester, Irazábal will take the time to be become more familiar with UMKC and the LLS program before teaching in the spring.

“I will teach Introduction to Latina/Latino Studies. It will be a good way to get to know the students and for them to know me,” she said. “Later, I will teach Urban Planning and Latino Studies, which will help students understand community development and the LLS. It will have an impact on the minority community. That course is still being developed,” said Irazábal. She also wants to ensure the students continue to grow their research skills, including investigating, developing and testing hypotheses.

Invoking a line from poet June Jordan – “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” – and a phrase from activists César Chávez and Dolores Huerta – “Sí se puede (yes we can),” Irazábal illustrated her sense of mission and vision for what she and the community can do together.

Wandra Brooks Green, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Photo credit: Brandon Parigo, Strategic Marketing and Communications

Reposted from UMKC’s blog.

Shaping Cities: The Architect as Community Organizer

John Ruble
Moore, Ruble, Yudell Architects & Planners

Please RSVP here.

As co-founder and partner in the Santa Monica, California-based architectural firm Moore, Ruble,
Yudell, John Ruble has collaborated on a broad spectrum of residential, academic, cultural,
and urban design work in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

Ruble examines urban design issues now confronting Kansas City and other metropolitan areas in
the latest Kivett/Seligson Lecture. Ruble also discusses his work, and that of his firm,
and its emphasis on creating meaningful, memorable, and sustainable places.

Kivett / Seligson Lecture Series, Sponsored by the UMKC Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design

BNIM Urban Planner Josh Boehm presents at SxSW Eco


SxSW Eco Presentation: Josh Boehm (2013 UP+D Alumnus, and Trustee’s Scholar) 

Josh’s presentation at SxSW Eco will illustrate some of the emerging innovations of Kansas City’s Smart + Connected City initiative. Kansas City’s Smart City infrastructure will accompany the City’s nearly complete 2.2-mile downtown streetcar route, and will be the largest network in North America. While built by a public-private partnership between the City, Cisco, and Sprint, the Smart City project is built on a foundation of openness, with opportunities for other collaborators to find entrepreneurial uses of Smart City data.

BNIM’s entrepreneurial focus is on ways to build and retrofit living environments that are good for people and the environment. With new Smart city infrastructure in its backyard, BNIM has a unique opportunity to study the health of the urban environment – from the volume and quality of water runoff from excessive surface parking lots, to the quality of the air near interstate freeways, to pedestrian and cyclist activity around streetcar stations, and planned bike lanes.

Now in its fifth year, SxSW Eco is an international forum for debate and discovery that brings together individuals from diverse backgrounds who are passionate about advancing solutions that achieve Triple Bottom line results — driving economic, environmental, and social change.

Eco-Innovation District: Smart City + Sustainability
Tuesday, October 6
Austin Convention Center 8BC

excerpt from BNIM log post September 2015

Kansas City’s Shuttered Public Schools

A Look At What’s Going On With Kansas City’s Shuttered Public Schools


KCUR, By Esther Honig • Jun 8, 2015

It was a tearful, dramatic day five years ago, when the school board of Kansas City Public Schools decided to close 21 buildings in order to adjust to a shrinking student population. That was in addition to nine previously closed schools, leaving the district with 30 surplus buildings.

Kansas City is not the only district doing this around the country … Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago all closed large numbers of school buildings in recent years. But in the wake of the school closures, Kansas City developed what was considered a pioneering program, asking communities to be part of the process of determining what would happen to the empty buildings.

Four years after the initiative began nine schools have been sold, three have been demolished, one is being leased and one was reclaimed for future use by the district. That leaves 16 schools still for sale. One of those properties is Blenheim, a massive 90-year-old school located at Prospect Avenue and Gregory Boulevard.

Shannon Jaax, the director of the repurposing initiative, gave me a tour of the Blenheim. A she unlocks the heavy metal doors, she releases a seal of stale cold air. As we walk the halls our steps echo over the linoleum tile. Windows are boarded up with plywood and gray paint peels from the walls, but the space still holds a lively energy. Of all the schools, Jaax has brought me here to show me an example of a property that she says holds potential.

This building as a really great layout” Jaax explains. “It’s of a nice size, where when you’re looking at a residential development, you can get enough units in here to make the project work, but there’s still challenges.”

There are four main factors that weigh in on the viability of repurposing an old school: condition, location, layout and size.

Blenheim has managed to stay in good condition — there’s been relatively little vandalism. It’s also in a good location because there are plenty of bus lines and other commercial properties nearby. Still, the building hasn’t sold. Two different developers have submitted plans for repurposing the school, but they fell through because of funding shortages.

Repurposing with a purpose
School districts don’t often act as realtors, but in many cities across the country, massive school closures have forced districts to recycle their shuttered properties. In Kansas City, the district spends $1.8 million a year in security and maintenance, but Jaax explains, the objective isn’t to sell them as quickly as possible.

“The school closures were very emotional and hard for parents, families for community members,” she says. “As a district we saw the impact that those closures had and one way of addressing that was to find good viable reuses and give the community a voice as we moved forward.”

Jaax helped pioneer a new model to help determine what becomes of the structures. At the beginning of 2011, she held meetings in each neighborhood with a closed school. Residents were invited to tour the sites and share what they wanted to see done.
As Jaax expected, every neighborhood wanted their school saved, but given the poor condition — or bizarre layout — she knew some schools were more fit to be demolished than repurposed. Many residents also wanted community centers and affordable senior housing, but that meant finding the right developer willing to take on those projects.

Learning to compromise
The Foutch Brothers, a development company, bought Switzer School on Kansas City’s westside a year ago for $450,000. Renovation have finally begun and director Steve Fouch offers to take me inside to see the old school before it’s gutted.

The air is moist and moldy, which Foutch says is from water damage and a failing roof. Parts of the building have been vacant for decades and last year the old library was burned in an arson fire. Foutch estimates it will cost $24 million to convert the school into 114 market rate apartments. That may be a daunting task for some, but Foutch says it’s like putting together a puzzle.

“It takes a lot of design ingenuity to figure out how to turn it from one thing to the next,” he says. “You have to be able to handle all the hazardous materials and the historic guidelines and syndicating tax credits.”

As we’re talking in the school’s main hall, Foutch suddenly goes quiet … he hears the faint voices of kids who have snuck onto the building. In seconds, he’s on the phone with police asking if they will stop by to scare off his “visitors.”

Vandals can cause serious damage to the old schools, and Foutch knows that. He’s repurposed 20 schools in cities and towns throughout the Midwest — it’s become his niche in the market. A low purchase price, with the added advantage of historic tax credits make them desirable, but in Kansas City he’s required to share his plans with the local residents before moving forward. Not something every developer is willing to do.

“We have lots of meetings,” says Foutch. “I try and work with them as best I can or other people try and get through to them on what their expectations are and realizing that it’s been here for 20, 25 years vacant.”

Some residents expressed that they would have liked more community space and perhaps a smaller parking lot. Foutch says he was open to these suggestions, but at the end of the day his plans have to be financially viable.

“All of their expectations just can’t be met,” he says. “If you want to see it saved you have to give in on a couple things.”

Even empty, these schools still hold sentiment and an identity for a neighborhood, which makes repurposing contentious. Residents in Waldo successfully fought plans that would replace the Bingham school with a Walmart grocery store. In the Historic Northeast, despite a campaign to save the Thacher school, it was recently demolished to create field space for students from North East Middle School.

Getting a second chance
In the Blue Hills neighborhood you’ll find the Cinderella story of school repurposing.
On a Thursday evening at the Mary L. Kelly Center, formerly the Graceland School, the building is packed with visitors. A church has rented out the gym for a conference and on the second floor there’s a performance by an adult line dancing class.

Families watch from the sideline of the spacious dance studio, while the performers — an all female ensemble of retirees — step in unison to 1990s R&B. Dance student Teresa Smith started coming here a year ago when it opened, and remembers when it was an abandoned school, but she’s thrilled that it’s now a community center.

“I look on the website and I see all the things that the kids can do and you know it’s just amazing,” she says. “See coming up in my day we didn’t have anything like this — and it’s free. I’m even taking a computer class here.”

The center offers recreational space, summer camp for kids and GED courses. In 2013 the developers, the non-profit The Upper Room, began working closely with the neighborhood to redesign the space and decide what resources they would offer. The result is a community asset, and that’s the goal.

But Graceland came with advantages. The building was in good condition and the developers had access to generous donors.

What to do with Willard Elementary
Just up the street from the Mary L. Kelly Center, on 51st and Garfield, is Willard Elementary. Built in 1924 with a unique Mediterranean style, Willard was closed in 2000. In the years since, vandals have torn the school apart to scavenge copper wire and piping. Many of the roof’s ceramic tiles lay shattered on the ground and the walls are marred with graffiti.

A block away, sisters Yolanda and Erica Hall sit on their front porch, enjoying the first day of summer vacation. Both girls agree that the blighted school has become a nuisance for the whole neighborhood.

“I just think it makes our neighborhood look bad,” says Erica. “The neighborhoods down here they usually already have a bad name and when you see big abandoned buildings that aren’t being taken care of it just makes it look worse.”

The state of this school is no secret. According to Shannon Jaax, developers last year walked away from a proposal on the building. The cost to repurpose Willard would outweigh the potential profit. If no use for it can be found, the site will become a candidate for demolition.

A race against time

Jacob Wagner, an Urban Planning professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has been studying Kansas City’s repurposing efforts since 2007. He knows the effects a school like Willard can have on a neighborhood.

“They can cast a shadow over the neighborhood,” he says. “People feel like it’s bringing down property values and its impacting people’s perception of safety.”

Still he says that even these blighted school buildings are more valuable standing than demolished.

“Even after, if you do demolish the building you still have the challenge of managing a massive vacant lot so that’s a whole other problem.”

Wagner explains that because there’s no immediate market for these buildings, the best solution is to do a better job of preserving them for reuse in the future. Of course, that would require more money from the district, and that’s money that’s not being spent in the classroom.

So, for Willard and the 15 other schools in the district’s portfolio, it’s a race against time to find the right developers before another building is lost.

Urban Planning + Design in the News!

Five do-gooders quietly make it easier for KC to heart itself
By David Hudnall @davidhudnall / excerpt from: The Pitch, 2/10/15


Photos by Angela C. Bond

Idris Raoufi, 2013 Urban Planning + Design Alumnus
816 Bicycle Collective
The past couple of years, we’ve marked Valentine’s Day by talking to our crushes: men and women around town who are doing things cool enough to make us swoon a little. This year, we went looking for people who had crushes of their own: on the city. We’re not talking about garden-variety hometown-priders, the “I share too much pro-KC clickbait on Facebook” types. We mean folks who spend their time actively contributing to the improvement of Kansas City and its citizens.
The five individuals we picked — and yes, we know, our list is a couple of thousand people short — direct their energy toward a variety of civic endeavors, from battling predatory lenders to educating teenagers through theater about HIV/AIDS. What they have in common: They impress and inspire us. We hope they impress and inspire you, too.

 Idris Raoufi’s views on urban planning in Kansas City border on bleak.

“KC is one of the most underplanned municipalities in the United States,” Raoufi says. “We’re 30 years behind the curve with land use, neighborhood preservation, municipal services, community health. There’s been almost no emphasis on planning for the future.”

But even in challenging environments, dedicated souls tend to locate niches in which a difference might be made. Raoufi’s niche: the 816 Bicycle Collective, where he focuses his energy when he’s not working his day job as a transportation planner for Wilson & Co., an engineering and architecture firm.

The 816 Bicycle Collective is a free community bike shop, staffed by volunteers who repair bikes and teach commuters how to do the same: how to adjust the brakes, how to change a flat, how to fix a derailleur, even how to build a bike from scratch. “People who rely on a bike to get to work — many of whom realistically can’t afford to ride the bus — are in large part the people who visit us,” Raoufi says. “There’s a large population of people in this city that gets around by bike, and our main function is to empower those people with the knowledge to fix their own bikes.”

Raoufi co-founded the collective in 2008 with Suzanne Hogan, Kirk McDowell-Shafer, Bri Lauterbach and Sean Eagan. For now, it’s located in a back alleyway off Troost, at 3116 Forest. But in late spring or early summer, it’s moving to a more visible location, in the Union Hill neighborhood. Two years ago, at the Jackson County delinquent-tax auction, the organization purchased three buildings near the corner of 31st Street and Cherry.

“We got these three buildings on the same parcel in incredible condition, in a great location,” Raoufi says. “We had no intention of actually getting them. But nobody else bid on them.”

Thanks to donations at the shop, heavily discounted services from a friendly contractor and $32,000 netted from a 2013 crowdfunding campaign, the 816 Bicycle Collective has gradually renovated the properties. The new space will be multifaceted, housing the collective as well as its parent organization, the KC Bicycle Federation. The goal is to have leasable spaces in the other buildings that will generate revenue to fund the operations of the bike collective and pay for expenses associated with upkeep. “Ideally, we’d be leasing to like-minded nonprofits,” Raoufi says.

A self-sustaining hub for cycling advocacy: not bad for a town that historically has been less-than-progressive on transportation issues.
“There’s a lot you can do here that you can’t do in other cities,” Raoufi says, sounding a little more optimistic. “It’s why the collective has been able to do what it’s done so far. The work I’m passionate about is taking technical abilities I learned in school and helping advance disenfranchised communities to take better hold of the development of their neighborhoods. If you tried to do that in lots of other cities, you’d be dealing with higher real estate [costs], scarcer resources, more competition. This is a city of great opportunity if you’re aware of it.”

excerpt from: The Pitch, 2/10/15