J.C. Nichols Prize Recognizes Student Excellence in Urban Planning and Design

First competition focused on development concepts for Trolley Track Trail

Picture an asphalt parking area transformed into “a tree-lined brick-and-stone pedestrian space where social interaction happens and people stop to take in a real sense of place.”

That vision for a section of the current Trolley Track Trail through Brookside earned the first J.C. Nichols Student Prize for Idris Raoufi, an undergraduate student in the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Nichols Prize competition, open to junior-level students majoring in AUP+D, is named for Kansas Citian and urban planning pioneer J.C. Nichols. The annual $500 prize is funded by an endowment from the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation.

Raoufi’s winning proposal, The Brookside Promenade, envisions a landscaped, pedestrian-oriented corridor stretching more than three blocks north from Meyer Boulevard, encompassing the Trolley Track Trail and an adjacent existing parking area. The design calls for a designated bike path separated from pedestrian traffic and the adjoining commercial district.

Idris Raoufi

Competition winner Idris Raoufi

Raoufi’s award-winning proposal focused on practicality as well as design, keeping all aspects of the development within the 100-foot-wide trail right-of-way owned by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, thus avoiding land acquisition costs for the project. In addition, the three public streets that intersect the Promenade (62nd Terrace, 63rd Street and Meyer Boulevard) would be outfitted with pedestrian-friendly crosswalks with graded separated islands where pedestrians and cyclists could easily cross in comfort.

For the competition, students were tasked to design and present a vision for development along a specific section of the trail. Seven students were each assigned a different trail section for his or her focus. Honorable Mention was awarded to Josh Boehm, who proposed a connection to both the Trolley Track Trail and the larger Katy Trail (a statewide system) in the historic Marlborough neighborhood of southeast Kansas City between 74th and 85th streets.

The Trolley Track Trail is a former trolley line right-of-way owned and operated by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. The trail has been converted to a walking-biking-jogging path and extends from the UMKC Volker campus adjacent to the Country Club Plaza, to the intersection of 85th Street and Prospect Avenue.

Department Chair Joy D. Swallow, FAIA, spoke at a presentation event attended by three members of the Nichols family: Kay Callison, Jeannette Nichols and Suzi Allen.

“The planning curriculum at UMKC has been shaped by J.C. Nichols’ vision. Understanding the intersection of planning and urban design was central to his philosophy,” Swallow said. “The students who have the distinction of receiving this award will carry one that will resonate broadly. Thank you for sharing a bit of your family’s legacy in allowing us to further the Nichols vision into the 21st Century.”

Swallow noted that J.C. Nichols developed not only the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, but also many of the city’s neighborhoods during the first half of the 20th century.

“The principles of modern urban planning and design in the U.S. are derived in no small part from the efforts of J.C. Nichols,” she said.

Jurors for the first annual Nichols Prize competition included attorney and former city council member Jerry D. Riffel; attorney and UMKC Trustee David Oliver; urban planner Stephen Hardy of BNIM Architects; and Swallow.

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