Giving Prospect Avenue an Identity | UMKC Urban Planning and Design gives life to Prospect

UMKC Urban Planning and Design students collaborated with German international students early this November to bring life to the Prospect corridor and give Prospect Ave. an identity that would put the street in the spot light.

Jacob Wagner, associate professor of Urban Planning and Design, says that the project was initiated because Prospect is becoming a place of economic interest, and it’s also important to have students working on projects like this.

“There is a need for students to engage with the community along the corridor as they’re learning how to be planners and designers,” Wagner said. “Students can bring ideas that are new. They can explore things, do research, visualizations, and imagine what Prospect will be five, ten, fifteen years down the road and do that in a way that is unhindered by market or political restrictions.”

Wagner says the project started just a few years ago when Kitinka Temme, professor of Analog Architecture at the University of Augsburg in Germany, was touring UMKC and noticed Wagner and his class working on a vacant land project. Since then, Temme and Wagner have kept in touch and decided to have a joint project this year.

The project consisted of four teams, each with two senior planning students, two junior students, three German students, and a professor to guide the process. Two of those teams were given the design site at 63rd and Prospect and the other two Linwood and Prospect. The goal of the project was to use the already existing infrastructure and topography and redesign those intersections, then present them at a charrette, or project meeting.

“We selected Prospect because there is a lot of community interest in the revitalization in the Prospect corridor,” Wagner said, “We thought the timing was good to really explore different design and planning ideas for the corridor with the assumption that it would have a new bus rapid transit system that will serve the people and the neighborhoods along the corridor. That is a particular opportunity, when you can explore the potential impact of that new investment and what other kinds of opportunity does that create.”

Camila Rivera, Senior Urban Planning and Design Student, was a part of Team Linwood.  Rivera says that her team’s goal was to give Prospect an identity specific to itself, create a green space, and make the corridor more bus and human centric.

“Giving Prospect an identity is the most important factor,” Rivera said.

Final view of Team Linwood’s development.

Final view of Team Linwood’s development.

Rivera says that the intersection of Linwood and Prospect resembles most other crossroads in Kansas City. Her group was determined to change that by giving Prospect something unique that Team Linwood calls “Hybrid Infrastructure”.

“A lot of pieces of Prospect you could move to another location, and it wouldn’t be any different than it is at that moment,” said Rivera. “You can’t do that to places like Power and Light. You can’t move those around.”

Hybrid Infrastructure, as Team Linwood defines it, includes social, cultural, recreational, religious, educational, and economic infrastructure that is open to the community and accessible to anyone who lives in the area.

The first step in Team Linwood’s intervention enacted changes in building elevation which would make Prospect visible from miles away.

“Our intervention had a lot of changes in elevation. You went from buildings that were 20 feet to 40 feet to a tower,” Rivera said.

The bottom floor of each building, Rivera says, is for public and commercial usage. The ideal outcome of this would be to make Prospect a more inviting and welcoming place. Rivera says right now Prospect isn’t a very friendly place and that trust is hard to come by.

“All of our first floors were dedicated to public use, a commercial space, a retail space, a clinic, a dance studio, and all of these things on their own have windows,” Rivera said. “If there are people around and windows in the shops people are watching, no one is going to commit a crime with well-lit facilities and people around.”

Another way Team Linwood is addressing the lack of trust is an increase of housing density, mixed income housing, and the inclusion of community magnets. Housing density is hard to come by on the Prospect corridor. According to Rivera, years of disenfranchisement and the flight of money from those communities has had lasting negative effects.

“There are a lot of boarded up buildings,” said Rivera. “You don’t know what is going on in there, [and there are] a lot of gates and blinds down. You don’t get that sense that this is your community and people trust you, so having a public green space with a water feature and different facilities around creates that sense of identity and community.”

Team Linwood plans on using tax abatements to secure affordability and concentrate the housing density around activity centers and community magnets such as churches, community centers, schools and day cares.

The community magnets Team Linwood are focusing on would all be housed in the same buildings or close to other magnets. The team’s design plans show elementary and trade schools connected to affordable housing, building the much-needed trust that lacks in the community

Team Linwood’s next challenge was to create a less car centric corridor and a more bus and human friendly site with prioritized bus lanes, off board bus payments, green infrastructure and shared streets.

“Get on your highway and do what you need to do and leave the rest of the city alone,” Rivera said. “They tore down the neighborhoods for Highway 71 so use it. Here’s your space, and here’s my space. Now let’s respect each other’s spaces.”

Team Linwood would take out the intersection at Linwood and Prospect and only make it accessible to bus, bike and foot traffic. In addition to removing the car centric street, the team would place a shared green space. This space would include a creek, community gardens and other environmental themed fixtures that would allow people to relax and make healthy choices. The goal of this is to make the area more human and bus friendly and encourage onlookers to get out of their cars an interact with the community.

View of the public realm and green spaces.

View of the public realm and green spaces.

“What if, after a long week, you go to this beautiful place, and you sit next to a creek and read a book and eat an apple, and everything is okay for a moment in time,” said Rivera, adding that this idea is more appealing than stopping by a fast food restaurant or going straight home.

Rivera and Wagner agree that having the German international students on board with the project was helpful because they have new and different perspectives and a clear idea of what bus rapid transit and hybrid infrastructure look like.

“They know what it’s like to rebuild cities,” Wagner said. “Certainly they know what it’s like to maintain a certain level of urbanism like density, walkability, and a certain amount of people living and diversity that comes with that density.”

“Having the Germans was incredible because they see things in a completely different way than we do,” said Rivera.

After finishing their projects and presenting them to city planners and community members, the German students brought their projects back home with them where they will continue to work on them. Wagner says that at the end of the year, the team will create one final design that will be ready to share with neighborhood leaders and city planners.

“We want to pull it all together and publish it as a book or an online publication,”

Wagner said.

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