"Seeing the impact you can make on someone’s life for the better is a never-ending well of inspiration."
Kansas State University
What's been your most rewarding project(s) while at your firm?
Kansas City's 18th and Vine Master Plan.
Historically, 18th and Vine has played an integral role in Kansas City’s culture of Jazz, Negro League Baseball, and has been the center of Black commerce (due to the redlining of J.C. Nichols and government entities of the time). It was an incredible bustling city within a city that people traveled from all over the nation to not only visit, but stay and be a part of. After desegregation, this area of the town fell into disrepair. A lot of the clubs left or closed and the commerce was redistributed throughout the city. In the mid to late 90’s the city made an effort to revitalize the district adding museums, residential and some commercial opportunities. This was a great first effort and the district enjoyed some success. However, the initial revamping of the district never reached the full potential it should have, given the kick start by the city.
Our task now is to finish that effort, and not only restore 18th and Vine to a bustling district but create a catalytic development to revitalize the eastern side of the city. I believe that everyone is born with the same level of talent but everyone is not afforded the same opportunities. The area as a whole lacks some of the essentials. It is a food desert, there isn’t a sufficient grocery store in a 5 mile radius. The schools in the area are generally not accredited or not funded on the same level. There is no shortage of blighted properties. There are no commercial spaces that provide essential goods and services. There are no dedicated spaces to explore music and art to extend the lineage of the area. These are all things that we are working diligently to address, while trying to facilitate a for-profit outcome for every initiative.
We are also trying to deliver a world class entertainment district, that is inclusive – with protections against gentrification = and safe, while maintaining the culture and not losing touch with the history that made the district.
Most interesting place you've traveled for work?
Washington D.C. Admittedly I haven’t traveled much for work in my young career. My three largest projects were in two cities - Atlanta and Detroit. However, we took a bench-marking trip to D.C. for the 18th and Vine project. We met with developers, who had a hand in redeveloping U-Street, as well as consulting firms that specialize in revitalizing blighted communities and gathering information and incentives for developers. We traveled with city officials which adds its own layer of interesting, as we not only had professional meetings all day but sampled the night life that we were trying to duplicate.
What inspires you about your profession?
Design can be simple or complex, it can be expensive or inexpensive but at its core it must provide the best solution to the problem and look good while doing it. Seeing the impact you can make on someone’s life for the better is a never-ending well of inspiration.