Beyond Our Borders
11:20 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Two Maps That Show The Concentration Of Lot Vacancies In Kansas City

UMKC seniors Sean Partain and Karie Kneller were part of the team investigating vacant land in Kansas City, Mo.
UMKC seniors Sean Partain and Karie Kneller were part of the team investigating vacant land in Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR

It's estimated Kansas City, Mo., has at least 4,000 to 5,000 vacant lots. These sites, sometimes weedy and filled with trash, contribute to neighborhood blight and lower property taxes.

This semester, 11 seniors in the Architecture, Urban Planning and Design department at UMKC documented the parcels of vacant land scattered across Kansas City, Mo. They zeroed in on an area with the highest rate of vacancies, predominantly in the urban core and east of Troost Avenue.

Two maps, with data culled from KCMO GIS, explored the potential impact of the high rate of demolition over the last decade and the link between highways and vacancy.

A concentration of vacancies with major highways as boundaries

This "heat map," created by senior Sean Partain, is one of several maps showing a connection between highways and vacancy. According to senior Karie Kneller, 62 percent of the vacant parcels in Kansas City, Mo. were located within a half-mile of a major highway, such as U.S. 71.

"Was the highway the cause, or was the highway put there because of vacancy?" asks Kneller. "But with 71, we can almost definitely say, historically, that's probably what happened - the highway went in and created a lot of vacancy around the project."

More demolitions than new construction in the urban core

This map displays, in red, the demolition of residential and commercial properties. Sean Partain says that the rapid rate of demolition between 2000 and 2010 hasn't kept pace with new construction. he estimates it's about one new construction project for every three demolitions in their area of focus.

Partain argues that this has led "to the current high state of vacancy and instability for the area." For communities to be healthy, he says, you need people there.

The students have been looking into new solutions for vacant lots in the Kansas City area, and potential ways to re-build urbanism and restore local ecosystems for community health.

This look at the Troost corridor in Kansas City is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what's being done to bridge or dissolve them. Be a source for Beyond Our Borders: Share your perspective and experiences east of Troost with KCUR.