Special Project


KCUR wants to know more about how Kansas Citians divide themselves and come together in a bi-state metropolitan area. So we're asking the question: How do geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City?

Our extensive Beyond Our Borders project is intended to spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.  We are exploring the history of four distinct lines - Troost Avenue, the State Line, the Wyandotte-Johnson county line, and the Missouri River - and how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them.

HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE: Volunteer to host a community listening session with KCUR. We are looking for partners to help us run neighborhood forums that will fuel the stories for Beyond Our Borders. If you are interested in KCUR visiting your community or would like to help us coordinate one of these sessions, please email Ron Jones, KCUR community engagement director, at ron@kcur.org.

STORY IDEAS: If you have tips or story ideas for Beyond Our Borders, reach out to Laura Ziegler, community engagement reporter, lauraz@kcur.org, or Briana O’Higgins, digital content editor, at briana@kcur.org.

BE A PART OF THE DIALOGUE: Use the #KCborders hashtag on Twitter to ask us questions, share Beyond Our Borders stories with your networks, raise community concerns, tell us how we’re doing and suggest opportunities for coverage. We’re all ears.

FOLLOW THE CONVERSATION: Check back at kcur.org/beyondourborders for updates. Follow us on Twitter at @kcur and on Facebook to keep a pulse on the conversation.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Lake Quivira may be the only gated city that straddles a county line in Kansas.

Most of its 400 homes are in Johnson County but 17 of them are across the line in Wyandotte County. The political boundary between the two cuts through the lake on the northern end.

The clubhouse, golf course, and tennis courts — even the gas station just outside the security booth — are in Wyandotte County.

But during my recent trip to Lake Quivira — I found that if you didn't know which side the homes or amenities were on, it was impossible to tell where you were —WyCo or JoCo.

When it comes to standard measures of health, Kansas is a laggard. Whether we’re talking about obesity rates, incidence of diabetes, acute or chronic diseases, or childhood mortality, the Sunflower State typically ranks in the bottom half of state health rankings – and in recent years it’s been sinking even lower.

That’s bad enough. But there are vast disparities within the state itself. Averages only give a rough-and-ready sense of the state’s overall health picture; dig deeper – down to the county level – and you’ll find that some counties actually perform quite well while others perform poorly.

Roeland Park is a self-governing city in a 1.6-mile radius. Locals know it as a convenient place to stock up on carloads of stuff at big box stores. Or as the site of the Mexican Price Chopper. Some know it as the city that passed a non-discrimination ordinance protecting the LGBT community. But what is Roeland Park like from the inside?

Guests:

  • Tom Madigan, community member
  • Teresa Kelly, councilmember and "chicken lady", Roeland Park Ward 4

Central Avenue is a business corridor cutting across seven neighborhoods in Kansas City, Kan. The street has seen a major cultural shift over the past 20 years, as Latinos have moved into many of the surrounding neighborhoods and started new businesses along Central. 

Guests:

  • Edgar Galicia, Central Avenue Betterment Association
  • Steve Curtis, artist and community activist, Community Housing Wyandotte county
  • Allie Mason, Fokl Arts Center
Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Law enforcement across the country has been forced to confront violent acts of terrorism, and with the shootings at Jewish sites in Overland Park just a year ago – officials realize we’re as vulnerable here as anywhere.

A bill currently waiting to be heard on the floor of the Kansas House is aimed at helping police intervene in incidents across the Missouri-Kansas state line. The bill is known as the Critical Incidents Bill, named for the type of incidents it applies to — those that could cause serious injury or loss of life.

Michael Schmidt / Confluence

In downtown Kansas City, Mo., the stretch along 18th Street between the Crossroads Arts District and the 18th and Vine Jazz District is roughly a little over a mile — but this span includes 52.5 acres of paved surface lots. That's more than at Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium combined.

Monroe Dodd

Ask people in Kansas City, Kansas what it means to have a unified government, and you’ll get some interesting answers.

“Kansas City is like Australia,” says Hannah Milner, a stay-at-home mom who has lived in KCK for seven years. “They’re a country and a continent. We’re a county and a city.”

Despite this strong metaphor, Milner admits, “I don’t really understand the government side of things.”

That’s a fairly common sentiment in the Kansas City area. So let’s go back in time to see how the unified government developed, and what it means for KCK today.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

On First Fridays, the Crossroads Arts District attracts a crowd to an area transformed into a mecca for artist studios, galleries, restaurants, and shops. Just about a mile away, it’s a little quieter. But the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District has cultural amenities of its own, such as the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Efforts are underway to link the two districts along 18th Street.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

In 2012, Democratic Sen. Pat Pettey was elected to represent Kansas' 6th district. Redistricting had just added a small part of Johnson County to a district that was previously only Wyandotte County. Today, the 6th district covers part of Kansas City, Kan., west to Edwardsville. It also covers parts of Merriam and Overland Park in Johnson County.

U.S. Census Bureau / Cooper Center at the University of Virginia

Some county lines seem arbitrary: just a government formality running through an otherwise homogenous community. The Wyandotte-Johnson county line does not fall into this category. In fact, it's hard to imagine two more different counties — they stand on opposite ends of every measure, from health to education levels to household income. 

Overland Park Kansas

Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach is beginning his 10th year in office, and this year looks to be a busy one, with plenty of development going on in the city. 

Gerlach spoke about some of those development projects, including an indoor skydiving facility he is excited to try out, in his State of the City address on Tuesday

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County

Since he was elected in 2013, Unified Government of Wyandotte County Mayor and CEO Mark Holland has been able to boast some impressive developments and job growth in the county.

Holland reiterated those successes in his State of the Government address Tuesday, making particular note of 4,000 new jobs created in 2014. He said that number represents about 30 percent of all new jobs in the state of Kansas.

Wichita State University Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives

As we continue our long-term exploration of lines that unite and divide our metro, a project we call Beyond our Borders, we’re turning an eye to the border between Wyandotte and Johnson Counties in Kansas.

Long noted for their differences (and rivalry), Wyandotte was at one time, at least in part, Johnson County.

The making of a state

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas City, Mo.,  has seen a lot of development in the last few decades — downtown has a new entertainment district, a new arena and performing arts center, and the Crossroads has flourished with boutiques, restaurants, art studios and businesses.

But as the rest of Kansas City grows, the east side remains plagued by crumbling and abandoned homes, crime, and lack of access to grocery and retail.

Neil Nakahodo / for KCUR

As we embark on our next exploration for Beyond our Borders, our dive into lines that unite and divide our metro, we are now turning our attention to Wyandotte and Johnson counties.

As part of our Tell KCUR initiative, we recently asked: What do we get wrong about Wyandotte and/or Johnson Counties?

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Wyandotte County, Kan., claims the Kansas Speedway, Sporting Kansas City major league soccer and the Kansas City Renaissance Festival among its popular attractions.

While those seasonal experiences won’t be available until later in the year, the county offers other significant pleasures that can be thoroughly enjoyed this weekend – from delicious ethnic food and indoor water fun to fascinating historic sites and eye-opening prospects for nature enthusiasts.

Not been to the "Dotte" recently? Explore the possibilities. Your free time will thank you.

Wikimedia - CC

It's common knowledge among Kansas Citians that much of Johnson County, Kan., is suburban, while Kansas City, Kan., proper is an urban core.

What might not be common knowledge is that Overland Park, Kan., has a larger total population count and higher employment density than KCK. So is it still a suburb?

The DLC / Flickr-CC

Think of Johnson County as a flower – which, of course, many folks already do.

Better yet, make it a field of flowers, whose nectar is available to all – which it is, of course, no matter where you may live in the Kansas City area.

Wherever your head hits the pillow at the end of the day, get out this weekend and make your own Johnson County bouquet of fun. Which go-and-do activities to pick? Glad you asked.

1. Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art

Are you a Kansan or a Missourian? That's a question that often divides our metro, but maybe we're more Kansas Citian than anything else. How can our economic, political and cultural reality more clearly reflect that sentiment?

Guests:

Here’s the thing about the Kansas-Missouri border:

Frank Morris / KCUR

Stealing from your neighbor may not sound like a good idea, but Kansas and Missouri can’t seem to get enough of it.

For years now, the states have been locked in an economic border war, paying businesses –through tax incentives — to move across the state line, without necessarily creating new jobs. Lately there have been a few tentative signs of rapprochement. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Right before James “Jimmy” Bowers died in 1995, his local dive, Jimmy's Jigger, was bought by a local restaurateur who converted it to a New Orleans-style food and drink joint called Jazz. The company preserved the booze-soaked wooden floor and bar and brought in live music seven nights a week.

Like "The Jigger," as it was called, Jazz remains a hangout for staff and students from KU Medical Center across State Line.

Jazz manager Marty Elton says the relationship with the hospital always has been — and continues to be — essential.

Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill giving law enforcement officers in the Kansas City area more legal protections when they cross the state line. A

The legislation would create an agreement between Kansas and Missouri law enforcement agencies. Proponents say if there were, for example, an emergency in Missouri, this would make it easier for Kansas officers to help.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

People who live near the University of Kansas Hospital — particularly those across the state line in the Kansas City, Mo., Volker neighborhood  — talk about the medical center as the "behemoth" in the neighborhood.

Linda Mawby isn't one of them. And she's arguably the person most affected — at least at this point — by the hospital's growth.

The 67-year-old former truck driver lives with her cats and a dog in a brown house at the top of a hill  just north of the hospital, right where plans are underway for the institution to build two new towers and additional parking.

Greyerbaby / Pixabay / CC

The Kansas-Missouri state line is one of the easiest state borders to cross. In fact, it's one of the only state dividers that has an actual road lying on most of it

But as Kansans and Missourians know, there are plenty of differences between the states.

Here are a few of the technicalities when it comes to state laws governing everyday life:

Alcohol

Missouri Valley Special Collection / Kansas City Public Library

For the past four months, KCUR's Beyond Our Borders project has examined how the Missouri-Kansas state line affects the lives of those around it

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

The University of Kansas Hospital and University of Kansas Medical Center run along State Line Road adjacent to Kansas City, Missouri's Volker neighborhood. A tight-knit few blocks, where students unwind in neighborhood bars and long-time homeowners chat while walking dogs.

The institution is growing, and like many "town and gown" situations, the expansion has created some challenges.

Courtesy of Phil 'Sike Style' Shafer

In a departure from the predictable journalistic exercise of looking back on the year that’s about to end, we decided to ask various people in Kansas City’s turbocharged arts community what they’d like to see happen, artistically or otherwise, in the metro in 2015. In their responses, themes emerged – as did random cool ideas.

Here, in no particular order, are 15 things local culture makers wish Kansas City would do in 2015:

Courtesy photo / KCUR

Finn Bullers guides his $30,000 electric wheelchair by using the bright beam of a light lodged in its frame.

The 51-year-old has been battling Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a rare form of muscular dystrophy, since he was growing up in Iowa.

As a young boy, Bullers would stuff his clothes with pillows to defy his already atrophying body and spend hours on a frozen farm pond trying to skate like the other kids.

Courtesy photo / Kari Deude

For more than 100 years, the University of Kansas Jayhawks and the University of Missouri Tigers have been embroiled in a bitter rivalry.

It's a rivalry that's alive and well, even though the teams haven't played each other in two years.

RELATEDJayhawks and Tigers Love to Hate Each Other Across State Line

Pages