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.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

It's a big week for the Broadway Bridge – expect lane closures and delays as inspectors check the safety of the 60-year-old structure.

“The paint looks OK on Broadway, but when you really get in your bucket truck and you hang over the edge and start looking underneath, there is a lot of deterioration, a lot of areas — they call it section loss,” says Brian Kidwell, assistant Kansas City district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Two years ago, inspectors found problems — big ones — that necessitated closing the bridge for repairs.

Julia Szabo / KCUR

In the next couple of years, Kansas education will face some of its most unstable times ever.

The Legislature has cut classroom funding. There’s no school finance formula and the the whole system may be thrown into chaos depending on what the state Supreme Court does.

All of this is all taking a toll on recruiting and retaining teachers, and there's mounting evidence that Kansas teachers are becoming disenchanted. And out-of-state districts are taking advantage.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

It doesn’t take long to drive a car across the Missouri River.

Depending on traffic, the roughly half-mile trek can take just one minute. But if you don’t have a car, the Missouri River can seem like a much larger obstacle.

According to the U.S. Census, about 84 percent of the Kansas City metro population drives alone to work. That leaves the other 16 percent commuting by other means, like carpooling, public transit, walking, biking or just working from home.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

As KCUR begins an exploration of how the Missouri River unites and divides the Kansas City metro, we must first consider our unique congregation of bridges. There are 10 of them, if you include the highways. Thirteen if you count the rail tracks that go over the river. And each one — though probably many people can't identify them by name — offers a unique perspective and connection for travelers.

As part of the Beyond Our Borders project, we'll soon take a look at the current state of the bridges and how we use them. But for now, we offer a little bit of history.

Caroline Kull / KCUR

More than half of Kansas City —  51 percent — is located north of the Missouri River, in the area widely referred to as the Northland.

Standing in Berkley Riverfront Park looking across the Missouri River, the Northland is just a stone’s throw away. Yet from south of the river, the Northland can feel like another city altogether.

To figure out why, I spoke with people both close to and far from the Missouri — in the River Market area near downtown Kansas City and at Oak Park Mall across the state line in Overland Park, Kansas.

The DLC / Flickr-CC

Whether you're craving Malaysian almond chicken, French duck confit or even hot dog fried rice, head north of the Missouri River — the Northland has become a dining destination.

James Lee / Flickr-CC

Go north!

Hardly subtle, I know, but without action, you could miss out on what there is to do this weekend north of the Missouri River, which can be misperceived as a boundary instead of the bridge it is to the Northland’s significant entertainment, family attractions and natural charms.

So get some northern exposure this weekend. The all-embracing go-and-doer in you will appreciate it.

1. Parkville River Jam

Kansas Citians often overlook destinations north of the Missouri River when thinking about where to dine. Hear Northland restaurant recommendations from our listeners and food critic Charles Ferruzza. 

Guests:

  • Charles Ferruzza, The Pitch
  • Alyson Raletz, social media editor, KCUR
KCUR

KCUR is northbound. And we need your help.

For the next few months in our Beyond Our Borders project, we're turning our attention to one of Kansas City's most prominent dividers — the Missouri River, which separates the Northland from the urban core.

As we begin to take our reporting across the river, we want to know more about why you already cross it.

Tell KCUR: What's your favorite thing to do north of the Missouri River? 

Kansas City was founded as a Missouri River port, but we've come a long way from our waterway roots. Take Turkey Creek — it flows through Kansas City, Kansas by Southwest Boulevard (and makes for a scenic stop at Merriam's Waterfall Park), but few people know it's there. We talk to three local residents who use art to take a new look at our waterways.

Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

The Missouri River's nickname, which evokes a wide current of mud, misses its aesthetic potential. Its most famous admirer may be the Missouri painter George Caleb Bingham.

Maria Carter / KCUR

Talking about the Johnson and Wyandotte County border in Kansas for the past few months literally has hit close to home for me — I live just a few blocks north of the county line in Wyandotte. As I found out since moving there, I'm closer to home than I realized.

I never really thought I’d live in Kansas. I grew up a Missourian. My parents fled the Johnson County suburbs for the Missouri Ozarks after I was born.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

If you ask almost anyone from the community of Argentine in Kansas City, Kansas what to see in their neighborhood, they’ll tell you to go see the mural.

The landmark that stretches across a block of Metropolitan Avenue is a point of pride for the residents — it’s only been tagged with graffiti twice since it was painted 17 years ago.

Brent Flanders / Flickr--CC

Of all Sporting Kansas City’s season ticket holders, there are eight times more Johnson County residents than Wyandotte County residents — even though Sporting Park sits in Wyandotte County's largest city, Kansas City, Kansas.

In the breakdown of Sporting KC’s season ticket holders, fans with Wyandotte County addresses account for only 4.5 percent, which ranks fourth among the counties in Kansas City’s metropolitan area.

courtesy: Michael Schmidt and Andrew Smith

The roughly 1.5 miles between the Crossroads Arts District and 18th and Vine in Kansas City, Missouri, is not a lot of things.

It’s not a destination. It’s not a gathering place. It’s not particularly pedestrian or bike friendly. It’s not visually appealing. But what the 18th Street corridor does have going for it is a little momentum, in part due to conversations sparked by two college students.

Maria Carter / KCUR

Development, even redevelopment, isn’t unusual in the Kansas City area, but concrete examples of successfully working across state or county borders to do that are harder to come by. Yet that’s what happening at the district surrounding 47th and Mission.

Katie Brady / Flickr--CC

Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, is in its fifth season as the home of Sporting Kansas City in Major League Soccer. For the money spent on what is regarded as one of the best soccer venues in the country, very little so far has been invested in Wyandotte County for youth soccer.

But changes are taking place.

Christina Lieffring

Little League teams across Wyandotte and western Johnson counties in Kansas are gearing up for spring, summer and fall sports.

That’s why Varsity Sports Sporting Goods in Kansas City, Kansas, is piled high with brightly colored T-shirts and hats, waiting to be silk-screened or stitched.

Jim Woods is the owner of Varsity Sports Sporting Goods.

"All these Little League teams ordering uniforms and stuff this time of year, gets kind of crazy for about a month and a half, two months," Woods says.

Everybody's got a reputation. To wrap up our months-long exploration of the line between Wyandotte and Johnson Counties, we get confessions about geographic profiling, and stories from people living on both sides of the county line. 

Guests:

  • Maria Carter and Steve Kraske, KCUR staffers who live five blocks apart in separate Kansas counties

The Rise And Fall Of Metcalf South And Indian Springs

May 1, 2015
Christina Lieffring

Metcalf South and Indian Springs were built when indoor shopping malls were cropping up all over the United States. Both rose to prominence and became destinations during the same time period of the late 1970s and early '80s. But they declined for very different reasons, which reverberate in the aftermath and redevelopment of their spaces. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In March, for the first time, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival staged a production not at Southmoreland Park in Midtown Kansas City, Missouri, but indoors, at Johnson County Community College’s Polsky Theatre.

Working without having to worry about rain, bugs, and people walking their dogs made the festival’s typical technical challenges a breeze, says executive artistic director Sidonie Garrett.

Frank Morris / KCUR

As Kansas state government braces for another round of budget cuts or tax increases (or both) to balance the state’s declining revenue, Wyandotte County is looking forward to a big jump in tax collections. That’s just part of the county’s profound, if spotty, change of fortunes.

Death spiral

Twenty years ago, Carol Marinovich became mayor of a city in steep decline. The Kansas City, Kansas she grew up in was collapsing. The house she grew up in, along with half her Strawberry Hill neighborhood, had long since been bulldozed to make way for I-70. But that was far from the worst of it. Wyandotte County seemed locked in a death spiral. 

Paul Sableman / Flickr-CC

 

When hungry Kansas Citians need a lazy night in, they often reach for the phone. They know a wide variety of local pizza places are ready to deliver cheesy goodness to their doorsteps. 

Unless they live east of Troost Avenue.

While national chains Papa John's and Domino's will deliver east of Troost, many local pizza places won't.  

Minsky's on Main Street won't go there. Pizza 51 sits three blocks away from Troost at 51st and Oak — it won't deliver there either. Neither will Pickleman's. Sarpino's Pizza in Midtown will, maybe.

For This Woman, Living In Johnson County Is Worth The Sacrifice

Apr 13, 2015
Christina Lieffring / KCUR

For decades Johnson County has lured people from all over the Metro with its promise of safe neighborhoods and good schools. Some have made sacrifices to make the move, because the cost of living in Johnson County is higher than other parts of the metro area. 

Megan Rojas crossed the border from Wyandotte into Johnson County and is trying to make it work for herself and her children. On a recent visit to her home, her son, Julian, like a typical two-year-old,  has already eaten two bowls of peaches and is still hungry.

“He eats all day,” she says.

He picks out Rice Krispies with milk and Megan tells him he has to eat at the bar in the kitchen.

“That’s one thing that I don’t like is that there isn’t enough space to put a table. So he has to sit at the bar or on the couch,” she says. “I wish we had a table. But living in a two bedroom doesn’t give you much space.”

Creative Commons -- Google Images

DeSoto is a town on the edge of the suburbs. K-10 used to run through it, but not anymore. Commuters used to drive into DeSoto for work, but now, traffic tends to flow in the opposite direction. We discuss how the transformation of DeSoto unfolded, and we'll learn what it's like to live in exurban communities like DeSoto today.

Guests:

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Both Wyandotte and Johnson Counties in Kansas have seen their Latino population grow in the past 25 years. And though the highest concentration of Latinos in Kansas City live in Wyandotte County, the number of Latinos living in both counties is about the same, nearly 40,000 people.

The population is growing at a rate that's fairly new to Johnson County, whose Latino population has nearly doubled in the past 15 years. I talked to Latinos living in both counties about the opportunities and differences between life in both counties.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

For the past few years, when we talked about education in Kansas it was all about money.

Is the state spending too much or too little? Are districts efficient? Is the school funding formula flawed And what does this have to do with student outcomes?

Turns out, not as much as you think.

"The most important factor is the education of the parents," says Professor John Rury from the University of Kansas School of Education.

For decades, his research shows, parents in Johnson County have generally been way more educated than parents in other parts of the metro.

Eleanor Klibanoff / KCUR

Terrie Van Zandt-Travis had only been a preschool teacher for three weeks when one of her more challenging students scampered away right after lunch. She looked around the classroom, and what she saw stopped her in her tracks. 

"He was face down in the trash can," she said. "We had peaches that day and there was a peach between every single finger. He was pulling them out of the trash can and jamming them into his pants."

She says she'll never forget this 4-year-old's face when he told her, "I'm taking food home for me and my brothers." 

Dan Margolies / Heartland Health Monitor

Seft Hunter became chief operating officer last year of Communities Creating Opportunity, a faith-based organization that addresses poverty-related issues. As part of its campaign to promote health access and equity, CCO, working with the REACH Healthcare Foundation and other groups, has been mapping medical “hot spots” in the metropolitan area in an effort to better manage residents’ chronic conditions, improve access to health care and reduce emergency room visits.

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.

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