Special Project

KCUR's extensive Beyond Our Borders project explores the history and impact of the most distinct lines in Kansas City. For more than a year, we’ve been rediscovering Troost Avenue, the State Line, the Wyandotte-Johnson county line, and the Missouri River. Our hope is that we now better understand how these borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve critical divides.

Here, you'll find a compilation of our work and our discussions with communities across the region. You also can hone in on a particular border:

Troost Avenue

The State Line

The Wyandotte-Johnson county line

The Missouri River

STORY IDEAS: This work doesn't end. 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 director, at briana@kcur.org.

KCUR Wants Your Photos Of Kansas City’s Northland

Jul 7, 2015
Julie Denesha / KCUR

We’re learning a lot about the Northland in Kansas City.

But we know you know more.

As KCUR continues its look at the Missouri River as a dividing line in Kansas City — part of our Beyond Our Borders project — we’re posting photos of life north of the river on a new Tumblr site called Northland Exposure.

Alyson Raletz / KCUR

The Northland. Kansas City north. Northtown (also spelled Northtowne in some cases.)

Whatever you call the part of the Kansas City metropolitan area north of the Missouri River, we wanted to know more about its boundaries. But the answer is a little muddy.

Leawood Police Department

High-speed car chases are familiar scenes in movies and on TV — cop cars flying down the streets and highways with their sirens blaring, trying to keep criminals from getting away. But what many don’t realize is that in real life police pursuits are dangerous, and often end in crashes or — in the worst cases — death.

Caroline Kull / KCUR

Updated, 10:50 a.m. Friday:   

A proposal to reduce blight along the Troost Avenue corridor in Kansas City has received initial approval from the City Plan Commission.


Commissioners backed the plan in a unanimous vote Wednesday, sending the plan to the Planning and Zoning Committee for review on July 15.


The original post continues below:


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

This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. It was originally reported in July 2015.    

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. 


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


  • 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.


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.