WEst bottoms Reborn, A Vision Study for a System of Public Spaces

2016-2018 | KCDC Studio Project

In 2015, the Historic West Bottoms Association (HWB) approached the KCDC and the City of KCMO Office of Culture and Creative Services (OCCS) for help in addressing infrastructure and connectivity needs in the West Bottoms, with the hope that improvements would engage the unique heritage of the area and sustain its emerging arts industry without demeaning it. The KCDC worked with HWB and OCCS to apply for a National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Our Town Grant, which is a grant program (eligible to municipalities) that supports projects that enhance the quality of life and opportunity for existing residents, increase creative activity, and create a distinct sense of place with the arts at their core. Our Town projects challenge artists, arts organizations, and community development practitioners to deliberately integrate arts and culture into community revitalization work - placing arts at the table with land-use, transportation, economic development, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety strategies. 

In spring 2016, the NEA awarded a $100,000 Our Town grant to the City of KCMO, 1 of 64 awardees nationwide, for the project, titled West Bottoms Reborn. As project lead, the KCDC design team will work with three embedded studio artists to ensure that West Bottoms Reborn builds upon the Greater Downtown Area Plan (extends downtown boundaries to the West Bottoms), Arts Convergence Plan (nurturing city-wide artistic production), the KCDC 2011 West Bottoms Vision Plan, and the Urban Land Institute’s Rose Fellowship Study (economic development). The project will also build on an existing streetscape and wayfinding plan and a green infrastructure plan that is currently underway. 

In fall 2016, the NEA, in partnership with the Kresge Foundation, selected the West Bottoms Reborn project and six other Our Town grantees to receive technical assistance from a pilot program aimed at expanding support of creative placemaking projects. In collaboration with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and PolicyLink, the pilot program provides the creative placemaking field a deeper understanding of how to do arts-based community development well, ultimately benefiting funders and practitioners. 

Project Objectives:
1) Continue to develop policies first identified in KCMO’s Arts Convergence Plan which support artists and artistic production in the West Bottoms.
2) Increase social and civic engagement through the integration of art and cultural production into urban planning processes.
3) Invest in the critical infrastructure and public space needs in the West Bottoms.
4) Sustain and increase art and cultural production through the development of urban infrastructure and public space.
5) Sustain and increase both population and jobs connected to arts and culture in the West Bottoms.

Project Outcomes: 
1) A vision for a system of public spaces in the West Bottoms will be produced.
2) Conceptual, programming, and design studies will be produced for the system of selected sites in the West Bottoms.
3) A series of public engagement programming designed to honor the history and place of the historic West Bottoms will be held in conjunction with the project.
4) One of the sites will be selected as a public space design prototype and will undergo full design development and potential implementation (pending additional funding) centering on the installation of site specific artwork. This process will be carried out by the KCDC, culminating as part of a design-build academic exercise.
5) A comprehensive project publication will be produced, documenting the entire process and the design iterations, and advancing an argument for art based processes in the creation of public spaces.


In order to better engage the diverse audience of West Bottoms Reborn, a website was created for the project which featured information about the project (including information about the project team, objectives, and intended outcomes), events, and project feedback devices. Though the project has ended, the site will remain active for archival purposes.

Project Partners

Digital Publication

West Bottoms Reborn: A Vision Study for a System of Public Spaces
Phase II & III Project Publication
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

West Bottoms Reborn: A Vision Study for a System of Public Spaces
Phase I Project Publication