Northeast News | Kansas City Design Center students to reinvent Kessler Park reservoir

Abby hoover

The Kessler Park Reservoir, abandoned since 1931, will be the subject of the last reimagining project of the Kansas City Design Center (KCDC) students.

KCDC is an interdisciplinary urban design program located at 1018 Baltimore Ave. in downtown Kansas City. The program is a partnership between the Architecture, Planning and Design programs at Kansas State University (KSU) and the University of Kansas (KU).

The KCDC works in partnership with academic, professional and civic institutions to provide students with a unique educational experience. Their projects aim to improve the public realm by engaging with local stakeholder groups to develop architectural and urban design concepts and implementation proposals addressing critical real-world issues such as affordable housing and resilience. in the Kansas City subway.

Each project ends with a full publication, which serves project stakeholders and communities. Since 2012, the KCDC has carried out projects focused on Kessler Park, Independence Avenue and the Scarritt Renaissance district. A few years ago, they did a study on the reservoir, involving the community and working with the park department. Now they’re back to take a second look and explore how to move forward.

KCDC received a $ 25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support the Kessler Park Reservoir Revitalization Project, which will create a community-centered design vision study for the redeployment of the abandoned water reservoir in a public space and will create a framework for its implementation. The grant must be spent within two years.

This project is one of 1,073 across the country that were selected in the first 2021 funding round in the category. KCDC also received over $ 5,000 in support of the Kansas City Department of Parks and Recreation.

“The goal of the project would be to really engage with the community to sort of take the next step by exploring the possibility, how the reservoir can be reused and turn into a shared community space and a public space for the community. herself, “said Vladimir Krstic, director of academic programs at KCDC and professor of architecture at KSU.

The team believes that if they combine the enormous potential of each, they can use this project as an opportunity to create a design study that comes close to the possibility of implementation. This time around, they predict that the outcome of the project will be a very extensive vision and design study for the possibility of reusing the reservoir, with ideas from the community being incorporated into the project itself.

“Parks and Rec is also interested in moving forward with this,” Krstic said. “In our conversation with them, they really support the project but would like to look at a project that shows some feasibility. We don’t just do academic studies, our studies are really based on the desire to get closer to the implementation – to the community and to the City as well.

Since KCDC is made up of students, it cannot act as a professional design company. However, the feedback they collect, the research and data they collect, and the outcome document of the project can be used as a template for the community to seek professional services for implementation.

Community engagement is a big part of every project KCDC works on, but with COVID-19 putting in-person meetings on hold, they’ve moved on to virtual engagement. However, since the reservoir is in Kessler Park, they hope to host in-person events, as well as online meetings, polls and information.

“The most important aspect of this project is really that it becomes your project rather than our project,” Krstic told the Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association (PHNA). “I think this whole park, including the pond and reservoir, is a tremendous amenity for the city, not just this community but for the city, and we strongly believe that it needs to be restored to the level that is really becoming this. that it can be, become an important asset to your community and the city as a whole.

Some of the city’s oldest graffiti from the 1970s can be found in the reservoir, a neighbor noted. Krstic agreed, saying they wanted to preserve them as an artifact that is part of the community. When they did the first study on the reservoir, they worked with people who spent time there and will respect, honor and integrate the history left behind in the form of graffiti.

Although the program has gone through various incarnations since its inception, over the past 12 years KCDC has created a program that allows students from K-State and KU to come and spend a year in Kansas City to participate in community projects.

“The purpose of the program is to serve as a platform for community engagement and the promotion of excellence in urban design,” said Krstic. “We always engage in projects that have a certain community relevance, we also try to build relationships with different agencies in the city – planning, parks and recreation, and other departments – and also local partners like LISC, like ULI or Downtown Council, or any other community we have worked with.

Their research and analysis can be used as a resource for the community, local government or other agencies that could move this project forward in the future.

“In a way, we sort of bridge the gap that exists between professional services and the capacity of the City, so we’re kind of a bridge between the professional community and the City as we create that kind of vision, ”Krstic said.

KCDC students are in their final year of a five-year graduate program at one of the two universities, and are in Kansas City between one and one-and-a-half years, typically focusing on a project. Krstic believes that a designer’s ability to engage with a community and those who are served by a project is just as – if not more – important than technical ability.

For some, this is their first opportunity to practice community engagement, including site visits and direct interactions with customers or users, and social responsibility. About 50% of the program’s alumni choose to stay in Kansas City and become change agents after graduation due to the relationships established and the commitment developed during their time at KCDC.

“As much as they develop their professional skills, this element was missing in their regular curriculum to understand that a significant part of design is made up of design advocates, and this is how you work with a community to develop an idea, level the breadth of possibilities, understand the issues, and then actually work with the community, ”Krstic said.

KCDC project coordinator, Mariah Randell, knows that if a community is not included from the start, a project will be useless because it will not have the community’s contribution and the strength to support it until implementation. artwork.

Throughout the project, they will host community engagement meetings, work to expand their online engagement opportunities, and share updates on social media. They think about a kind of poster in the neighborhood to share their work.

Students will begin the Kessler Reservoir project when they report to KCDC in August, and Krstic plans to build links with other groups and stakeholders in the surrounding neighborhood throughout the summer.

Krstic sees the project as idea management and said this year’s project may lead to subsequent projects exploring the possibilities further and keeping those ideas alive.

The first tank project they did focused on understanding the condition of the envelope, understanding crime issues, the history of graffiti, and pitching some kind of wacky ideas, Krstic said.

The tank shell is cracked and leaking water, creating water management issues on Cliff Drive.

“We want to create a study that now brings the community and Parks and Recreation much closer to say, ‘Okay, how do we do that? And there’s a starting idea – it’s more than a starting idea, it’s a developed design plan that’s endorsed by the community, the community will say, “We’re interested in what’s going on” – and that would ultimately lead the community to work with the city, find the resources, ”Krstic said.

The community can then take that plan and apply for PIAC or other City funds, and work with the appropriate departments to implement it using professional services.

“Parks and Rec really asked us if we could work on something that could be implemented, and Parks and Rec also recently created the advisory service panel, and they’re really looking at how to use the existing park space, offload parks that haven’t been used or are run down, ”Randell said. “So I think there is already a lot of momentum behind this project to really get it off the ground.”

With the support of Parks and Rec, the follow-up study has the potential to kick-start an implementation plan, Randell said, adding that the ministry would really like something to happen in this area because Kessler Park and Cliff Drive are so heavily used, added to community support.

“The simple way to think about it is that we create inertia in community development, we do it through design,” said Terrance Clark, executive director of KCDC. “We’re not a professional studio, but these are students who are about to start their professional careers and they get that leadership experience and are used to this whole process. “

When it comes to the reservoir project, KCDC may connect things in a way that may not be apparent. The parks department strives to create fairness and quality in public space, and Krstic believes Northeast is the perfect place to pursue these things.

At this point, no one knows the condition of the tank shell. KCDC is part of the Global Design initiative in Kansas City, which brings together stakeholders interested in improving urban environments. Part of this initiative is to create a data platform for the City where developers, engineers and others can find initial information for any project, which would allow any project to be as good as possible. KCDC is working with them to use LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanners to penetrate the soil and assess the condition of the tank, then they will be able to determine what is possible.

The other factor will be to take the plan developed with community input and break it down into phases to make it feasible based on resources. The NEA grant cannot be used to build anything – it is only for study – but it can be used to prototype street furniture or temporary installations.

“At the end of the day, the hope is that whatever we produce, it seems to be produced by the community, rather than by us, an outside agency,” Krstic said.
KCDC plans to translate their documents and updates into Spanish to reach a wider population in the northeast.

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