Monday, December 29, 2008

From the West Bottoms to the Power and Blight District, you can smell the smoke. pt 2

Progress and Decline, you can't have one without the other, at least not these days. While the areas around Downtown , except the City Market area, are in various stages of decline, decay, and stagnation, Downtown is a work in the name of progress. I'm just going to come out and own up to the strong bias I have against the current transformation, I don't like it, and I never will. Now in my own long winded and convoluted way here is why.

The "brains" behind this supposed revitalization have a targeted demographic. Twenty to Thirty somethings and out of towners, period, that is it. I understand the desire to attract tourists, but the other group, well that's where my preconceived notions and bias come in. This is where I get to play the curmudgeon, the out of touch middle aged prick in the mud. If the Power and Light district were a Tenderloin District strip joint, then the barker at the door, luring in the unsuspecting hayseeds, would be KC Ink. This insipid waste of ink and trees is everything that is a wrong with Urban revitalization and the hoards of Sex in the City / Abercrombie posers that they target. The Star canned a bunch of real writers and kept Muffy and company. And it is within that douche-a-graphic that the brains behind the P&l district have doubled down on. The problem with resting all of your hopes in one group is that it won't work in the long run. Half of them will move on to greener pastures, the other half will go broke buying 300 dollar shoes and 100 dollar facials, and that's just the guys. Now maybe that's an unfair stereotype, maybe I'm shooting all the pups because one has fleas. I base my judgement on the Power and Light media pimp, KC Ink. If you want to change the message, better get a different, less nauseating messenger.

Now before anyone gets their Jimmy Choos all scuffed up, let me just say that not everyone who sets foot in the P&L district is an Uber Douche. I will even concede that as a 49 year old dinosaur I may be completely out of touch. Maybe the future is 8 dollar beer, Red Bull, 16 dollar hamburgers, and tight fitting jackets with too short sleeves. Let's hope that's the case, otherwise the P&L district will turn out to be nothing more than a parasite, sucking the livelihood out of long established businesses, before it fails. I don't hope it fails, but I believe it will.

Progress isn't measured by how many overpriced venues we can cram in to a few square blocks. Progress is measured by productivity and longevity. The West Bottoms was productive for a long time. Cash flowed out of the West Bottoms. Eventually as with all things, the Bottoms finally outlived it's usefulness. Sad but it happens. Now it's the P&L district and the Downtown renaissance, that the city has put all it's hopes in. I could be wrong (not really), but I don't think this city will be better off because of the P&L district. Long established businesses are failing because of it, and that ain't exactly progress. Put simply, there aren't enough consumers to support the old and the new. Eventually, in the economy we face, the P&L district will flounder and fail to live up to the Great Expectations and hype. At least that's what I Frink.


  1. I think of the P&L as a high-priced slightly more permanant version of a traveling carnival. A group of out of town huxters attracts crowds of impressionable rubes with shiny colorful lights and lots of noise, takes their money and moves on without leaving anything behind but a field of rubbish. Instead of just spending a weekend at Truman Corners and then leaving behind a parking lot full of corndog wrappers, the Cordish carnival will spend 2 or 3 years downtown and then leave behind some glamourous looking crumbling buildings to house the ever growing local homeless population.

  2. I think someone should open a bar down ther and call it Tool. The entrance could be like a carwash that blasts the incoming goobers with spray tan and hair product.

  3. How about a bar named The V Room. Patrons enter the building through a massive pair of spread legs, a vagina, and, once inside, sit upon bar stools resembling mushrooms.

  4. Sadly, Gabriel is quite right, though I usually refer to the P&L as a "theme park with alcohol." The city made real progress slowly, especially in the River Market and Midtown areas, but now most of the commercial space is overpriced, there aren't enough businesses or people to fill them, and the progress has stalled. Its unfortunate to see it happening - guess I don't need that downtown condo after all.

  5. You summed up the existence of INK magazine quite well, but what happens when the Star pulls the plug on that insipid rag and the 20 somethings have to read real news and entertainment in the good publications serving Kansas City.

    Does anyone really think INK will last into 2010?

  6. I'd never heard of INK. I tried going to that link, and hurried my ass right back here again. ::shudders:: WTF is that, anyway?

    I don't mind the P&L, but I don't go there often, either. I've visited two or three times so far since its existed, and only because I was there for something specific.

    What I'd like to know is what it is people think we shoul have done with that space? Let it sit and rot like the West Bottoms? Let companies come in, if they wanted to, in order to fix up the old spaces once by one and open businesses there? Put in something completely different from the P&L, like a Ledgends-type/Town Center-type lifestyle center, i.e. an outdoor mall? I just don't know what else was supposed to be done with the area. I think it looks much nicer than it used to, offers up more entertainment/restaurants than what used to be available, and in general hasn't proven itself to be such an awful thing, per se. At least not yet.

  7. Here's the problem.
    Technically something had to be done to give downtown an "entertainment district", but the problem was that none of the civic leaders had the paticence, vision or expertise to incrementally build up a locally owned and operated district. Instead they opted for the instant "district-in-a-box" offer from Cordish. It was the easy way out. Now we see what the price is for that easy way out. None of the businesses in the P&L are locally owned. These out of town businesses are not paying city business taxes, and they are competing against and pushing out locally owned businesses that do pay taxes and keep those profits here at home. So the Cordish district is not expanding or encouraging the growth of the local economy and is in many ways hurting it. In short, the P&L district is an economic parasite. Adding insult to this insult, this district is being played up as a venue for tourists to enjoy and get a taste of KC, yet it doesn't represent anything about or from Kansas City.
    Case in point, they brought in a barbecue restaurant from Minnesota. Minnesota?!?!? What? As if KC, doesn't have any local BBQ!?!?!?

    Finally, just a quick note about shooting at the marketing demographic, many thousands of the residents that occupy the condos and loft apartments downtown fall into that demographic, so the Cordish folks are just trying to sell to that nearest population group. I still agree it's not a smart long term strategy, because ultimately that's a transient group that comes and goes. But it's not totally illogical either for starting out.

  8. Faith
    I think the city should have never allowed that area to rot in the first place. That said, I don't think the P&L district was a bad idea, but the marketing and target group is the problem. I would prefer to drive past the delapidated buildings or a giant parking lot, since Kansas City taxpayers will end up footing the bill. city services that already are wanting, will take a hit as well. It was just a poorly laid plan, in my opinion.

    Best comment ever.

  9. I'm 26, and when I see Ink magazine I don't think, "Thank god, something that targets my demographic!"

    Instead I think, "In about five years I will be 'too old' for them."

    As is the case with anything flashy and super-trendy, both Ink and Power and Light seem like they were never meant to be permanent. After all, it's impossible to build up a base of loyal patrons or readers when your target demographic is disposable.

  10. One last note, I don't think the P&L district will fail. It's a too efficient and well placed parasite for that to happen. No, what will happen is that this downtown district will hurt and destroy other dining and entertainment venues in surrounding neighborhoods, i.e. the Crossroads, City Market, Westport, and even the Plaza. That to me is an even sadder legacy, because those surrounding failures are what will stifle any true long term renaissance for the downtown/midtown area. In the end, the P&L will still be there, but it will be surrounded by an ever more blighted and deteriorating set of neighborhoods. I hope I'm wrong in that prediction.

  11. Johnkel24,

    You're partially right about the restaurants, but they're not all out-of-town-owned. Chef Burger, Peachtree and the seafood place are all locally owned.

    On the BBQ front, I'd have loved to see a Bryant's or Oklahoma Joe's in there too, but they had the chance to invest and didn't - then Famous Dave's did.

  12. Miscreant,
    The dbags in P & Hell don't even serve Red Bull :-(

    It's Monster in the entire place. Reason #336 why I hate that place.


  13. Looks like your traffic is through the roof.

    Good, you damn well deserve it.

    Another wicked good post, by the way.

  14. At least the people hanging out in the p&l district have jobs and marketable skills; I don't see you saying much about how rosy your future is.

    But I'll be sure to throw you a quarter once I'm done rooting through your stuff after you're evicted.

  15. anon
    Thats the same thing your mother told me.

  16. I think they purposefully engineered every single bar in P&L to be excruciatingly loud b/c the douchebags that (love to) go there have nothing worthwhile to say.

    I'll take the Foundry, Firefly, the Gaf, Brooksider & Charlie Hoopers any day.

  17. Kyle, if the seafood place you're referring to is the Bristol, it's owned by Houlihans.

  18. KCMO confiscates 1% of my income and I don't even live there, I think I should be entitled to a free beer once a month at a place of my choice within P&L.