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'A gem in the middle of the US': Residents speak to how Kansas City national recognition could impact city

Posted: 4:38 PM, Nov 15, 2023
Updated: 2023-11-15 19:47:37-05
Talking to voices about how KC's success may change the city

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One could say there's more Kansas City pride than ever right now.

In 2023 we've seen a Super Bowl win, a first of it's kind women's soccer stadium in the works, a brand new airport terminal, and big names like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift coming through.

"I didn’t think Kansas City looked like this, but it’s beautiful," said LaDonna French, a Beyoncé fan in town for the concert in October. "I love it."

It's events like this that have spurred national recognition, and brought more people to the area, not just as tourists, but residents.

"I think people really choose to come to a city like Kansas City," said Abby Lewis, a young, future homeowner.

While the city's population has roughly stayed the same, there's no doubt the national spotlight has made it a bit brighter.

To learn more, we talked to voices like:

  • a business owner who raves about his city
  • a real estate agent, who's helping more people come to the area
  • a future home owner who moved here from the West coast
  • a man who's day to day is directly impacted by city development

Wes Grimm, business owner

Wes Grimm, local business owner

"A lot of people look at this as sorta a backwater place or something like that," said Wes Grimm, owner of Grimm Tattoo. "Kansas City’s always been cool to me."

The popular tattoo parlor recently moved to the Stockyards, after it's location in Westport was destroyed in a fire. Nevertheless, business has prevailed even in a new location. Grimm said moving has other perks, too.

"All the people that work in all these businesses come out and drink coffee on the sidewalk together, and we all talk to each other, we all know each others names and it’s really great," Grimm said.

It's that community that lured Grimm back after he himself moved away.

"The support that I’ve had here in this town, the Kansas Citians really all seem to like to wash each others hands.," he said.

Grimm chose to stay because of how far the city has come and how that benefits his business.

"Now you see a thriving community from the river, all the way out to Swope Park," he said.

Abby Lewis, future home owner

Abby Lewis, recently moved to KC

Abby Lewis calls Kansas City "Goldilocks City" because it's not too big, but it's not too small.

"Having access to local creators and different events going on that are specific to the community without it being the size of like Chicago or New York, where you kinda get lost in the shuffle," Lewis said.

The Nevada native moved to the Kansas City area with her husband for his job two years ago. Since then, they left, but decided to come back on their own.

"I think that it has a good group of people and then those people go on to create their own businesses, and create their own spaces, and I like exploring that and being a part of that," she said.

Lewis said it has everything she needs as a young adult from the affordability, to the sense of community.

"I like that there’s so many meet ups," she said. "I go to this walk club on Saturdays which is really nice, and then I’m doing a pottery group."

It's the small town feel in a big time city that sealed the deal, while also feeling that they're not too far from their home town.

"There was a lot of people who were moving there and they were just creating their own culture, and we felt like that was really similar in Kansas City," Lewis said.

Ryan Gritters, real estate agent

Ryan Gritters, real estate agent

"The number of buyers and people interested in buying here is healthy," said Ryan Gritters, a KC real estate agent, who's watching the city grow before his eyes.

Gritters said big events like the NFL Draft are the cherry on top for buyers, meaning it's not the first or only reason why they want to move here.

"We were already a city that was moving; our economy was continuing to increase, buyers were continuing to come, but now it’s an exciting place to be here," Gritters said.

That means more upgrades.

"We’re seeing a lot of places in Kansas City that has historically been run down now become revitalized," Gritters said.

But not everyone is on board with change. As more people move in, Gritters said the city's more likely to build up, with high rises, to accommodate.

The more construction there is, the more crowded it gets, and it also changes the iconic skyline.

"That’s difficult for a lot of people who have been here a long time and it’s just an adjustment," Gritters said. "People are fearful of losing the character of what has been Kansas City, which has been the small town, big city."

Michael Kowal, directly benefits from development

Michael Kowal, directly impacted by KC development

Michael Kowal said the streetcar is one of his main modes of transportation. He was hurt playing football, and left paralyzed from the neck down due to a spinal chord injury.

"Since I don’t drive, for me that just makes independence so much easier," Kowal said.

He lives across the street from Ability KC on Main Street, where he goes two to three times a week to work out.

As the streetcar construction continues and expands further up and down Main Street, it's opening up his world.

"It’s just being connected," Kowal said. "To be able to go wherever you wanna go and not have to worry about, hey, can I get a ride?"

It's major developments like these that are also opening up Kansas City to a wider audience.

VisitKC said things spaces like the new Loews Hotel and the redesigned KCI draws more conventions to the area, booking all the way out to 2029. It's a major money maker for the city.

"We’re doing some big things here, and it’s amazing to be a part of that," Kowal said.

The money that comes in can continue to help Kansas City expand, and help people like Kowal.

"If we lessen those barriers, it makes it easier to connect with the community to get out and about and… to… help grow what’s beautiful about Kansas City," he said.

Kansas City pride is found in more ways than a shiny new airport, or a pop star sighting. It's the little things, from supporting small businesses to making connections.

This is only the beginning for Kansas City, and more people are seeing they want in on the next chapter.

"It’s really a gem in the middle of the US," Kowal said.