Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Going to Kansas City

Actually, I was just there for the annual ASCE (civil engineering) conference. It's a nice "little" city in comparison to Chicago. About 2 million people live in greater Kansas City, and 'greater' is a big caveat. It is another one of those Midwest towns that saw several decades of flight from the downtown area. Even still, "locals" are hyper critical of the seedier areas of town. Those of use visiting from major metropolises were much less fearful of the so-called blight.

Activity appears to be returning to the city. The power and light district, which is really only one city block, provides a lot of night life. A series of bars and restaurants ring a central courtyard that includes an outdoor concert stage and is covered by a cool steel canopy. The ASCE younger members convened here every night of the conference for some "networking." However, again compared to Chicago's bar scene, I was surprised by the low turnout of locals to the great venues.

Patronage of the bars is probably hindered by the fact that most everyone still needs to drive several miles out of the city to their homes in the suburbs. I fell into that category myself, since I was staying with a colleague on the other side of the river in Kansas. It's a driver friendly city with lots of cheap parking and fast-moving highways. That hardly substitutes for a robust public transportation system and an army of cab drivers.

Even through the recession, the city appears to be making great strides in re-inventing itself. Our conference hotel was opposite the new convention center. The cable supported structure makes for quite the impact as it spans over one of the highways. An even more impressive architectural achievement is under construction in the form of a new opera house. It appears that a large glass curtain wall is intended to be suspended from massive steel arches that span over the seating bowl. Though, it's a little difficult to imagine the building as anything more than a mangled pile of steel truss work at this point.

Convention Center

Despite new construction and modern amenities, Kansas Citizens (don't know how they refer to themselves) are most proud of their barbeque sauce and fatty local specialties like cheesy-corn and cheesy-bacon-pretzels. Kansas City will satisfy your taste buds and your impression of what a midwestern town aught to look like.
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