If you’ve lived in Kansas City for very long, you’ve heard the lyrics to Going to Kansas City plenty of times. “Standing on the corner, corner of 12th Street and Vine.”
Sometimes, you’ll hear those lyrics updated to say “18th and Vine,” reflecting the current epicenter of jazz heritage in Kansas City. Why not 12th? Because 12th and Vine doesn’t exist anymore.
Thanks to short-sighted urban renewal efforts, this intersection, and the once-bustling streetscape that made it famous, were eliminated. In a time where old, unkempt buildings were seen as a liability rather than an opportunity, Kansas City cleared entire blocks of its history, permanently scarring its viability as a vibrant urban place.
True to form, we’ve replaced what we had with a bit of a cartoon. Adventurers trying to make their way to 12th and Vine will encounter the park pictured here, with a fake street sign to pose with. Oh, and this glorified median is piano-shaped, complete with parking space “keys.” Adorable, huh?
Kansas City isn’t alone in suffering from urban renewal. In fact, if Robert Moses had been left to run rampant, New York City would be a very different place today. While we can’t reverse the devastating impacts of the destruction that was conducted under the guise of progress, we can fight to ensure we not make the same mistakes again.
Cities are living legacies. Change is inevitable, but if cities are the greatest manifestation of our collective achievement, let’s continue to make them worth celebrating.