Grant Type: 2011 Community Challenge
Grant Amount: $403,432
Lead Organization: Mid-America Regional Council
ABOUT THE REGION
The Kansas City metropolitan area straddles two states and encompasses a nine-county, 4,200 square-mile region with a population of approximately two million. The region anticipates adding about 600,000 in population by 2040 – a modest growth rate that nonetheless requires planning to ensure the long term vitality of the region’s communities, economy and environmental.
The Kansas City metropolitan area is located at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, with a natural history defined largely by prairie ecology. The region possesses a high quality of life; good jobs in industries as diverse as vehicle manufacturing, information, and financial and engineering services; and a predictably reliable economy for attracting and retaining businesses and talent.
The vitality of the region’s economy is subject to multiple drivers of change. At the macro scale, these include such factors as demographic change, globalization of trade, and energy prices. At the regional scale, issues of equity, population growth and political fragmentation complicate decision-making to address complex issues like economic and climate resilience. Weaving climate resilience through regional sustainability planning represents a significant emerging area of focus.
PROJECT SUMMARY AND GOALS
The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), Kansas City’s regional and metropolitan planning organization, has worked with many dozens of community partners and stakeholder groups to build policy and planning strategies to advance the region’s vision of sustainability. This work, carried out through the Sustainable Communities Initiative, established broad community support and engagement in an expansive agenda through an initiative known as Creating Sustainable Places (CSP). A creative mix of new policies, plans, analytical tools, capacities and partnerships emerged from this work. Sustainability-focused plans in six transit corridors and seventeen development nodes/activity centers will drive redevelopment in strategic locations throughout the community. And, more importantly, strong community support has led to the creation of a new regional sustainability policy committee to carry on the important work initiated by the HUD grant.
Building upon the CSP initiative, the Department of Energy and the White House recently designated a MARCorganized consortium as a Climate Action Champion (CAC). This consortium proposed to implement an aggressive set of climate resilience activities with support from the federal partnerships involved in the program. Team members span the CSP and CAC efforts, and represent both regional and local entities. MARC, with partner local governments and community stakeholders, has advanced an ambitious agenda to continue implementation of CSP and CAC efforts.
THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
From a climate resilience perspective, significant community issues include:
- Potential drought, heat and flooding.
- Energy security and affordability. Associated issues include strong heat island effects, stress on the power grid at times of peak demand, energy affordability for lower-income residents, and an older housing stock in the urban core.
- Food security caused by drought and high temperatures.
- Air quality problems, especially ground-level ozone, will be exacerbated by higher summer temperatures.
- New public health issues, such as West Nile Virus.
PROMISING PRACTICES OR INNOVATIONS
- In Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO), the Better Buildings-funded Energy Works KC Initiative made 2,700 homes and 116 commercial buildings more energy efficient and enabled low-income households to save 65,000 gallons of water per year, with accompanying financial and energy savings.
- Since the completion of KCMO’s Climate Protection Plan, the city reduced its electricity usage 21% between 2000 & 2013 and reduced GHG emissions from municipal operations by 25% in the same time period.
- “Bridging the Gap” has built extraordinary partnerships among civic, corporate, nonprofit and public entities in support of multiple sustainability efforts. These include such projects as City Energy Project, Sustainability Circles, Green Business Network and leadership with companies like Sprint.
- MARC’s Academy for Sustainable Communities has organized over 385 professional development programs since 2008, with total attendance exceeding 15,000 participants.
- MARC worked with all of the major jurisdictions to adopt 2009/2012 IECC energy efficiency building codes, reducing residential energy use in new homes by 20 – 50% (depending on the previously adopted code in each jurisdiction).
- A regional green infrastructure plan known as MetroGreen developed over 320 miles of greenway corridors. Fourteen jurisdictions have protected more than 90,000 riparian acres, helping to protect water quality, reduce flooding, conserve energy and restore habitat.
- The region’s Clean Air Action Plan takes a voluntary, multi-pollutant, multi-sector approach to reducing ground level ozone and greenhouse gas emissions. It focuses on alternative transportation, energy efficiency, green building and green infrastructure to create an integrative policy platform to help advance regional goals.