Moving to Kansas City?

Another supplication to the vast and wide knowledgebank of QT3…

So I just got a job offer this morning for a company in Overland Park, Kansas, which is essentially a suburb of Kansas City. Yeah, I know. Kansas. But it’s a decent offer and a good job, so I’m considering it.

I will, of course, be doing other research, but is anybody here familiar with the KC area and want to tell me about it? What are some good places to look for houses for me, wife, and a 2-year old kid? What the heck do people in KC do for fun besides wring their hands over evolution’s being taught in school? I’d be moving from Southern California, which as we know is five different kinds of awesome, so this whole idea of location really is significant to say the least.

It’s Johnson County, so it’ll be “expensive” as compared to other counties surrounding it. The Kansas side of Kansas City is definitely one of the nice areas and one you’d want to look towards living in. Mission Hills is very expensive, but Shawnee Mission, Leawood, and OP are within reason.

I can’t stand Kansas City personally, but that’s my own bias as a St. Louis transplant–we’re like that (and Kansas Citians hate us right back!). The best general description I can give you is that St. Louis is the furthest-west “eastern city” in the country, while KC is the furthest-east “western city”. Give it a chance to surprise you with it’s cultural awareness (which includes an outstanding university in Lawrence, just 30 miles away, with a community also devoted to the arts) though, and I think it’ll knock down some of your pre-conceptions.

They’ve got some crazy little women there?

Everything’s up to date?

Sorry, I have no real help to offer.

Dont do it!

You’ll be back in less then 2 years.

I grew up in KC and moved away about three years ago. Let me see what I can remember.

First off, I grew up on the Missouri side. KCMO is the dominant town around which the metro area orbits. Don’t ever confuse it with KCK (not abbreviated ‘KCKS,’ strangely) if you want people to take you seriously.

Overland Park (‘OP’ in writing, but rarely speech) is the defining example of Kansas City’s continuing struggle with white flight. While much of the money and whites in KC left the city center in the '60s and '70s, it wasn’t until the late '80s and early '90s that business fully left, as well. That’s led to the creation of a ‘second downtown’ in Overland Park, although in reality it’s a few clustered office buildings and the sprawling, outsized Sprint campus. (Which despite millions of dollars in tax breaks, will probably waste away over the next decade now that Sprint Nextel has moved their corporate headquarters to Reston, VA.)

I hate Overland Park, but not because it’s in Kansas. I hate it because it’s boring, derivative, and sickeningly cookie-cutter. It’s clean and the roads are nice, sure, but it’s also a predictable series of faux-brick strip malls, huddled clusters of Applebee’s (also based in Kansas!) and Applebee’s alternatives, and tract housing gussied up with pine decks and ornamental concrete.

To be fair, you’ll find the same sort of ‘towns’ in a faerie ring all around Kansas City in both Kansas and Missouri; Lee’s Summit and ‘North of the River’ aren’t any better.

But Overland Park has Sprint and the orbiting Sprint subsidiaries (including a majority of the IT/technical companies in the area), so it gets a special condemnation from me. It’s where white culture has gone to die, taking much of the money with it.

So for much of the '90s (and my young adulthood), Midtown - the area that runs North from the Plaza (world’s first shopping mall! PRIDE) to Downtown - was severely depressed, with only a few small pockets of culture in the Westport and 39th Street areas. (Westport, btw, has devolved into the ‘party center’ of town, incongruous with the amount of drunk driving necessary for most suburb-dwellers to leave it.) And Downtown was a wasteland - little business, little shopping, little practical residential options besides a small enclave of converted warehouses near the River Market. And not a grocery store within biking - let alone walking - distance.

I lived without a car in Kansas City for a few years, which was an adventure, especially since the bus line ended at the end of Ward Parkway, a street many would consider ‘in the heart of the city.’ I lived there because I desired urban living, had a great apartment for cheap, and wanted to help bring Midtown and Downtown (and great adjacent neighborhoods like Waldo and Northeast) back to life. Mostly I got really high and looked out my window and watched them build the Costco on a lot that had been demolished years ago for an unbuilt Wal-Mart.

Fortunately for the city, after I moved to New York many of the artists who had previously lived in areas like the West Bottoms bought up the warehouses and loft spaces in Midtown and began to open art galleries, leading to a marked increase of surrounding residential revivals. There are now things to do in the city proper, like new restaurants that aren’t chains or barbecue joints (not that there’s anything wrong with BBQ!) and interesting bars. Obviously for over a million people, the lack of these things wasn’t that critical, happy as they were with our 30-screen movie theaters (home of AMC Theaters!) and copious Mr. Goodcents sub shops. But in a town with a first-rate art school and one of the most disproportionately amazing art galleries in the midwest (the Nelson-Atkins, aka ‘The Nelson’) it is good to finally see a young art culture springing up. It’s far past time.

So while you can tell I’m an urban space snob - I live in Brooklyn now, and consider it nearly ideal - I don’t want to imply that all of the areas outside of KCMO are crap and filled with horrible, shallow people. (Not ‘all,’ only ‘most.’) But if you’re going to accept a job in OP, please take a look at the housing nearer to KCMO than further away. I think you’ll find that there’s not only more to do within a short driving distance, there will be a relatively easy commute to work, as you’ll be staying off the over-crowded freeways and traveling opposite the bulk of commuter traffic.

Plus, when the downtown arena is finally built (after Mayor Barnes gets the proper back-scratching from area construction barons the J.E. Dunn company), you’ll be able to zip through the city to access it and the other burgeoning hot spots in downtown KCMO. Plus, your house and/or apartment won’t look like it was designed by a stunted, beige architect who once saw a picture of a European chateau through the wet, stuck-together pages of the NASCAR insert in the Kansas City Star.

So, in short: Kansas = Nice enough neighborhoods near to KCMO; and miles and miles of crimes against culture beyond; nice roads.

Missouri = Nice enough neighborhoods in and near KCMO; miles and miles of crimes against culture beyond; bad roads.

Update! I have been informed that J.E. Dunn did not even bid on the arena contract. Instead, Mayor Barnes appointed the Mortenson company as Project Manager for the arena, after which they appointed the company most suited for the job as the winner of the multi-million dollar bid: Mortenson.

Very nice description, Joel.

Cool, thanks for the responses so far, all.

Funny, because my wife is a native of St. Louis and I lived there for 6 years while in grad school. If I had my druthers, I’d actually move there. I liked it a lot and we have a lot of family there. And I grew up in Oklahoma, so the Midwest isn’t exactly foreign territory to me.

If I get another bump in pay that’s fine with me! :)

Hey, I like Applebee’s. ;)

I had actually heard the opposite about KCMO --I had heard that the “nicer” areas and better schools were on the KS side, but I wasn’t sure if people were blowing smoke since that’s where the job is.

I appreciate what all you’re saying about character and things to do, though. Coming from SoCal where there’s SO much to do --parks, beaches, mountains, hiking, theme parks (though I hates them), museums, conventions like ComiCon and E3, etc.-- I see a dropoff in that area as one of the big items in the “Con” column.

Admittedly, my preconceptions about Kansas and KC are not very well supported, which is why I’m looking for more input.

If you have kids, I think it is fair to look outside of the KCMO school system for a place to live, as the KCMO school system is run by a group of nearly insane ‘reverse’ racists who pose as a school board when they aren’t too busy hatching new schemes to keep KC’s schools as poorly-run as when they were administered by white people who really did hate black people. A ding against KCMO, for sure. (I almost typed ‘black mark,’ but I’m trying to avoid the misconception that stupidity knows any racial boundaries, although ‘ding’ is probably an epithet against the Chinese or something.)

But in case I wasn’t clear, I was just saying you should be near KCMO, not necessarily in it. Overland Park, for instance, has many nice neighborhoods on its Eastern side.

And I like Applebee’s, too, especially when I’m back in Kansas City taking advantage of my best friend’s monthly employee allowance that happens to be good for not just greasy bread and ‘riblets,’ but also free drinks. But it’s hardly fine - let alone healthy - dining. And the very fact that I almost began to discuss Applebee’s relative merit compared to Chili’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, and H.R. Possessive Noun’s O’Publick Haus of Local Sports Memorabilia proves ‘me’ point: Wouldn’t it be nice to have options?

Also, the suburban KCMO areas can be nice. (KCMO is huuuge, so much of what would be suburbs in normal, midwestern towns is still in KCMO proper, but with better school districts.)

According to Thomas Frank in What’s The Matter With Kansas, Overland Park (ne Cupcake Land) is hell. Take from that what you will.

From the little I remember of occasional trips up from Norman, OK back in college, Kansas is basically:

  1. Midwestern christianland outside of KC.
  2. KC is a giant cookie-cutter suburb of a city. Could be anywhere in the US.

I spent my HS years in OP. You’ll want to be looking primarily at Overland Park or Shawnee or maybe Olathe as far as a place to live. OP is the most upwardly mobile of the three. I think the house price ranges when I left (in 1993) were around 200-250k for a “normal” 4BR, 3BA… I’m not sure about smaller since I wasn’t really in that part of the city.

[/quote]What the heck do people in KC do for fun besides wring their hands over evolution’s being taught in school? I’d be moving from Southern California, which as we know is five different kinds of awesome, so this whole idea of location really is significant to say the least.[/QUOTE]

KC isn’t quite what you’re thinking. It’s not a huge city, but it’s large enough to be metropolitan-ish. (At least in comparison to the backwoods you’re imagining.) There’s a baseball team, a football team, a soccer team (I think; wasn’t there when I was) and a city of 1.5+ million. It is a midwestern city, though, which means sprawl. OP is in the suburbs on the southwestern side, so for goodness’ sake don’t look and think you’ll look for a place to live in the NE side unless you want a 1.25 hour commuter for no apparent reason.

Barbecue is pretty decent there, especially if you go down to some of the local places downtown. Other than that, well, if you’re an outdoor type and are looking for large natural landscape to go exploring you’re going to have to drive a bit unless you want to go play in the prairie. And your first tornado season will be… entertaining…