Crossroads District Wins "Sustainable Communities" Award with help of 20th Street Streetscape by Musselman & Hall

Musselman & Hall changed the face of Kansas City's First Fridays Crossroads Art District for the better. The City of Kansas City Missouri nationally recognized the Crossroads Community for sustainability after the completion of the 20th street reconstruction and streetscape project led by Project Manager Matt Laipple and Musselman & Hall as the design-build team. At the crossroad of 20th and Baltimore you can find a pedestal plaque recognizing the district specifically with the Mid-America Regional Council's 'Sustainable Communities' award. Below, Matt Laipple gives his testimonial on the highly recognized and awarded project.  

We are entering a new age.  One hundred years ago, 20th Street from Southwest Boulevard to Grand Avenue was an industrial area filled with warehouses.  Trains were rambling through dropping their cargo.  The warehouses are now lofts and the old freight house is home to some sensational restaurants.  The area, now known as the Crossroads District, is experiencing one of the largest redevelopment movements in Kansas City history and is listed as one of America’s Great Places by the American Planning Association. 

I’m sure you’ve seen those “extreme makeover” shows…  Someone turns a run-down old house into a model home or someone works hard to lose weight and their appearance totally changes.   This project was like one of those shows-“Extreme Street Makeover”. The “Makeover” was initiated by the Crossroads Association and the City of Kansas City, Missouri.  Stakeholders recognized 20th Street as a barrier within the neighborhood. The wide roadway and neglected condition of the corridor created a chasm that gave the area a sense of desolation and emptiness.

The character of the corridor changes during First Fridays when thousands of visitors and residents walk the district and enjoy the many unique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. The intent of the project was to bring people to the district not just once a month but every day. A steering committee of Crossroads property owners, representatives from the City and numerous consultants, worked together to develop a master plan for the 20th Street Corridor fromCentral Street to McGee Street.

Mario Vasquez, a talented deal maker and project manager for the City, was charged with getting the job done.  He recognized that this was not an ordinary street reconstruction project.  The timeframe to get the project designed and built was tight, there were many stakeholders, EPA regulations required storm water detention and there was a century’s worth of buried utilities hidden below the street and the budget was tight. This was the right project for design-build construction. 

Mario put together the Request for Design-Build Services.  A weighted selection criterion of qualifications and price was used to identify the best Design-Build team for the job.

M&H teamed up with Taliaferro and Browne, the lead engineering consultant. The M&H/Taliaferro and Browne team was ultimately selected to design and build the project.  Additional team members were public relations specialists Parsons and Associates, and electrical design provided by Custom Engineering.

By late spring of 2015 the project was awarded and our team was allowed to start design.  The design process was broken into four scopes- streets and sidewalks, storm water, landscaping and electrical. 

Figuring out a system to collect storm water and slowly release it into the City’s combined sewer system was a big challenge.  The team studied several including pervious pavement (difficult to collect and meter), landscaped detention basins (deep, dark and dangerous) and plastic vaults buried below the street, (too many utility conflicts). 

The team finally settled on the vision of our veteran storm water engineer, Mike Looney.  Parallel 4’x4’ concrete vaults stretching along the north side of the street serve three purposes- form the vertical sides of the landscaped rain gardens, act as a base for sidewalks, and slowly release storm water collected from the rain garden into the combined sewer.  Constructing Mike’s design was the biggest challenge of the project.

20th Street

We broke ground on April 4, 2016.  M&H crews led by James Harra started digging at 20th and Grand.   Our storm sewer crew under the direction of Roger Trimble carefully excavated and placed box culverts and connecting plumbing.  April was a productive month but our luck was about to change.  As it turns out our excavation was at the bottom of a water shed that collected storm water from much of the area between I-70 and 20th Street.  Rains came in May and we learned that trash pumps were our friend.  James and Roger spent many afternoons and evenings pumping water to prepare for the next day’s work.  Mud was the ubiquitous demon, sticking to everything getting near it.  The crews pushed onward with the goal of completing Phase 1 (Main to Grand) by July 1.  As the storm sewer work progressed our concrete crews followed building sidewalk, curb and drives. 

This time, mud on the ground was a great thing.  In the construction industry mud has more than one meaning.  In this case “mud” a.k.a. concrete got us out of the real mud and made the job site a much better place to be working.

While the paving work was going on electrical crews were working, boring-in conduit, installing traffic signals and street lights.  These folks were like the secret service, always there working in the background, making things happen.  Electrical Services, Inc.  did a great job adapting to the spaghetti like network of pipes and wires hidden below ground.

Late June was suddenly upon us and our deadline to complete Phase 1 was nearing.  Neighborhood residents and businesses were getting anxious.  People were saying, “The sidewalk is great but are you going to leave the street like that?”  Part of the project included reshaping the cross section of the street from an inverse crown (water drains to the center of the street) to a standard crown (water drains to the edges of the street).  By this time new curbs were installed and it became obvious to onlookers that there was no way we could leave the street a foot or more below the curb.  What they didn’t know is that new asphalt pavement was next on the schedule. 

Until this point the street remained open while we were building.  Traffic made the street congested, busy, and impossible to work on the actual street without shutting it completely down.  So that’s what we suggested and the City concurred.  It was a glorious day when we were able to set up the barricades.  It reminded me of walking down the middle of main street at high noon in an old western movie.  People milling about on the sidewalks trying to see what was happening, waiting for the showdown.  In this case the showdown was profile milling and asphalt paving.  Jason Conard and Trevor Wratt used survey points laid out on the pavement to surgically remove undulations in the old pavement with our milling machine.  Matt Eilenstine, Dale Hetherington and crew installed variable depth asphalt.  This was a key design aspect of the job and ultimately what enabled the project to be built within the available budget.  The old street was 14” to 18” thick and in very good structural condition.  Like rings on a tree, the street had multiple layers of materials placed on top of each other over the last century.  Our team devised a plan to save the old pavement from the landfill by leaving it in place as structural base for the new street, creating a savings of $300,000. 

Finally, only a couple weeks behind schedule, a plant pallet created by landscape architect Meg Babani rounded out the streetscape work.  Trees, bushes, ornamental grass and numerous other plantings were installed in Ms. Babani’s very own special blend of soil, sand and compost.  Stonegait Nursery did the hard work of planting the nearly 8,000 plants along the corridor.  Once pavement markings were applied by Morgan Contractors, Phase 1 was open for business. 

Lessons learned during Phase 1 helped speed up building Phase 2 between Main and Southwest Blvd.  Phase 2 was longer than Phase 1 by about 25%.  The weather was much more forgiving in the summer and fall months and we managed to get the project back on schedule in time for a ribbon cutting held in conjunction with First Friday festivities in November.

Some interesting facts from the job-

-          20th street was put on a diet. Known in the industry as a “Road Diet”, the old six lane street was narrowed to three lanes to make room for wide sidewalks and bike lanes

-          An innovative underground storm water management system captures storm water runoff and slowly releases it back into the combined sewer system

-          LED Street Lighting

-          The project was recently awarded the Mid-America regional councils award for “Sustainable Communities” for including eco-friendly elements in the project

Some notable things we discovered while digging-

-          There were two brick streets.  One that we were aware of about sixteen inches under the asphalt.  What surprised us was we found another brick street four feet below that!

-          The guys found a .45 caliber cartridge that dated back to the late 1800s and, not too far from that, was a large horseshoe.  I’m still wondering if the two are connected.

-          Finally, the buried utility lines.  From one end of the job to the other is about three tenths of a mile.   By my calculations there are around five miles of buried utilities in this section.  And one of them connects the Federal Building here with the Federal building in Dallas, TX!  Our team did great avoiding everything.

David Johnson, president of the Crossroads Community Association summed up the project saying, “Matt and the Musselman & Hall team did a superb job communicating with the neighborhood throughout our streetscape project on 20th Street. Having fought hard to retain he original concept of a true “complete street” throughout planning and design, they remained sensitive to that work as the project moved to completion.”