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Kansas City is a large, prosperous, self-sufficient and culturally rich city located astride the Missouri River. The downtown area and most of the population are on the older Missouri side, filled with shaded neighborhoods and mixed development. For the past 20 years the big growth has been on the Kansas side to the southwest in suburbs like Overland Park, Lenexa, and Shawnee.
Once grittier and more industrial, the Kansas or “KCK” side is changing its image fast. The combined city grew up as an agricultural center that provided commercial and industrial support to the vast agricultural area to the west. Food processing is still a major industry, but diverse industries such as greeting cards (Hallmark), telecommunications, publishing, and automobile manufacturers have also set up shop. The area is centrally located to all U.S. markets and has a good business climate.
The attractive downtown boasts museums and architectural attractions, including modern buildings and restorations of older sites such as the 1914 Union Station. More recently, a major urban redevelopment and renewal effort has taken hold, anchored by a new Federal Reserve and IRS complex expected to employ 7,000 and a new headquarters for financial services giant H&R Block, plus a new entertainment district. These developments and more renovations of attractive older buildings are adding life to the area, and there is also a significant push towards residential units in the city.
KC has a cultural history more interesting that most: a mix of migrated workers from the Southeast and local customs led to fame in barbecue ribs and blues music, both available in abundance. Although well known for its restaurants, clubs, and live music, professional sports, particularly the NFL Chiefs and the MLB Royals, are also important. Locals share a strong sense of civic pride and the belief that the area is a well-kept secret. On the downside, “Westward expansion” takes on a whole new meaning here. One estimate holds that the average person has more “room”—over 85,000 feet—in this metropolitan area than anywhere else in the country.
Availability of cheap land, particularly to the west, and few geographic barriers have created some sprawl problems. The highway system is extensive but generally adequate and commute times are acceptable so far, but the future bears watching. Intercity transport benefits from the presence of discount airlines and the central location. Home prices are moderate, and excellent values and family-style living can be found in older city neighborhoods and in the “big three” suburbs to the west.
The area is located on a broad river plain at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers. Surrounding terrain is flat to gently rolling with mixed deciduous woods around the city center and open prairie to the west. The climate is continental with no natural topographic obstructions to prevent free weather flow from all directions. Summer has warm days and mild nights with moderate humidity; occasional heat waves bring higher temperatures and humidity for a week or two each summer. Winters are not severely cold but occasional cold snaps do occur. Heavy snowfalls are uncommon. Spring is wet with rapid weather fluctuations and autumn is mild and sunny. First freeze is mid-October, last is mid-April.