It is a bright Saturday morning, and Joy Cota threads her way through the throng at the City Market in downtown Kansas City followed by her husband Gene. She carefully inspects the fresh vegetables before picking a large homegrown tomato that she sets on the scale. She pays and Gene places the tomato in their grocery bag. They pass a magician dressed in an orange suit doing card tricks. They stop for a second and then move on. The vendors come from Kansas City and beyond.
“I like the smells of the City Market,” Joy said. “I like hearing the sounds of different languages.”
She wears a bright green tee shirt advertising the streetcar initiative that will run from downtown to Crown Center. People stop and ask where they can get a tee shirt and Joy quickly asks whether they have voted on the initiative. If not, she explains how they can vote online. After they finish shopping, they stop and have breakfast at the Opera House Coffee and Food Emporium.
“Everything is unique downtown and that’s what I love,” she said.
There are many who write that boomers will move to the downtowns all across America. Many cities such as Denver, Seattle, Spokane, and Cleveland have seen a resurgence of boomers. Will it happen in Kansas City? Only time will tell. Gene and Joy moved from the suburbs of Johnson County into the Brookside neighborhood in the southwest part of Kansas City twenty years ago. After the kids were gone and the nest empty, the urge to move downtown hit them. Luckily, they sold their home before the housing bubble burst. Gene and Joy’s Facebook pages are filled with events they’ve attended at the Kauffman, Sprint Center, Folly Theater, Power and Light District, Crossroads, and any number of restaurants.
“Most of the time we just walk to these places,” Gene explains.
“But it would be great if we had a streetcar,” Joy adds. “The streetcar would go down Main Street by the grocery store, and between the Kauffman and Sprint Center.”
The thought of moving to a retirement complex did not appeal to Gene and Joy. They love being around different age groups. They like the mix of people that live in their building. There was one obstacle that Gene and Joy faced moving from Brookside to downtown: downsizing. You don’t have a basement to store those “collectibles” that you never look at that are tucked on a shelf.
“It is liberating,” Joy said. “I believe that we let things drag us down. We become mired in stuff that we don’t use. Now if I buy something, something has to go.”
Living downtown is not for everyone, but to some boomers like Gene and Joy, it is the only place to live. Is this the wave of the future for baby boomers in Kansas City? Only time will tell, but it is becoming apparent that predicting what baby boomers will do in the future is a guess at best.