Kaw Social Highlights Rock Island Bridge Entertainment Plan – CitySceneKC

Kaw Social Highlights Rock Island Bridge Entertainment Plan – CitySceneKC


The plan to redevelop the Rock Island Bridge in the West Bottoms calls for it to be an entertainment and recreation destination. (Rendering by Gould Evens)

By Kevin Collison

A plan to redevelop the old Rock Island Bridge over the Kansas River into a West Bottoms entertainment and recreation destination is the centerpiece of this Saturday’s Kaw Social 2021.

The event runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Michael Zeller has been pursuing his ambitious concept of using the bridge to create a public park over the river for more than 18 months, and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County recently authorized spend $2 million to help finance his plan.

But before the county begins releasing its money, Zeller must line-up $1.6 million in private donations for the project. The total cost of the bridge redevelopment plan is estimated at $6 million.

“We’re talking with a lot of folks with capacity who want to be part of making history and making Kansas City stronger,” he said.

The Rock Island Bridge was completed in 1905 and used to transport livestock across the Kaw River during Kansas City’s meatpacking heyday.

The Saturday social will help publicize his quest to convert a 115 year-old railroad bridge next to Hy-Vee Arena (formerly Kemper) into a gathering place. The redevelopment plan includes two food places, two beverage outlets and event space.

Zeller said he has letters of intent from Slaps BBQ and Buffalo State Pizza to be tenants in the project.

The old bridge also also will serve as a trail crossing to connect KCK with nearby walking and biking paths in KCMO. A project feasibility study done by HR & A, a New York consultant, found Wyandotte County had far fewer trails than neighboring Johnson County.

The Kaw Social is sponsored by Central Avenue Betterment Association and Friends of the River KC. Activities will include canoeing and kayaking, food tents, games and music from the American Jazz Museum featuring singer Rashida Phillips.

The nearby Stockyards Brewing Company Beer Garden also is included in the festivities.

Zeller declined to reveal how much private money he’s raised to date, but was confident his proposal will be successful.

He would like to begin construction this winter and have the project completed by spring 2023.

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