Elpidio Rocha-Environmental Designer/Urban Planner- The Center City Urban Renewal Project in Kansas City, Kansas

This was the 1960s' urban renewal project that altered the way urban planners/designers and cities looked at change in their urban core. This wintertime birds-eye view of reflective columns set in a water feature shows the concept in downtown Kansas City, Ks on Minnesota Ave. The columns were the work of Dale Eldred, noted artist and educator, who enjoyed working with light and monumental objects...the layout is all Elpidio Rocha. This was a controversial project...the store owners were extremely concerned with losing parking in front of the shops and stores. The concept was almost like trying to change and beautify a main street in a western town where it's always been done like that...tie your horses up on the rail outside the store.
Can you imagine selling this idea to the decision makers... It was an extensive project that bottlenecked and slowed automobile traffic and welcomed pedestrians with water courses, seating areas and places of repose in a main street environment.

In 2003, our friend Dr. Jacob A. Wagner, Professor in the UMKC-Architecture and Urban Planning Department (who worked with Rocha and who provided these photos) wrote, "The Politics of Urban Design: In contrast to other urban renewal projects that erased the presence of minority and workingclass residents, the design of the Center City Plaza in downtown Kansas City, Kansas was an attempt to provide a democratic space for a diverse citizenry. Initiated by local officials, the project was intended to alter the "image" of the downtown. Environmental planner Elpidio Rocha was hired to design a pedestrian mall that included abstract sculptural forms. In the context of deindustrialization and suburbanization, however, urban renewal did not halt downtown decline and local political interests dismantled the pedestrian mall, setting the stage for a new round of redevelopment."