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Tales of Two Cities - Kansas City - The Heartland of America

Navigating the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan area can be a little difficult. The real trickiness lies in the fact there are technically two Kansas Cities – Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. But, when you take a look at the region, it’s not all that tough to decipher. Kansas City might include a state line that separates it, but it’s really one big region at heart.

To help as you’re learning your way around Kansas City, we’ve put together this little piece to explain the split and what it means. Just so you know, the western Kansas City is the third biggest city within the state of Kansas. It boasts more than 145,000 residents. The city’s eastern counterpart is the biggest city in Missouri, hands down. In fact, with its 442,000-plus residents, Kansas City, Missouri, is a whopping one-third more populous that its nearest rival St. Louis. It also covers an area that’s about five times as large!

Now that you know the two cities each hold major prominence within their respective states, let’s take a brief look at their borders and histories. It’s important to remember that together they make up one of the country’s largest Metro areas and share a similar spirit, but the two Kansas Cities are also unique. It’s perhaps that spark that makes the region so special.

The two Kansas Cities are “split” by an imaginary state line along about half of their 10-mile border. The other part of the border is made by the Missouri River itself. The Metro area is made up of dozens and dozens of other cities, with Overland Park, Kansas, and Lee’s Summit, Missouri, adding to the overall population by more than 230,000 people combined.

The history of the two cities dates back quite a ways in American history. Kansas City, Missouri, was the first to take the name. It was settled in 1821, but didn’t have an official name until years later. There’s a legend in these parts that city fathers rejected such names as Possum Trot and Rabbitville before naming the city after the Kansas Indians. When the town was incorporated in 1853, it took on the name City of Kansas. In 1889, it officially took on the moniker Kansas City.

The Kansas counterpart became known as Kansas City, Kansas, in the 1880s when several small towns were grouped together to become one large city. The idea, it’s said, was to basically ride on the coattails of Missouri’s now successful Kansas City.

While success might not have been immediate following the Kansas move, a general air of confusion was. In fact, that confusion remains today as people struggle to figure out “which Kansas City” a person might be talking about.

Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, may share names, but they do have different stories. The Kansas incarnation, for example, became the home of industry and immigrants, while the Missouri version became known for professional sporting teams, airports, galleries and more.
The inequity that seemed to plague the two Kansas Cities began to dissipate in 1997 when Kansas City, Kansas, consolidated with Wyandotte County. The resulting Unified Government of Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kansas breathed new life into the Kansas side of the coin. That city is now home to the Kansas International Speedway and a bevy of other economic endeavors that have given the city a new lease on life.

As Kansas City, Kansas, finally came into its own, Kansas City, Missouri, began an aggressive revitalization of its downtown region with the creation of new hotels, convention centers and more. The city’s industrial district thrives, while several of its school districts are known as some of the best in Missouri.

Now, rather than one city standing above the other, the two Kansas Cities stand tall on their own and combined make one of the best Metro regions in the country. Kansas City, Missouri, is known for its booming downtown, arts, entertainment and River Market. It’s home to Country Club Plaza and the state-of-the-art Sprint Center.
Kansas City, Kansas, is now known for its speedway, economic opportunities and growing, prosperous cities.

Separated by a river and an imaginary state line, the two Kansas Cities combine thanks to a progressive Interstate system to make a region “separated” come together. The names might still lend themselves to a general air of confusion, but if you’ve chosen to call the region home, you’ll soon find yourself doing what the locals do – referring to Kansas City, Kansas, as “KCK,” and the Missouri version as simply Kansas City! Or, for simplicity, just remember it’s all one big region with a single heart.

by Tiffany Lewis, Kansas City Premier Apartments, Inc.

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