Urban Hero Awards honor 5 people making a difference downtown KC

From the outdoors to the arts, education, and food industry, these folks are “honoring of the spirit and drive of the 22 neighborhoods that make up downtown Kansas City.”

Photo of Lisa Peña accepting Urban Hero award

Lisa Peña of Urban Hikes KC.

Photo by KCtoday

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Behind every community initiative (big and small) is a person. Five of these individuals were named the Downtown Council’s 2023 Urban Heroes — people working to make a more vibrant and resilient place to live, work, and play.

“It’s about the honoring of the spirit and drive of the 22 neighborhoods that make up downtown Kansas City,” Pat Contreras, chair of the Urban Hero Committee, said.

Lisa Peña

Founder of Urban Hikes Kansas City | Growing up hiking around KCK, Lisa combines the outdoors with the city, exploring downtown through art and local businesses (like this).

“Kansas City is going through a renaissance,” Lisa said. “Thank you to Kansas City for your support, for waving at our groups as we walk around.”

Brian Williams

Photo of Brian Williams accepting award

Brian Williams of the Folly Theater.

Photo by KCtoday

Director of Development for the Folly Theater | Brian led the effort to raise more than $10 million to renovate the Folly, KC’s only remaining 19th century theater.

“This recognition is I think an acknowledgment of the vital role the Folly plays in providing vibrancy and creative energy and cultural tourism,” Brian said.

Rebecca Koop

Photo of Rebecca Koop accepting award

Rebecca Koop of Back Door Pottery

Photo by KCtoday

Owner of Back Door Pottery | A resident of the Historic Northeast since 1986, Rebecca works with diverse residents and artists to develop a welcoming urban environment (spearheading 50+ events a year).

“There are close to 50 murals just in the Northeast area,” Rebecca said. “Kansas City is an arts place.”

Edgar Palacios

Photo of Edgar Palacios accepting award

Edgar Palacios of Latinx Education Collaborative.

Photo by KCtoday

President & CEO of Latinx Education Collaborative | Edgar works to increase the representation of Latino educators in K-12.

“The beauty of downtown is the ability to be diverse and to really demonstrate the community wealth that is in Kansas City,” Edgar said.

Shanita McAfee-Bryant

Photo of Shanita accepting award

Shanita McAfee-Bryant of The Prospect KC.

Photo by KCtoday

Founder/Executive Director of The Prospect KC | Chef Shanita (a “Cutthroat Kitchen” winner) is focusing on workforce development, nutrition literacy, and food access.

“To whom much is given, much is required,” Shanita said. “The Prospect KC is an opportunity for me to share my blessings with the community in an impactful and meaningful way.”