When I grew up, even though Kansas City was considered "the big city" to people who lived in say Wichita, St. Joseph, Topeka, KS, or other smaller towns but we never felt that it was a "big city" as we were located in neighborhoods where we all walked to school and rode the bus to "Downtown" to shop and always had a "small neighborhood" feel.
About 5 years ago I spent four months in KC consulting for Sprint. I have to say I really enjoyed the city - it grew on me. I stayed down by CC Plaza, and enjoyed the area, strolling through Westport (used to get a great latte at the Broadway Cafe which I understand is still there). Some fun evenings at some joints over in OP.
The sushi restaurant in the Crown mall was excellent, and I'm from the NY area where there's one on every corner. They had a talented chef and the place was a favorite for athletes when the Chiefs or Royals were playing. Kristi Yamaguchi the ice skater was dining one night at the next table from me. Then there was a night I got food poisoning ordering a bouilliabase at the Casino -- bad idea ordering shellfish at a casino bar 1,000 miles from an ocean.
Some good memories there, and wonderful people. Sad to read your story about how much has declined, though I didn't visit any of the troubled sections.