Keyword Site Search

100-Year Tradition of Placemaking

By Chris Cahalan, RLA, ASLA, LEED AP - Landscape Architect, Collin Christopher, ASLA - Landscape Designer, Judy S. Moody, AICP - Planner

Bruce R. Watkins Drive is a 10.2-mile urban arterial roadway linking south Kansas City with the downtown. Brick veneer columns (Henderson Brick, Boral Brick) mark the bridge entrances and exits. OHH specified sunset red maples and a variety of turf for the medians (tall-leaf fescue, Kentucky bluegrass and an annual rye mix).
Rain Bird
Playworld Came America

Ochsner Hare & Hare, a venerable Kansas City landscape architecture and planning firm, is perpetuating a 100-year tradition of legendary placemaking, established by firm founders and giants of industry and artistry, Sidney and Herbert Hare. The Hares, and their firm, Hare & Hare, are well known throughout the Midwest for collaborating with builders, developers, engineers and individuals to create iconic places that have been enjoyed by generations of residents and tourists.


Design charrettes often yield the firm’s first streetscape concepts, which are hand sketched on-site with guidance from stakeholders. The design staff enjoys the fluidity and impermanence of hand sketching. An early color rendering of an intersection concept at Aksarben Village shows decorative crosswalks, landscape bends, pedestrian lights and paver bands.


The firm is the oldest continuously operating landscape architecture and planning firm in the nation. A year-long anniversary celebration is in progress. Events are documented on the firm’s website.

Top Kansas City, Missouri, tourist sites, as well as neighborhoods, parks, streets and boulevards most treasured by residents, are signature designs of Hare & Hare. The Hares were part of a synergistic team assembled by Kansas City developer J.C. Nichols. The collaborations of Nichols, George Kessler and Hare & Hare are well known in the world of landscape architecture and planning. The Country Club Plaza, Loose Park, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Country Club District and Mission Hills, Kansas, have identified Kansas City for decades. Their elegance and beauty have grown over time.


Aksarben Village comprises office, retail, residential and research technology facilities. It is in close proximity to the University of Nebraska Omaha and the College of St. Mary. The streetscape is part of the redevelopment of the old Ak-Sar-Ben area that included an arena and horse race track. The village streetscape is a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly experience highlighted by decorative colored concrete pavers (Pavestone), brick banding and site amenities. Calgary carpet juniper and Stella d’Oro daylily are the planter landscaping.

One of the most well traveled and nationally known icons created by the father-son team is Kansas City’s Ward Parkway. Throughout its history, it has been described as “one of the grandest parades in the nation.” The parkway streetscape, with its wide, sweeping median, typifies the founding firm’s use of natural topography and drainage systems. The parkway breaks from the traditional street grid system and preserves natural vistas. The installation of stately neighborhood entries, monumental planters and sculpture, water features and an ever-changing palette of seasonal planting beds make this parkway one of the nation’s finest streets. The parkway is lined with well-preserved mansions built by Kansas City’s elite.

Legendary places, in particular, streetscapes, parks, plazas, and upscale neighborhoods, are hallmarks of the firm today, now known as Ochsner Hare and Hare. The current CEO and majority owner, Ralph Ochsner, admired the accomplishments of the Hares and bought the firm 30 years ago after the death and retirement of the founders. He added his name and his planning expertise to the firm.


The iconic tower at Aksarben Village, Omaha, Nebraska stands watch over the neighborhood park. Spectra fixtures (Architectural Area Lighting) with 100-watt metal halide lamps atop 22-ft. poles provide the area lighting. Shademaster honeylocusts and bronze donor plaques decorate the lawn area. The brick columns are illuminated with color changing LED lights.

Today’s design staff is guided by the principles of the founders and blends the Hare & Hare tradition with today’s design demands.

“It is impossible to overestimate the impact Hare & Hare made on the world of landscape architecture,” says Ken Boone, OHH director of design. “As we revisit their early designs—which are often ink on canvas—we are inspired by the detail, artistry and sensitivity of their work. Our commitment to their legacy is renewed with every public place, park, plaza or streetscape we design.”


Tivoli-style lighting strung across the cedar trellis highlight the earth-tone pavers in the pedestrian corridor at the Legends at Village West, Kansas City.

The firm approaches streets first as public spaces and completes extensive preliminary research and assessment of current and future land uses, community vision and goals. Design charrettes often yield the firm’s first streetscape concepts, which are hand sketched on-site with guidance from stakeholders. The design staff enjoys the fluidity and impermanence of hand sketching—nothing is hardlined and everything can be changed easily.

Using the fundamental principles of aesthetics, conservation and efficiency, OHH has transitioned to designing beautiful streetscapes within outdoor pedestrian friendly retail and entertainment areas. Skilled use of colored concrete, concrete pavers and stamped concrete with coordinated street lights and custom fabricated furnishings, which often reference local historic events and places, have resulted in places that are alive with activity day and night. The Legends at Village West, the Falls at Crackerneck Creek in the Kansas City area and the Legends at Sparks Marina in Sparks, Nevada have received regional acclaim.


The steel fencing for the bridges on Bruce R. Watkins Drive was designed by OHH and custom fabricated locally by bid. The bridge lighting is 16 and 20-inch wide pedestrian-scale New Westminster globe luminaries (Lumec).


Aksarben Village
Most recently, OHH designed the streetscape and urban park at Aksarben Village, a mixed-use development in Omaha, Nebraska, with office, retail, residential, and research technology uses. Aksarben Village is in close proximity to the University of Nebraska Omaha campus, the Peter Kiewit Institute and the College of St. Mary’s.

Aksarben Village is a lively 24/7 environment for researchers, office workers, faculty, students and urban dwellers and the “creativity magnet” to attract international clientele.

The streetscape is part of the redevelopment of the old Ak-Sar-Ben campus that housed an arena and horse racing track. The campus and its facilities have been popular with Omaha residents since opening in the 1920s. The closing of the track in 1995 and several subsequent phases of demolition cleared the campus for redevelopment into the mixed-use campus by the Aksarben Future Trust. The accompanying streetscape is an engaging design that reflects the development’s clean modern architecture, mix of Pavestone pavers, custom designed tree grates, benches and trash receptacles. The streetlights specified were the Spectra fixture from Architectural Area Lighting.


Hare & Hare began working with the famed landscape architect George Kessler on the design of Ward Parkway in 1913, and continued on into the 1920s and 1930s. Hare & Hare did most of the planting and amenity design throughout the corridor. The parkway, which is near the Kansas-Missouri state line, sports landscaped medians with fountains and statuary. The parkway typifies the founding firm’s use of natural topography and drainage systems. While much of the parkway has been widened over the years, the overall historic feeling remains, thanks to the mature landscape and the surrounding historic residential and commercial districts. Many of the city’s finest and largest homes are along the parkway in the Country Club District.


Bruce R. Watkins Drive
The Bruce R. Watkins Drive, in Kansas City, a 10.2-mile urban arterial roadway linking south Kansas City and connecting historic neighborhoods, institutions and the downtown. The construction of the corridor, which honors one of the city’s most respected leaders, took on a special meaning for its planners. The challenging design work involved extensive public involvement and took more than 15 years. The construction cost was $121 million.

The beautification project goal was to incorporate landscaping and design features appropriate for an urban parkway.

OHH assembled the design team and provided transportation enhancement services. The firm was responsible for enhancement and aesthetics of the corridor and 32 bridges. OHH provided concept through detailed levels of design documents for signage, lighting, retaining walls, bridge enhancements and safety barriers. The firm also included design and construction documents for irrigation and landscape plantings.

The Bruce R. Watkins Drive planting plan called for placement of turf throughout the corridor and more than more than 8,500 trees and 17,000 shrubs. The result is a corridor that is dramatically different, yet complementary to Kansas City’s architectural heritage.

The firm actively seeks projects that celebrate history while improving aesthetics, connectivity, pedestrian experiences and economic potential. The current portfolio includes corridor revitalizations in Independence, Grandview, Raytown and St. Joseph, Missouri, as well as in Norman and Duncan, Oklahoma.

In May, the firm honored the 100th anniversary of the founding of Hare & Hare with a symposium on legendary placemaking (please see the “Legendary Places—Celebrating 100 Years” sidebar below).


Bruce R Watkins Drive Project Team
Client/Owner: Missouri Department of Transportation
Landscape Architect: Ochsner Hare & Hare, Kansas City.
Market Analysis: Richard Caplan & Associates
Project Lead: City of Kansas City, Missouri Department of Housing and Community Development
Public Involvement: Department of Housing and Community Development; LeRoy Scott & Associates
Architect: Hellmuth, Obata & Kassebaum Dallas, Group One Architects
Civil Engineer: Hellmuth, Obata & Kassebaum Dallas
Corridor Base Engineering Data: Taliaferro & Browne; DuBois Consultants
Structural Engineer: Boyd, Brown, Stude & Cambern
Construction: Garney Companies; APAC-MO Kansas City, Clarkson Construction, W.A. Ellis Construction

Aksarben Village Project Team
Client/Owner: Aksarben Future Trust / Noddle Companies
Landscape Architect: Ochsner Hare & Hare, Kansas City, Mo.
Project Lead: Shannon Gordon, ASLA
Architect: Slaggie Architects, Inc., Kansas City, Mo.
Civil Engineer: Olsson Associates, Omaha
Structural Engineer: Performance Engineering, Omaha
Construction Management: Kiewitt Construction, Omaha
Lighting Consultant: Mercer Zimmerman, Overland Park, Kansas



Legendary Places— Celebrating 100 Years

Ochsner Hare & Hare, founded as Hare & Hare in 1910 in Kansas City, Mo., celebrated a century of service with a regional symposium on “placemaking” held May 6, 2010. The event was held at Liberty Memorial in the J.C. Nichols Auditorium. The Liberty Memorial was an early Hare & Hare project and is named for the prominent Kansas City developer who often collaborated with the firm. (A video of the symposium can be found at


From left: Gary Scott, FASLA, ASLA president, Fred Kent, president, Project for Public Spaces and Bruce Knight, FAICP, president, American Planning Association sppke at the Ochsner Hare & Hare centennial celebration in Kansas City, Mo.

A full house learned about the firm’s celebrated history and the role of placemaking today from Fred Kent, president of Project for Public Spaces (PPS) PPS is a nonprofit dedicated to helping create and sustain public places and build stronger communities. Gary Scott, FASLA, president of the American Society of Landscape Architects and Bruce Knight, FAICP, president of the American Planning Association, were also on hand to speak.

The founder of Hare & Hare, Sidney J. Hare, focused early work on parks and cemeteries. Son Herbert concentrated on landscape architecture and planning. Herbert was one of the first six students in landscape architecture and city planning at Harvard, under the tutelage of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.


Ochsner Hare & Hare CEO Ralph Ochsner greets a full house attending the “Legendary Places” symposium, presented to the region in celebration of the centennial of the founding of the firm.

The Hares built a national practice, however, their work in Kansas City is the most celebrated and still attracts residents and tourists. The most notable is the Country Club Plaza, built by Kansas City developer J.C. Nichols.

City planning also was a specialty of the Hare & Hare firm. More than 60 comprehensive plans were prepared between 1920 and 1970.

After the death and retirement of the founders, planner Ralph Ochsner, a longtime admirer of the work of the Hares, purchased the firm and added his name and planning expertise. Today, the firm focuses entirely on landscape architecture and planning, just as the founders did. Ochsner specialties include parks, destination retail, neighborhood design and revitalization, city planning, corridor revitalization, institutional campuses, plan implementation and economic development.


The founder of Hare & Hare, Sidney J. Hare (top), focused early work on parks and cemeteries. Herbert (bottom), son of Sidney Hare, concentrated on landscape architecture and planning. He was one of the first six students in landscape architecture and city planning at Harvard, under the tutelage of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.


Search Site by Story Keywords

Related Stories

May 19, 2019, 8:29 am PDT

Website problems, report a bug.
Copyright © 2019 Landscape Communications Inc.