An image collage of closeups of different trees' leaves with the words "The Tree List" written in white.

The Tree List: Kansas City

Multistudio's Robert Whitman studies how trees can impact city design
Revised January 30, 2024
January 26, 2023

Why Are Trees Important To City Design?

There’s no denying that trees add value. They play an important part in the story of where we live. In addition to being beautiful, the presence (or absence) of a tree can substantially impact the economics, social health, and land property values of a community. Peter Kageyama in his book For the Love of Cities discusses attachment and engagement styles, which directly impact how likely we are to invest in our own communities. A positive attachment style generally impacts market confidence, or the currency each neighborhood is traded on. Beautiful places that have trees are generally loved and have committed stewards. Unsurprisingly, on average a tree adds $8,870 to an adjacent house and $12,828 to all the nearby houses. In fact, the positive impact of growing trees may extend outside of economics into more complicated social dimensions—as research indicates that the presence of trees in urban settings is linked to lower crime and healthier babies. Planting trees is environmentally advantageous, economically beneficial, and it increases the social capital of a place by improving the quality of life.

Not All Trees Are Created Equal

We believe that not all trees are created equal. When designing, the type of tree one uses should be thoughtfully selected based upon various criteria (such as climate, size, intended use, lifespan, etc.) to be most effective in meeting the goals of a project, city or community. At Multistudio, we approach city design from a contextual and regional perspective. Critical regionalism is a progressive approach to design that seeks to mediate the global and local languages of place. It’s through a critical regionalist lens that we created The Tree Lists, an analysis of over 300 trees in the Kansas City region to help with tree selection.


A native approach to regional landscape design not only instills a sense of place, it creates an environment where native species quietly work in an interconnected way to support the health of our neighborhoods. And native species often perform better in their regional ecosystems: on average they live longer, suffer from fewer diseases, perform better in challenging landscape settings (parking lot medians, for example), and are more deeply connected within a critical regional food web. The Tree Lists contain some of our favorite native species in the Kansas City area, including Bur Oak, Post Oak, American Linden, and Swamp White Oak. As we continue to experience the effects of climate change on our earth and on our society, it’s our responsibility as designers to understand how we can be better stewards of our environments.

The Tree Lists

View/download The Tree Lists (revised for 2024) by clicking the buttons below.

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