By LESLIE COLLINS
October 24, 2012
“I am confident the stars are aligning for Northeast,” said former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes.
And they truly are.
Following years of planning, Historic Northeast is on its way to establish a Community Improvement District.
Northeast also recently received a $150,000 Planning Sustainable Places grant from the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) and $250,000 in city funding to implement several new initiatives to improve the overall quality of life in the area.
The grant will be used to complete a blight study of the Indian Mound and Lykins neighborhoods for a future urban renewal area; establish a tool for neighborhood conservation overlay; identify transportation improvements to enhance the connection to Northeast both internally and externally; conduct a preliminary real estate market analysis; and initiate planning and design work associated with the redevelopment of the Hardesty Federal site. It’s all part of Northeast’s Sustainable Redevelopment Project, which will center around the Independence Avenue Corridor from The Paseo east to I-435 and will also include specific intersections, known as community corners, at Prospect, Benton and Hardesty. It will also include the Indian Mound and Lykins neighborhoods.
Mattie Rhodes is the lead agent on the grant application, but is representing the consortium of agencies that have been working together over the past two years. Those agencies include Communities Creating Opportunities, The Don Bosco Centers, Greater Kansas City Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), Hispanic Economic Development Center, Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, neighborhood association presidents, among others. The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Urban Neighborhood Initiative sparked the meetings, but the group continued to meet even after the Chamber made its decision of not choosing Historic Northeast as the target location.
“What you really have is a coalition of agencies that has come together from organizations across the Northeast area, really in my estimation for the first time,” said City Council member Scott Wagner.
Wagner identified one-time city funding of $250,000 to contribute toward the Sustainable Redevelopment Project and supporting activities. The surplus revenue is from a prior redevelopment effort in the Northeast known as the Century Towers Redevelopment Project, he said.
“The idea is to spark investment not only on the business side, but in the neighborhood side,” Wagner said. “So, it’s not one of those chicken and egg sorts of things. You have the entire area being raised up at one time.”
Fifty-thousand dollars of the city funding will go toward the local match requirement of the MARC grant and the rest of the funds will aid in comprehensive redevelopment efforts in Northeast.
The breakdown of city funds is:
$15,000 – Kansas City Design Center Urban Visioning Project, which will study the Independence Avenue Corridor and create design ideas for different points along the corridor
$30,000 – Small Business Loan Loss Reserve for Justine PETERSEN to be used for microlending needs in Northeast
$10,000 – Directional signage for Northeast
$10,000 – Internal marketing
$50,000 – Minor Home Repair Loan Loss Reserve
$50,000 – Home Loan Loss Reserve Fund targeted at neighborhoods in Historic Northeast
$20,000 – Commercial Building Preservation to secure abandoned commercial structures along the Independence Avenue Corridor
In addition to the city funding and grant, Northeast received $10,000 from the current owner of the Hardesty Federal site and $10,000 from LISC for the redevelopment project.
The project addresses both short-term and long-term needs, Wagner said.
“There’s a real ball rolling. It’s a very exciting time in Northeast,” said Leslie Caplan, president of the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association.
“It’s very exciting to see the citizens taking control of where they live and saying this is the type of community I want, this is the type of neighborhood I want, and this is the type of citizen I want to be,” Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Circo said. “I know it’s a lot of hard work. As an old Northeast resident, I’m very very proud.”
City Council member John Sharp added that the city will need to start looking more at Northeast as an example to follow.
Another highlight of the redevelopment project is that a significant portion of the project is located within the Housing Authority’s study area for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative planning grant. Choice Neighborhoods is a program under the Department of Housing and Urban Development that supports “comprehensive neighborhood revitalization by using the redevelopment of distressed housing as a catalyst for neighborhood wide transformation.”
Northeast’s redevelopment efforts will only further the Housing Authority’s endeavors of pursuing a $20-30 million implementation grant.
“This (funding) means we’ll be able to lay some groundwork to accomplish some of the goals that the community has identified over the years,” said Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce President Bobbi Baker-Hughes. “It will start to bring some of the pieces of the puzzle together. It’s another piece that we need to complete the big picture.”