By LESLIE COLLINS
October 31, 2012
As Historic Northeast seeks city approval to implement a Community Improvement District (CID) along the Independence Avenue Corridor, one version of the CID is already in place.
Earlier this summer the Greater Kansas City Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) awarded a $40,000 grant to the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to implement a pilot CID along Independence Avenue. The LISC funds are being used to establish the same services a real CID would offer and to help the Chamber make a smooth transition to the official CID. Boundaries of the pilot project include the Scarritt Mile, beginning at Prospect and continuing to Jackson.
“The pilot project is there to really show people this is just a taste of what we can do,” said Katie Greer, Indian Mound Neighborhood Association president and the program coordinator for the LISC pilot CID.
Greer began working full time as the program coordinator Sept.1 and her role is to ensure the goals and outcomes that the Chamber outlined in the LISC grant application become a reality.
“We want to make things clean, safe and we want to help businesses on the Avenue become more prosperous,” she said.
“Crime and grime” are the top two issues plaguing the Avenue, and one strategy for alleviating the problem is urban ambassadors, she said.
The pilot CID has already hired one part-time urban ambassador, Michael Stovall of Historic Northeast.
“We want to hire local – that’s one of the goals of the CID,” she said. “One of the big issues in the Northeast is the lack of jobs, so it doesn’t make any sense to hire someone to come in from outside the neighborhood when we’ve got so many people here who can do a fantastic job and they want it and need it.”
Stovall began Oct. 1 and works 20 hours a week, picking up trash along Independence Avenue, assisting pedestrians and being the “eyes and ears” on the street.
“Just having a presence on the Avenue deters a lot of crime,” Greer said. “Criminals don’t want to be seen and they don’t want to get caught. If they know someone’s there, they’re not going to do it.”
Urban ambassadors will also assist with graffiti abatement and report items of concern to police.
Currently, Stovall is conducting a needs assessment along Independence Avenue by snapping photographs and taking notes of items like missing trash can lids, broken street lights, bus stops that need benches, among other items.
“We can get a really good picture of what we need to do going forward,” Greer said of the needs assessment.
Greer said it’s easy to spot the new urban ambassador, who’s uniform is a neon green T-shirt that says, “ASK ME,” in bold letters.
“Everyone loves him,” Greer said of Stovall. “Everyone is so happy he’s out there.”
In addition to asking him about the CID, pedestrians are also throwing their trash away in his cart instead of on the ground, she said. Greer said she’s noticed less trash at the bus stops and that more bus riders are now walking to the trash can to throw away items instead of tossing them on the ground.
“He’s noticed things are getting better on the Avenue even in just the short time that he’s been there,” she said.
Greer said she hopes to hire additional urban ambassadors for the pilot project.
Another facet of the grant is internal marketing. Greer, along with the Chamber, will begin assisting businesses along the Avenue, helping business owners create facebook pages and websites, she said. The pilot CID will also promote CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design). Greer said they want the businesses to be safe and aesthetically pleasing. Greer, the Chamber and urban ambassadors will connect businesses to information regarding facade improvement loans, microlending programs, graffiti abatement, among others. Other marketing will include sending out email newsletters of upcoming Northeast events and coordinating with the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Kansas City.
As for the official CID, the CID committee has already garnered signatures of approval from at least 51 percent of the property owners within the CID boundaries. The city is currently verifying signatures and City Council approval is still needed. Once the CID is approved, property owners within the CID boundaries will pay $300 per parcel. In addition to the property tax, the CID will include a 1 percent sales tax within the boundaries of the CID. To implement the sales tax, registered voters within the CID boundaries must give approval. Greer said she expects the sales tax question to be placed on the April 2013 ballot.
Greer stressed that the revenue will stay within Northeast and will be used to improve the quality of life along the Avenue.
“We want to show people that yes, we can make a difference, yes, the Avenue can come back,” Greer said. “There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t fight the crime and those kinds of issues going on. We want the Avenue to be the community market place that it used to be.”