By LESLIE COLLINS
March 27, 2013
Together, they sat in solidarity donning their neon yellow shirts with the words “ASK ME about the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District.”
For months, this group of CID supporters continued to testify at city meetings and continued to stress what a CID could mean for Northeast. They even handed out their signature neon yellow shirts to city council members to wear.
On March 21, that tenacious spirit paid off and an initiative that was years in the making came to fruition – finally.
“Will the clerk please call the roll so these blinding yellow shirts can pass on?” Kansas City Mayor, Sly James said during the March 21 city council meeting.
With that, the city council gave their unanimous support in approving the establishment of the Independence Avenue CID.
“My initial reaction was it’s about time,” Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce President Bobbi Baker Hughes said. “It’s taken a whole lot of commitment from a whole lot of people to get here. Now, the real work begins.”
Part of the CID’s success in moving forward stemmed from the city approving a CID/Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) Revolving Loan Fund in June of 2011 to help with upfront costs, like legal fees, for entities seeking to establish a CID or NID. Northeast was the first to receive a portion of the loan fund.
In addition, the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce received three grants from the Greater Kansas City Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) totaling $59,000 to establish a pilot CID to address issues like safety and litter abatement along Independence Avenue.
The Chamber has already stretched grant dollars further than what LISC thought possible, said Micah Kubic, program officer with Greater Kansas City LISC.
“They’ve done a great job with it and it’s already producing results that are very, very impressive, so I’m sure the full CID will do even better,” Kubic said.
As for gaining approval of the official CID, Kubic said, “We’re absolutely delighted. It’s a wonderful thing.
“It’s been something that’s been a very high priority for us, the residents and the stakeholders for a long time. So, we’re pleased as punch. It’s been a long time coming.”
Boundaries of the full CID include both sides of Independence Avenue between The Paseo on the west and Newton Avenue on the east. Funding will come through a yearly assessment of $300 per parcel located within the CID boundaries and most likely through a 1 percent sales tax within the CID boundaries. Establishing the sales tax requires a majority vote of the registered voters within the CID boundaries. Tax assessment dollars won’t begin filtering in to the CID until the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014, Baker Hughes said. Kubic said the LISC funding for the pilot CID should last through the end of the year.
“We intend to be fully supportive in the meantime,” Kubic said.
City Council member Jan Marcason called Northeast a “wonderful community” and commended the residents’ efforts.
“I have every confidence it’s (CID) going to be a great thing for the Northeast,” Marcason said. “Things are really going to continue to blossom.”
The Independence Avenue CID Board will now begin to formulate a plan to enhance economic development, address safety concerns and “crime and grime,” and develop marketing initiatives, Baker Hughes said.
“As we identify the needs, we’ll attempt to address the needs that affect the Community Improvement District,” Baker Hughes said. “One of my biggest concerns is that because we are an official CID too many folks will be expecting too much too soon – and it still takes planning, implementation of those plans and all too often you need money to do it.
“I’m hoping the community will help us get some of those efforts done through volunteering.”
While the CID waits for tax dollars to roll in, the CID Board will focus on education, she said. That education will include educating business owners and shopkeepers about city ordinances and available city programs, and how to address panhandling in front of their stores.
Addressing panhandling, however, must be a community effort, Baker Hughes said. Community members continue to give money to panhandlers along the Avenue, encouraging them to frequent the same spots.
“They’re (panhandlers) successful (along the Avenue). Otherwise, they’d move on. So, who is dropping the money in the bucket?” she said.
Another goal of the CID is to assist with merchandising displays and encourage shopkeepers to consider offering additional products.
“If you want it to get better, you’ve got to tell not only one another what it is you want, but you’ve also got to tell the shopkeepers,” she said.
The CID is also in the process of gathering photographs of the Avenue from the 1940s to show to business owners and shopkeepers. They’re photographs of shoppers lining the Avenue, of historic storefronts and are meant to inspire and rekindle the vision of Independence Avenue.
“I think we’ll see a lot of business development along the Avenue that we haven’t seen in the past and all of that will have a huge impact on the neighborhoods,” said Leslie Caplan, president of the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association.
Kubic summed it up by saying, “I think it is definitely the harbinger of a brighter future.”