Building an international marketplace in the NE

By JOSHUA PHILLIPS
Northeast News
August 7, 2013

The Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce has a “dream” for Independence Avenue: making this key part of the Historic Northeast into an international marketplace.

Bobbi Baker-Hughes, Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce president, said she hopes one day Independence Avenue can become the international marketplace with the help of the cultures in the community and the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID).

“The CID has been so inspirational to the community residents and business owners that any challenges of the CID have been overshadowed by the successes we’ve had,” Baker-Hughes said. “We are moving minds, not moving dirt in efforts for re-building Independence Avenue so as to set examples for others.”

CID Timeline of Events

Some of the main reasons the CID will help the Northeast community is to reduce crime and the perception of crime, said Baker-Hughes. In March, registered voters in the Northeast approved a one percent sales tax for starting up the CID, which will start in October.

During a March 7 public hearing, the Kansas City City Council spoke highly of the CID and was then approved by business owners. Support for the CID has come from the Greater Kansas City Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in the form of grants, totaling approximately $59,000 for a pilot CID on addressing problems related to litter removal and safety concerns.

Following support from the City Council and from LISC, the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce kicked off a community-wide clean-up and flower planting along Independence Avenue May 18. Next, the Chamber invited all community residents to the Celebration of the CID event June 7 in an effort to bring community leaders and residents together in support of the CID. The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) commissioned students of the Kansas City Design Center (KCDC) to study the Northeast for a year and design the vision for the future of Independence Avenue.

Reducing Crime

Throughout the summer, Independence Avenue CID ambassadors have been sweeping and cleaning along the CID boundaries in efforts to continuously beautify the area, which Baker-Hughes said is a way to reduce crime.

Baker-Hughes said littering problems have decreased.

“Instead of people throwing their trash on the sidewalks, those people will come up to the street ambassador and throw their trash away in his trash bin,” she said.

One of the initiatives the Chamber is doing to reduce crime and the perception of crime is by receiving help from students at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB). This Wednesday, KCUMB students will work on separate projects in the Northeast in efforts to “making the Northeast a more vibrant and thriving urban community,” Baker-Hughes said.

At Little Burma Grocery, 2532 Independence Ave., KCUMB students will create a makeover with Little Burma’s window dressing and merchandise displays. Another project will be at Northeast Key Service where KCUMB students will create a mural on the side of his building to help attract more customers for his business. KCUMB students will also give a makeover to Second Chance Thrift Store on Lexington Avenue.

The Chamber will host another remodeling event this August, the ribbon cutting for Mi Mercado. The former Apple Market store at 3719 Independence Ave. will have a ribbon cutting Saturday, Aug. 17, at 10 a.m.

“The Chamber wants to celebrate the openings of new businesses and the anniversaries of the older businesses,” Baker-Hughes said. ‘We are excited with the forward momentum that is happening in the Historic Northeast and the Chamber is proud to play a part in that.”

Building an International Marketplace

With help from interns of CORO Kansas City, the Northeast Chamber has received information on ways to establish an international marketplace as well as receiving examples of other communities who have been through similar situations as the Northeast.

“The hope is to see what was done in other cities to use for the Northeast’s CID as an international marketplace,” CORO intern Kasey Anderson said.

Some of the ways CORO Kansas City said it could help start the International marketplace would be to “build local leadership, connecting immigrants with native-born persons, partnering with state and local governments and reframing the issue of cultural integration,” according to CORO Kansas City’s creating an international marketplace: a research project for the Northeast Chamber of Commerce document.

Along with CORO Kansas City’s international marketplace research, the Northeast Chamber has received information about another project called Invest Northeast. This project is working on behalf of the Northeast Alliance Together (NEAT) and the Mattie Rhodes Center with funding provided by the MARC Planning Sustainable Places Grant. Invest Northeast is managed by El Dorado Architects to focus on the implementation of four scopes: a transportation analysis, a neighborhood conservation overlay, a real estate market analysis and a scope that identifies planning and designing a regional food hub in Hardesty Renaissance.

Rachel Duncan, designer for El Dorado, said it is fascinating how different Invest Northeast is since it is an implementation plan and not just another study of the Northeast.

“The Northeast has seen so many studies, but the community wants results,” Duncan said. “Invest Northeast is significant because this will show an implementation plan to make sure these projects will actually happen.”

The fourth scope of Invest Northeast is to plan and design for a regional food hub in Hardesty Renaissance, which is supposed to “identify the available infrastructure necessary to operate a successful regional food hub… to test the feasibility of an anchor property that benefits underserved residents, regional, small and mid-sized farms, visitors and businesses all within one location,” according to Invest Northeast.

“The hope is to amplify the culture of Independence Avenue and the Northeast to make it possible for an international marketplace,” Duncan said.

The Invest Northeast project started this summer and is expected to have a final report by November. Duncan said there will be a presentation on Invest Northeast during the International Taste and Tour event.

One of the upcoming events sponsored by the Northeast Chamber to showcase the community’s international marketplace is the International Taste and Tour, Saturday, Sept. 7 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at American Sons of Columbus Hall, 2415 Independence Ave. More than 20 restaurants from the Northeast will be featured with tastes from America, Ethiopia, France, Haiti, Italy, Mexico, Somalia and Vietnam.

“We hope to bring partners in the community together to help our business owners achieve the American dream,” Baker-Hughes said. “The CID truly is a big piece of creating the vision of the future of the Northeast.”

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