By Joe Jarosz
July 23, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Because of its location, Paseo Boulevard is called a gateway for multiple reasons.
If you’re traveling from downtown east on Independence Avenue, it is a gateway to the city’s urban core. If you’re traveling from the Historic Northeast, it’s a gateway to the city’s downtown amenities. And if you’re traveling along the Christopher S. Bond Bridge, then The Paseo is the gateway into Kansas City.
At last week’s Neighborhoods, Housing and Healthy Communities committee meeting, Kerrie Tyndall, assistant to the city manager, gave a presentation on the Paseo Gateway Project, a plan that included improving the area and infrastructure of The Paseo and Independence Avenue by demolishing the Chouteau Courts Public Housing Complex and making area safer to commute through.
Before Tyndall began her presentation, Scott Wagner, First District At-Large representative, said the project is bigger than any one council member and district. Wagner added the project is a catalyst to the area.
“What happens here can provide a great opportunity to a much larger area of this city,” Wagner said. “There’s been a great deal of work, dating back 10 years ago [on the area].”
Because of donations and a grant given to the Housing Authority Kansas City totaling just under $500,000, a study was conducted on the best way possible to better the area and to formulate plans. Tyndall began her presentation by telling the committee members several problems about the area, specifically the intersection of Paseo Boulevard and Independence Avenue. She said it remains a high accident area, has an aging infrastructure, is intimidating to cyclists and pedestrians and that prior plans have proved ineffective.
“Traffic safety is leading this [project],” Tyndall said. “Historically, its been one of the top accident locations in the city.”
Currently, she said, there are three major concepts that are distinctly different that the city is looking into pursuing for the future of the project. The concepts have been created by Kansas City’s Parks and Recreation Department, Housing Authority of Kansas City and the Kansas City Design Center which consists of local civic leaders, professional designers and students enrolled in the architecture and planning programs at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.
The Parks Department’s concept follows a 2003 study conducted by the department on intersection improvements at Paseo and Independence. She said it enhances the entry to the boulevard system, proposes some signal improvements and widening the alignment of the roads.
As part of the 2012 Paseo Gateway Choice Neighborhoods Transformation study by the Housing Authority, Tyndall said this plan looks at redevelopment opportunities. The concept envisions multiple types of redevelopment in the area, including new construction of town homes near Century Towers, mixed use at the intersection that might include retail and residential and supportive housing for homeless families.
“It differs from the Parks and Rec proposal in a couple of ways because it’s a narrower reconfiguration of the alignment, potentially less right-of-way impacted although they didn’t study the traffic patterns so we don’t know if this would yield the safety improvements that are important to the city,” Tyndall said. “And it was more of a mixed use redevelopment plan than a strict realignment.”
The Design Center’s plan, she said, includes an expanded green space, mixed-use complex, a transit center and a better reunion with downtown. She noted this project makes sense to the city because the highlight of the plan is better connecting Paseo, Independence and Admiral Boulevards.
“It’s a similar concept to the streetcar’s plan,” Tyndall said. “These three concepts have been discussed for several years. All of this results in something needing to be done in the area.”
Tyndall said the conservative estimate for the cost of any Paseo project is just under $18 million. Currently, the plan going forward is to continue evaluating each project with eventual input coming from the surrounding community. After the master plan is completed, Tyndall said the city will start to apply for grants. The Housing Authority will apply for a $30 million federal implementation grant next year.
Councilman Jermaine Reed said he doesn’t currently live in the area of the Paseo Gateway, but grew up in the Northeast. He understands this project’s significance to the area.
“This will be good for rebuilding the urban core and we want to make sure the community is involved in the planning,” Reed said.