LISC awards NE Chamber $40,000 grant for pilot CID

Bobbi Baker Hughes described her reaction in one word: “Ecstatic.”

Greater Kansas City LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) contacted the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce president May 30 to announce the chamber is receiving a $40,000 grant for a Community Improvement District (CID) pilot project along Independence Avenue.

“I did the ‘Happy Dance,'” Baker Hughes said. “This gives Northeast Kansas City Chamber, businesses, property owners and community partners an opportunity to define and demonstrate various enhancements on Independence Avenue, specifically the ‘Scarritt Mile,’ as we continue the lengthy process of establishing a Community Improvement District from The Paseo to Ewing.”

LISC awarded the grant through its Community Safety Initiative Program, which links neighborhood revitalization to community safety, said LISC Program Officer Micah Kubic.

“We recognize the only way to make a neighborhood better, stronger, healthier and achieve all the aspirations of a neighborhood is to address community safety,” he said.

Without a sense of safety, Independence Avenue will struggle to maintain and attract businesses, he said.

“The chamber is a very important part of a long-term strategy for neighborhood revitalization in the Northeast,” Kubic said. “The Independence Boulevard is a crucial commercial corridor that has a lot of really great things happening on it already. There’s nearly $30 million worth of retail sales there.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of great momentum and great capacity there already and we want to build on that. We want to help make sure the chamber has the capacity to do the things it needs to do to get (an official) CID in place.”

The pilot CID will be on a smaller scale than the CID that the chamber is trying to establish. Boundaries for the pilot project include the Scarritt Mile, beginning at Prospect and continuing to Jackson. To establish an official CID, the chamber must first secure signatures from 51 percent of the Independence Avenue property owners. Signing parties to secure signatures will be held this Saturday and Monday. See story on Page 9.

LISC grant funds will be used to establish the same services a real CID would offer and will help the chamber iron out any kinks, Kubic said. Services will include urban safety ambassadors, landscape improvements to increase the perception of safety, trash removal, graffiti abatement and other beautification efforts. The chamber will also set up an initial assets and needs inventory of businesses and public spaces in the pilot area, Baker Hughes said.

Urban safety ambassadors will serve as the eyes and ears on the street for police, will provide assistance to pedestrians and merchants, and will help remediate blight. Ambassadors would be hired from within Northeast.

“Having ambassadors on Main has changed the image of that well-traveled route, and I believe the same change can come to Independence Boulevard through a CID,” said Leslie Caplan, president of the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association.

Caplan added that establishing a CID is imperative to changing the perception of Independence Boulevard.

“I would like the thousands of people who travel it daily to see a boulevard with inviting, clean, attractive store fronts, no trash in the curb, no unsavory individuals hanging out on the streets and unique and diverse businesses move in to make the area a destination for all of Kansas City,” Caplan said.

Caplan’s vision also falls in line with the chamber’s push to market and brand Independence Avenue as the “International Marketplace,” which the pilot CID will help accomplish, Baker Hughes said.

Kubic said the pilot CID will be up and running sometime this summer and Baker Hughes said the pilot project should last through December of 2012.

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