NEAT gets its first director

By Joe Jarosz
Northeast News
October 14, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — For the first time in the organization’s history, Northeast Alliance Together [NEAT] has a director.

Mary Cyr was hired earlier this month by NEAT after funding became available earlier this year. However, she said, she held discussions with John Fierro, President and C.E.O. of the Mattie Rhodes Center, about the role as early as October 2014.

“Things like this take time [in the social sector],” Cyr said.

Cyr joins NEAT after a 30 year career in architecture, half of which was spent in Boston and the other half in Kansas City. During the second half of her career, she ran her own firm, which focused on the architectural needs of social sector clients. During that second half of her career, she worked on a project for an education center for three non-profit agencies that focused on children with disabilities. In 2013, she said she started to lose her passion for architect work, but through projects she worked on, she realized that she didn’t want to leave the social sector.

“My job [for that project] turned into facilitating, decision making and consensus building, which turned into a full-time job,” Cyr said. “It was a difficult transition, but it helped me realize how much I enjoyed the facilitation part. That project opened up a desire for me to work with social sector clients. It was a paradigm shift for me.”

So, what does the role of director of NEAT entail? Cyr said she’ll act as a catalyst for the development and improvement of the quality of life in the Northeast, where she’ll focus on crime and safety, commercial and residential development, economic development, and livability. Cyr will help NEAT facilitate building on vacant properties, renovating homes, cleaning up Independence Avenue, and creating more diverse economic development, “so people who live in Northeast spend their money in the Northeast.” She added people spend their money outside the NE and she wants to help create a true community atmosphere, where the money earned in the Northeast is spent in the Northeast.

“We’re not doing anymore planning,” Cyr said. “We’re in implementation mode.”

Cyr noted that the good thing about having Mattie Rhodes as the fiscal agent of NEAT is the ability to acquire property through them. She said this is part of the holistic approach to transforming the Northeast.

“Rather than having a community development corporation come in and renovate homes and fill vacant lots, we’re taking a holistic approach to the neighborhoods in terms of addressing the issues that create blight by delivering social services to the neighborhoods,” Cyr said.

Part of their plan is to identify nodes in each neighborhood, citing, for instance, the intersection at St. John and Hardesty Avenues. She said that would be an ideal intersection for NEAT to move in, acquire some properties and do some redevelopment.

“Most of the stuff we’ll look at will be mixd use development to create a 24/hour activity level,” Cyr said. “That’s just one example and our plan is to meet with every neighborhood Association because they know their neighborhoods best.”

Over the next few weeks, Cyr will be learning about the materials and data necessary that have been produced on the Historic Northeast. Although not a resident of the Northeast, Cyr wants to uplift the quality of life for everyone in the area and get to the root of the social and negative issues plagued in the Northeast. To reverse current trends, and to prevent crime from just moving from one neighborhood to another, she said NEAT and the six neighborhood associations will have to address what’s going on from the root level.

“That’s not to say we’re going to turn it into Ward Parkway, but we’re going to make improvements and build upon its recent success,” Cyr said.

All in all, she said she’s glad to be in the Northeast and working with NEAT because it’s exactly the job she wanted.

“I’m going to be working to bring people together with a common goal,” Cyr said. “It’ll be a matter of sticking to an agenda and helping neighborhood associations develop strategies, help them identify them and work towards their own agenda, if they need it.”

If someone would like to contact Mary to discuss neighborhood issues, they can reach her at 816-581-5662.

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