Reflecting on the last year in Historic Northeast, the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce has had a hand in several projects, programs, events, and successes that have progressed the community forward.
Bobbi Baker-Hughes, CEO of the Chamber, said she is proud of all the work her team has accomplished in 2019.
Baker-Hughes sat down with the Northeast News to discuss the highlights of 2019 and how they have worked diligently to reduce crime, clean up grime, and increase chime in the Northeast.
Summer Mural Project
The 2019 Summer Mural project brought new murals into the Northeast, all by local artists.
Alejandro David Tamez, PhD student at The Hall Center of Applied Humanities Fellowship and the 2019 summer intern at the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, worked with and engaged the community to choose which mural designs best represent the community.
The murals were chosen to display this year’s theme: Past, Present, and Future of Independence Avenue.
Two of the three murals have been completed thus far. “3 Roosters” by Zac Laman is located on the east-facing wall of the Economic Growth Gallery (EGG) at 2659 Independence Avenue, “Past, Present and Future of the Northeast” by Armando Mesa is located on the west side of the old Aaron’s Rental building in the 4800 block of Independence Avenue, and “Blue Scroll” by Rachael Cross and Dalton Elliot will soon be placed on the east portion of Independence Avenue to welcome drivers as they enter Historic Northeast.
Baker-Hughes said adding murals in the community creates vibrancy and helps economic growth along the Avenue.
“It helps drive the economy in our community,” she said. “We created a mural map that we know has brought people into our community to see the murals and do business in our community. That’s what’s important. We also want to get the artists some exposure because they, too, are a local business.”
Paseo Gateway and new development
Several new developments in the Northeast this year have come as a result of the Choice Neighborhood Initiative Paseo Gateway Project.
Quinlan Row and Quinlan Place are in the final stages of completion, Chouteau Courts is nearly demolished, Pendleton Arts Block had a recent grand opening, plans are being made for renovations to Independence Plaza Park, and more is on the way.
Baker-Hughes said she is thrilled to see new development spring up along the Avenue.
“The many, many years of planning the Paseo Gateway and the Choice Neighborhood Initiative are starting to finally give us some fruition with the apartments that have been built as well as some that have been rehabbed. The new build of the Pendleton Arts Block changes the whole vibe of that corner.”
Baker-Hughes also notes other development and businesses that have come into the community, including El Taco, located at 5200 Independence Avenue and Musaletti’s Pizza, located at 4807 Independence Avenue.
“Those people who work in these stores are community people,” she said. “Again, shop local. Sixty-seven cents of every dollar that is spent when you shop local stays here. The people that work here local people we are supporting.”
2019 Taste and Tour
The 2019 Taste and Tour saw dozens of participants experiencing the culture and diverse dining options of the Northeast.
This year, instead of the food being served in one location, the guests were transported throughout the Northeast to different restaurants to get the full dining experience.
“Taking our participants to the actual restaurants so that they could be a part of, feel, and enjoy the culture that comes along with the food was amazing,” said Baker-Hughes. “It’s not just about the food. It’s about the people. When you walk into Yasmeen Cafe and Abdul greets you or you walk into Sone Zeya and you smell what they’re cooking.”
Baker-Hughes said the main goal of the tour was to get people to eat at places they normally wouldn’t. This, she said, is a battle when people are unfamiliar with different cultures and cuisine.
“It was a joy to be able to take the people to the culture rather than bringing the food to a single location. It just made all the difference. That’s the point, is to get people to cross the threshold and see what is on the other side. And once they know what’s on the other side of the door, they come back. It’s a real tour.”
Independence Avenue Community Improvement District
The Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce continues to manage the footprint of the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District and Baker-Hughes said the feedback she gets from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Our team is really working hard at getting our businesses more engaged. The Shop Small Saturday had 23 businesses involved in that. Trying to bring those businesses into solidarity with one another and within the community has been our focus. It seems to be working.”
Baker-Hughes said there is a ripple-effect of bringing Northeast businesses together.
“I think it’s really important for our community as a whole. The businesses get more excited and become more open-armed, which keeps everybody happy. You build relationships.”
Avenue Angels and Urban Street Ambassadors
The Avenue Angels and Urban Street Ambassadors provide safety, security, street cleaning, landscape projects, and business outreach along the Avenue.
Baker-Hughes said they have changed the priorities of the Avenue Angels to be geared more toward visiting with local businesses and providing services to the community.
“They are having conversations with not only the businesses, but the customers and the community members. That’s been a win for us and the community. As they are doing more of that community outreach, it only builds better relationships.”
Recently the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce celebrated three Urban Street Ambassadors who have been with the organization for five years.
“They are doing a great service for our entire community,” said Baker-Hughes. “Those men and women are out there everyday working in rain, snow, and 100-degree weather. They do an amazing job.”
Baker-Hughes said she mostly wants to highlight the team at The Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District who, without their hard work and dedication to the community, none of the progress that has been made this year would have been possible.
“We have an amazing team that really pulls together to carry a heavy load. Our team also consists of our Chamber and CID Boards. They have been so very supportive of everything that we do. They are just very supportive.”
Looking forward to 2020
With all the success of 2019, Baker-Hughes said it fuels more excitement for what is possible in 2020.
“Overall, I think it was a successful year in getting things accomplished. I think 2020 is a whole new adventure that awaits us.”