As we wrap up the decade at the Northeast News, we are looking back on the year in Historic Northeast Kansas City. We saw several changes and historic events. Here are the top 10 headlines from 2019:
Firefighters remembered for their sacrifice
As the sound of bagpipes filled the air Saturday, October 12, the Kansas City Missouri Fire Department Honor Guard posted the colors to begin a memorial service marking the fourth anniversary of the fire at Independence Boulevard and Prospect that took the lives of firefighters John V. Mesh and Larry J. Leggio.
A permanent memorial to two Northeast-born and bred heroes was dedicated on the west wall of Snyder’s Supermarket, facing the site of the fire.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas was present and addressed the families directly with a personal message.
“The sacrifice John Mesh and Larry Leggio made for our community will not be forgotten,” he said. “Regardless of what it is in life you need, whether it’s someone to listen or help getting through a tough time, our city is here for you.”
New NEAT director aims to define community success
Scott Wagner officially assumed the role of director of Northeast Alliance Together August 1, 2019. Previously Kansas City’s Mayor Pro Tem and Councilman of the 1st District At-Large, he also served as chair of the Finance and Governance Committee.
Wagner completed his eight-year council term July 31, 2019 and begin work as NEAT Director the very next day. After nearly a decade on city council, Wagner said he believes his time there will serve him greatly for this new position.
“I think my job is to utilize all that connectivity that I’ve made over the years, all that experience in the various issues we’ve touched over the years, and build their capacity and move things forward simultaneously.”
Ultimately, Wagner said he hopes to be able to partner with the vision already in existence at the neighborhood level and help it become reality.
“My goal is to come in and for there to be a clear definition of success, a very clear understanding of what our role is with NEAT, a clear understanding of what success looks like, and then we go out and do that.”
New coffee shops open in Northeast
Two new coffee shops opened their doors in Northeast this year, both located in the Pendleton Heights neighborhood.
Owners Caleb and Adam Wittmer opened the second location of Splitlog Coffee at 546 Olive, next to the new Pendleton Arts Block. The space is larger than their original location, and offers both a coffee and food menu as well as a variety of cozy seating for hangouts, meetings, or study sessions.
Co-owners Addison Bliss, Eric Rosell, Jarred Donalson, and Alex Merrell opened PH Coffee at 2200 Lexington, and have been the site of several community events and meetings. The shop offers a full coffee menu, plenty of seating, and a kids play area for all the little ones in our community!
KC Superman hangs up his cape
Michael Wheeler has been running along the streets of Kansas City for over 45 years, of which the last eight donning the red cape that has given him the identity of KC Superman.
Wheeler said running is his way of making a difference. He decided to put on the cape eight years ago. He runs approximately ten to fifteen miles a day, sometimes more.
He said one of his favorite memories while wearing the cape was when he met Trent Green, a quarterback for the Chiefs from 2001 to 2006.
“I met Trent Green downtown,” he said, smiling at the memory. “I had my football with me. I said ‘Hey Trent, do you know how to throw a football? Hit me with a long pass!’ I caught it, did my dance, and I said ‘Tell Andy Reed I’m a free agent!’”
Despite not wearing the red cape anymore, Wheeler said he is not done running.
“I won’t stop running,” said Wheeler. “Not till my last breath.”
Summer Mural Project 2019
The Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Summer Mural Project resulted in a burst of art being displayed in the Northeast.
Three 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.
Bobbi Baker-Hughes, CEO for the Northeast Chamber of Commerce, said the introduction of murals into a community has a positive economic impact.
“Murals, in general and throughout the world, are good for economic development in communities,” she said. “It builds and sparks development. It helps draw attention to buildings and businesses. It might slow people down enough to stop in and shop.”
North-East Library relocating during $4 million renovation project
The Kansas City Public Library’s North-East branch is undergoing a 9 to 12-month, $4 million renovation project. The library’s operation has relocated to 5930 Wilson Road in the interim.
The renovation is the result of the mill levy that Kansas City voters passed on Nov. 6, 2018. The 8-cent increase in the property tax based operating levy was the first increase request in 22 years.
The library, while operating in much smaller quarters, will still provide Northeast residents with several great services.
The interim location will provide books, CDs, and DVDs, although the collection will be smaller. Patrons will be able to place items on hold; access the village post office, including purchasing of stamps and post office boxes, use eight public computers, attend youth story times and the Kid’s Cafe.
Amanda Barnhart, branch manager, said she sees this renovation as a major asset to the Northeast community and her goal with the project always comes back to one thing.
“The continued love and sharing of literacy. That never isn’t a goal of ours,” she said. “It is always our true north.”
Kansas City all-girl charter school opens its doors in Northeast
Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy welcomed their first students Monday, August 19, 2019.
The first all-girls charter in Kansas City, the academy is an affiliate of the Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN) and will serve 100 5th-grade girls during the 2019-2020 school year and continually add on one grade each year up to 12th grade.
The school’s mission is to “develop young women to discover their voice, succeed in college, and lead impactful, meaningful lives.”
The approach for the school includes an extended school year, no tuition, fees, or admissions exams, rapid reading growth, STEM classes to expose girls to an array of future opportunities, social and emotional learning, college preparatory-focused, serves predominantly low-income students, and provides high quality teachers.
“We concluded that our girls don’t need to discover their voice; they already have it,” said Tara Haskins, school leader. “As children, and women, and women of color, their voice is mostly shunned upon, but ladies, we know it’s your voice that is truly going to disrupt systems and truly make a change in Kansas City.”
Kansas City City Council passes KC Tenants Bill of Rights Package
The Kansas City City Council passed the KC Tenants Bill of Rights package 12-1 during the Thursday, December 12 legislative session.
KC Tenants is an organization working to “ensure that everyone in Kansas City has a safe, healthy, accessible, and truly affordable home.”
They outlined a People’s Housing Platform that lists ten specific problems facing tenants in Kansas City: affordability, eviction, access, health, abusive and unaccountable landlords, speculation and vacancy, demolition, homelessness, gentrification and displacement, and racial inequity.
The package included an ordinance and a resolution aimed at enforcing existing tenant rights, lists additional protections, and establishes a Division of Housing and Community Development under the Department of Neighborhoods and Housing Services.
“What we are saying, and if you understand discrimination, is that you can’t just use bars to eliminate entire classes of people,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas.
“All we are saying is that you don’t get to ban a whole class of people. What it says is give everybody a chance. What we are asking for, very simply, is a chance.”
Paseo/MLK street name change
One of the most contentious topics of discussion in Kansas City this year was the renaming of The Paseo to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The 9.98-mile stretch of roadway extending from Lexington Avenue to East 85th Street made national headlines as Kansas City residents wrestled with the name change.
After heated debates that revolved around racial tension in Kansas City, the City Council voted 8-4 to change The Paseo to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in January.
In April, a petition that garnered 2,857 signatures to change the name back to The Paseo was submitted to get the issue in front of voters on the November ballot.
With over 32,000 votes cast on Tuesday, November 5, 65 percent of voters chose to revert the name back to The Paseo with nearly 35 percent voting to keep the current name in honor of Dr. King.
Mayor Quinton Lucas and City Council
2019 has brought Kansas City a new mayor and councilmembers that will lead the city into a new decade.
Quinton Lucas was officially sworn-in as the 55th mayor of Kansas City on Thursday, August 1, 2019.
New council members also took their positions for the first time, including 1st District Kevin O’Neill, 3rd District Brandon Ellington and Melissa Robinson, 4th District Eric Bunch, 5th District Ryana Parks-Shaw, 6th District Andrea Bough, and newly-appointed Mayor Pro-Tem Kevin McManus.
Outgoing Mayor Sly James presented Lucas with cufflinks and a flask to “wear his feelings for KC on his sleeve and for the hard days at the office.”
Lucas said he is going to begin work on a lot of issues around Kansas City, including transportation, infrastructure, and the growing crime rate.
Overall, Lucas said he wants to ensure the progress of all Kansas Citians during the next four years.
“Our work is to make sure no one is left behind and we leave this city safer, healthier, and stronger than we find it today,” said Mayor Lucas. “I welcome your prayers and hard work ahead.”